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6527212 September 03, 2012

Gary Powell: Dreams and Aspirations

" ... stay alert, do no harm, listen inwardly, then express outwardly by nurturing relationships with individuals who are fair-minded and also your equals in intellect, passion, and talent." 

As creative individuals, we all have dreams. A dream is a romantic sort of thing, I think. It's the cloud you ride on or the star you leap toward.  It's the thing we focus on and believe in when all else fails, when our world is wobbly or worse, crumbling.  My dad always told me that I should reach for the stars or I'll never get off the ground, and that's what I've always done ... in most aspects of my life.  I reach and reach and reach, and look higher and higher and higher. I leap over and over again. I feel my spirit yearning to get there ... somewhere ... up there. It's a feeling that never goes away and keeps me moving forward.  

My guest today, fantastic Grammy-nominated composer Gary Powell suggests that when considering our talent and creative goals we should consider replacing the word dream with aspiration. He says that "Aspiration denotes discipline. Dreams, not so much."  Gary, who has been around the block a time or two and has amazing accomplishments in his pocket, suspects that focusing on the term aspiration may be a little bit scary for some folks. It strips away much of the romantic la-la land quality of the situation, and begs the question:

"What do I want and exactly how am I going to achieve it?"  

Aspiration, like real truth, calls us to the creative carpet where life actually happens. It brings the scenario out of the clouds and into the real world of goal setting, hard work, and dedication. It makes us sweat. It also brings to mind the similar question:

"What do I want and what am I willing to pay for it?"  

I think about this a lot.   

Gary's mantra shifts with each day but he has a few overarching internal marching orders, " ... stay alert, do no harm, listen inwardly, then express outwardly by nurturing relationships with individuals who are fair-minded and also your equals in intellect, passion, and talent." 

In considering what I want and what I'm willing to pay for it, I'm beginning to realize that having like-minded individuals in my life may be critical. Finding these folks and connecting with them in a real way can be quite tricky. As I've kept my focus on all those stars above, I've worked on that as well as some of the other key requirements that my level of aspiration calls for; I've made progress.  Now I'm struggling with the realization that it may beg for a higher price than I imagined.

Maybe it's not just about jumping toward a star; it's about feeling your feet hit the carpet. It's about running.

Gary Powell, professional composer, musician and arranger, has composed, arranged and produced music for 145 musical albums and videos which have sold some 45 million units across 69 countries. All have been produced in his Austin, Texas recording studio Powell Studio Productions.  In Powell’s work with Walt Disney Records, five of his productions have gone Gold and two Platinum. In 1999, Powell won a Grammy nomination along with co-producer Ted Kryczko for their production of Disney’s “A Bug’s Life Sing Along”.   

Of note, Dan Rather will interview Gary on AXS.TV, airing this Tuesday.  Watch for it!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iNq1CGm4q8]

What's your story (in a nutshell)? 

Teen tennis champion and privileged son of Dallas, Texas takes the unexpected and never-traveled road; music and only music.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Creative focus is a discipline for me. It's not about talent or aptitude. It's about study, work and a fearless capacity to achieve one's highest aspirations and goals, even as they morph in unimaginable ways under pressure, circumstance and serendipity.

For you, is music more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to make music?

Music seems to be the great integrator of all that's good about being human. In that, creating what feels like the perfect expression of any given event or feeling becomes at once, the grand unifying equation found within the totality of being alive.


How would you describe your musical style, and why does this appeal most to you creatively? What inspires you, and how does that relate to your style?

Becoming stylistically fluent as a composer is like learning new languages for a translator. Sometimes curiosity inspires me, extreme challenges focus me, and money can certainly fuel it. Outside of obvious rewards, however, personal satisfaction comes from within and is usually outside the earshot of clients and accountants.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? 

The aberrations of living a creative life are born from a societal disregard for almost any definition of what has artistic value. Celebrity we understand. Once we as people loose the connection with the art itself and next replace it with empty gestures posturing as art; artists cannot prosper. Within education, the artist could be taught strategies for negotiating within a market-based system and then slip confidently into a successful and inspiring life. This seldom happens within our higher education institutions, but it should.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

My family had no experience with artists or the artistic life. My parents were high-functioning individuals who supported my musical interests from the beginning, which began in early high-school. Therefore, my personal drive to explore, learn and prosper was emotionally hard-wired in me from the beginning.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about for various reasons. Have your biggest dreams come to pass yet? What do you dream of achieving now? 

I went to study music as a freshman in college only knowing where middle-C was on the piano. Admissions to the music school said I would fail, but they gave me one semester to try. Even from that place, I imagined great success. What surprises me is my continuing and deepening relationship with music regardless of the success I've enjoyed. My current artistic aspirations live outside mainstream music; my theatrical concert "Aristotle's Prayer" being exhibit one. http://www.garypowell.com/blogs/category/shows/aristotles-prayer/

Do you ever wonder if what you're creating or expressing is as meaningful to others as it is to you? How important is that to you with regard to your overall goals? If you've created something that purely expresses who you are, is that enough, or is the circle only completed when someone else says, "Yes, she understands me" or "Yes, that's how I feel"?

