Things change as you age, and if you’re doing anything even remotely the right way, you’re growing as the years add up. I was giving some thought to artistry and how it can be affected by aging, how your tastes and proclivities can change, and so does your art. Specifically, I was considering artists who not only grew older, but as they did, their output only got better. But, it isn’t a given that you’ll become a better artist with age. Some artists never grow, and continue to have the same output, to the delight of no one save the fans clinging to their youth through music.
I’m drawn first to an example of age and artistry, Scott Walker. I’ve wanted to write about him in greater detail at some point, but for now let’s just use him as a case study. In the 1960’s, Scott Walker was in a pop group, the Walker Brothers. Their biggest hit, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” is actually a great song. But, Scott Walker was not content to simply remain a pop artist. His solo albums became increasingly more inaccessible to longtime Walker Brothers fans, but the music itself had something much more interesting, albeit frightening, to say. Then, in 1995, after 10 years of working, Walker put out “Tilt,” an avant-garde masterpiece, which he managed to top twice more with “The Drift” in 2006, and “Bish Bosch” in 2012. All three records were so bold, so vulnerable, often with Walker singing without any musical accompaniment.
That’s how an artist can age and grow, but it isn’t always like that. Often, an artist can be wholly unaware that they’ve aged out of their style, continuing to have sub-par output. It happens. But I’ve noticed that as I’ve aged, so too have my creative tendencies. My first few bands were on the punk-side of music, and ALL of those bands that influenced me during that time are foreign to me now. Not a single artist from my pop-punk youth carried over into adulthood. The same goes for rock music in general, I listen to very little of it. It’s boring. Trying to make music for arenas is boring to me, immature even. I’m much more interested in music and art that can take you somewhere, make you think, not just makes you move.
I don’t know how useful of a bandmate I’d be at this time in my life, and to be clear, I’m not even remotely looking to be in a band. But the idea of being in a band that plays “songs” every night with little change, that doesn’t interest me. It’s disappointing to have to play songs please the fans. I’d much rather play longer pieces of music without lyrics, even if no one hears them.
This is all to say that we ignore growth at our peril. As artists, stagnation is the enemy. And whether you’re a musician, visual artist, writer, etc., you’ve got to grow.