Music to a Creator’s Ear (#106) | Ryan Miller of Guster on Below the Line with James Beshara

Check out Below the Line with James Beshara episode page

Key Takeaways

  • You often can’t change the situation; you can usually only change your perception of what’s happening. The stories we tell ourselves are incredibly valuable.
    • Reframing – things exist but you can always change how you feel about it; it’s all personal stories.
  • Implicit value today comes overwhelmingly from storytelling
    • Marketing is defined by your ability to connect with your audience on a shared and relatable level
  • You can’t fake authenticity. Being your true self will bring more to your relationships and conversations
    • You can’t wear weird pants and not be weird
  • Seeking friends that are similar to you allows you to bypass the surface knowledge on shared interests, quickly getting to a deeper level of conversation
  • All creators require confidence in their creation
    • Creators constantly are exposing and defending their definition of “good” and/or “useful”

Intro

  • Ryan Miller (@guster) is a musician, creator, and innovator, famous for being the lead singer of American alternative rock band, Guster
    • Buy tickets to their first headline show at the legendary venue, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
    • Listen to Guster
  • Ryan Miller and James Beshara discuss life experiences as a musician & creator, the value of storytelling, and being an authentic communicator & friend
  • Host: James Beshara (@jamesbeshara)

Life of a Musician during COVID

  • Did one show in the last year at a drive-in in New Hampshire
    • It was difficult for someone who had relied on live performances for 28 years straight
  • How did the lockdown affect your life?
    • “If I make it through my life where there was one year that really sucked, but I learned a lot, would I choose to have that year? Intellectually speaking, I would” – Ryan Miller
    • Altered his relationship with family and friends for the better, started to check in more and be more involved
      • Opened new mediums of virtual communication including Clubhouse, which is where he met host, James Beshara
    • You often can’t change the situation; you can usually only change your perception of what’s happening. The stories we tell ourselves are incredibly valuable.

Storytelling

  • Started with food, talking with locals to find the odd and regional places on a tour
  • Reframing – things exist but you can always change how you feel about it, it’s all stories, your own personal story
  • Applies storytelling to his creative process in songwriting to project an implicit narrative
    • But, you must be true to yourself to be authentic. You can’t project a fake persona to force a narrative
    • Narratives are not always cool, they are honest stories that are relatable
  • Implicit value today comes overwhelmingly from storytelling
    • Example: Khruangbin – Band that isn’t objectively great musically but it’s female-fronted, they don’t do interviews, play an odd genre, and have built a mystical narrative for their success
    • Magicmind – productivity drink created by James derived from his story on his developing heart condition. He needed an alternative to cut back on coffee

Communication: Energy & Authenticity

  • How does a musician capture the attention of an audience?
    • “Being the weirdest version of myself that’s authentic” – Ryan Miller
    • Being open, a good listener and authentic creates quick trust. Quickly bypasses the BS.
  • You can’t seek attention without being able to back it up
    • You can’t wear weird pants and not be weird
  • Give attention rather than take attention
  • Recognize energy and reciprocate energy, this applies to any interaction

Friendship

  • Males in their 20’s have 8 close friends; males in their 30’s have 2 close friends
  • Do you seek friends that are similar to you?
    • Yes, because it allows Ryan to not talk about himself, but rather ideas. This bypasses the general knowledge of his interests, quickly getting to a deeper level of conversations.
  • The Greeks believed the highest form of spiritual love is friendship rather than romantic love
  • “If a friendship requires maintenance, those friendships die” – Ryan Miller
    • Relationships can be picked up without missing a beat, no matter time of separation
  • Ryan learned to subdue his ego, became less goal-oriented when meeting people

Musical Career & Process

  • Low Point: Worked with a producer that was incredibly toxic, exploited the bands insecurities
  • All creators require confidence in their creation
  • Artists are vulnerable – constantly exposing and defending their definition of “good” or “useful”
    • Although, Ryan has become less and less nervous about releasing new music
    • Growing to cope with the idea of making music that makes them happy, rather than forcing a narrative for other people
  • Today, opposed to early in his career, Ryan values experiences and musical exploration rather than producing a hit commercial song and growing the band
    • Like headlining Red Rocks! (link above)
    • Doesn’t envy the large scale bands in the genre like Dave Matthews Band, becomes much more logistical rather than a conceptual and beautiful project
  • There are a lot fewer gatekeepers to releasing music in 2021 vs 1991
    • But, some of those gatekeepers often created some great storytelling opportunities
  • Trends in the music industry today:
    • Live show streams
    • Clubhouse, Twitch, podcast, music streaming platforms
    • NFTs

3 Stories that Shaped Ryan

  • Finding two genuine people the first day of college and randomly asking if anyone had a band in high school
  • Being introduced to music/video production technology, opening up more career options
    • Found another avenue to get connected to more creative people
  • Leaned into new titles and became comfortable creating; TV host, film scorer, producer, musician, etc.
    • There is great power in realizing who you are

Ryan’s Random Cultural Thoughts

  • Fascinated in the realization that nuance doesn’t exist in our culture
    • People don’t have room in their headspace for two opposing viewpoints
    • We live in 10% extremes rather than 80% middle
    • Ryan feels like he’s become more compliant, doesn’t argue others viewpoint or creativity
  • We don’t celebrate people who admit their wrongness, should be thought of as part of the learning process
    • “My commitment is to truth, not to consistency” – Mahatma Gandhi
Below the Line : , , , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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