Making it in the music industry
Be unique, be sincere and be proficient, says prominent New Zealand musician Warren Maxwell. That’s the advice he has been giving promising young musicians for 10 years and he will give CPIT Musical Arts students the same advice when he visits on a four-day Songwriter in Residence next week – along with stories and advice from deep inside the New Zealand music scene.
His advice comes from success backed by lots of hard work; his bands - Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop and the Little Bushman have defined several decades of New Zealand music.
“I see a lot of bands following trends,” he says. “I did myself when I was younger. But if Trinity Roots, started to sound too much like Bob Marley or JJ Cale, then we would try to put a twist on it, sometimes a Kiwi twist.
“Think outside the square. Why not, for example, put a bass clarinet with a mandolin over dubstep? Be different.”
Maxwell saw the industry open up and change about when he started out some 25 years ago and that was a good thing for people who wanted to make interesting music he says.
“There was that decade in the ‘90s that was interesting. It seemed to be the beginning of the demise of major labels and the evolution of indie records. Since recording began, the major labels have spoon fed us what we listen to, but now the market is open at the push of a button on a laptop. It has enabled us to explore other genres & apply to our own compositions.
“Audiences appreciated it - Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s – we don’t have to be formulaic, we can be true to our music and create new genres.” The experiment continues with the reformation of Trinity Roots a few years ago. “We have a new drummer and are writing a new album. It’s an evolution from where we left off.”
It’s one thing to be different, but Maxwell urges aspiring musicians to be really capable to and spend some time studying their instrument or voice (he completed a Bachelor of Music at Massey University). With voice, its more about being sincere & delivering the meaning of the song.
“Be different and be amazing. Be really proficient on your instrument or vocals. Not everyone needs an institute. I did, because I lacked the discipline of practise. The priority is becoming proficient so I strongly recommend study. Being with like-minded people five, six, seven days a week, you exchange albums, you exchange philosophies; there is a lot of benefit to being in that environment for two or three years. And we came out with a bit of paper that gave us more colours for the palette.”
He doesn’t claim that making music will be easy though. “Tertiary study is just the beginning; it’s the 10 years after when you have to hone your craft.”
He also encourages young musicians to go deeper, especially with their lyrics. “If I hear, ‘we’ve got to love each, we have to unite,’ I just switch off. We have to go deeper. That’s what I’m hoping to bring to CPIT, pushing deeper.“It will be a rigorous bootcamp with philosophy, hands-on-composition. There will be a structure but within that, there will be realistic application. I feel for the students – they will be frazzled,” he promises.