An early mentor once told me "nobody creates in a vacuum." I'm not sure that's true. I would say that some of my most precious musical moments as a composer have indeed happened in a vacuum; a closed space, a studio, a piano, a note written on a cocktail napkin. The question is: a vacuum within what context? Surely, like universes, there are parallel vacuums we live in, so who's to say? Also, as I've aged and matured, the need for external edification has greatly diminished, even dissipated. But, the responsibility to nurture my consciousness and self-awareness has magnified greatly. This is the gift of aging. Outside the pain and loss held within aging itself, music becomes the elixir, the antidote and the unifier of all things important to being human. From that place, yes, I do feel understood.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Talent is simply unrealized aptitude. Talent is everywhere and largely not mined or developed. To change this, I would suggest we replace the word dreams with the word aspiration. Aspiration denotes discipline. Dreams, not so much. Maybe it's too scary to take personal responsibility in this way. Outside of the endless models of fear there are more opportunities now within the arts than ever in recorded history – we just need new models in education and new inclusive models in business to mine the gold in order to experience a personal and sustainable prosperity within this new construct. When aspirations and aptitude, existing business models and curriculum, are all in concert together, they make a powerful formula for creating successful lives: purposeful and self-directed.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My mantra, if you will, shifts. The inspiration needed on Tuesday may not be effective on Thursday. So, stay alert, do no harm, listen inwardly, then express outwardly by nurturing relationships with individuals who are fair-minded and also your equals in intellect, passion, and talent. 

Info on Gary and his work:


Powell Studio Productions
512-499-8888


Website

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6527212 March 09, 2012

I Done Tousled with a Whale: Mojo Perry


"It’s easy to feel that you're getting lost in a fruitless effort when you're pursuing your art."

My guest today, musician and singer/songwriter Mojo Perry, is an amazing guitarist.  He's spent the majority of his life with a guitar in his hand, and as he puts it, "a pocketful of dreams."  He's a dynamic guy who equates music with art in what seems to be a refreshing and unique way. Rather than talking about music, he speaks of art. Listen to some Mojo tunes while you read:


http://www.reverbnation.com/widget_code/html_widget/artist_128873?widget_id=50&posted_by=artist_128873&pwcdesign=default&pwcbackground_color=%23333333&pwcincluded_songs=1&pwcphoto=1%2C0&pwcsize=custom

In a recent discussion, Mojo talked about some of the difficulties he's had over the years dealing with people who haven't understood his drive and passion. I know the drill all too well. There are many perfectly wonderful folks in this world, with varying levels of creativity, who just don't get it. They don't share our wiring. At times, they ask, beg, demand, and plead with us to:
  • be reasonable
  • be logical 
  • do things that make sense
  • think about the implications
  • live in the "real" world
  • stop working against them
  • settle down
  • stop 'disturbing' others
  • listen
  • be grateful for what we already have
  • essentially join the crowd because, after all, if most people do it, it must be the appropriate action
  • lighten up
  • even ... give up
Even when they ask these things nicely, they don't realize just what they're asking. They don't know the power they hold individually and as a collective group.  They don't understand that folks like me and Mojo are not only struggling to create art, we're also longing to find our place in a world they've created. They think the leopard can change his spots and the zebra erase his stripes, all because it's a reasonable thing to do. They believe there is a comfort zone we all must share. 
I Never Meant to Upset You
12" x 12"

In corporate America there are those who ask us to "think outside the box," and be an "authentic leader."  But they want us to do so within the boundaries they understand.



My husband came home last night with a frown. Apparently, some of his business contacts had seen my painting, "I Never Meant to Upset You," and found it "scary and disturbing." They wondered what might be wrong with me that I would paint such things. I suggested that he let them know that it's a powerful little piece of art that will be shown in an Italian exhibit on Human Rights next month. 
 
I'm currently working with a highly creative artist on an Aberration Nation interview. It's taking months, primarily because he doesn't care for my blog format. It's not what he's used to, and doesn't follow standard 
journalistic format. I'm working with him to structure his interview in a different way. That's fine. What's not fine is that he believes something is inherently flawed about my blog. Okay, so sure, I'd like to learn from this guy (who is also a friend of mine), and I don't mind, but it has made me consider that even highly creative folks can become trapped in molds, either thrust upon them, or of their own creation.

I grew up idolizing my mother's creativity yet she evolved into a highly set-in-her-ways individual, primarily based on the culture in which she was raised. She holds sacred, never-gonna-change views about people and situations. She calls them convictions. We're all allowed to have those, but the idea always brings me back to one simple question:  

How the hell can you be so sure you're right?  

Having an indestructible belief that you're correct is extraordinarily powerful.  It creates a surge in the environment, a spark, that can either be positive or negative, uplifting or destructive. Although I learned to hide the fact for many years, I've always been one to question the status quo, rules, boundaries, etc. As a kid, I often wondered who decided this or that, and why. Sometimes I could understand the why, whether or not I agreed with it, but sometimes, there didn't seem to be a good reason. 

As creative individuals, we often have to barrel through day after day of finger shaking in some form or another, depending on who surrounds us, where we live, and other life circumstances. And the stories range from a couple of sentences to gut wrenching tales of woe. But we continue on for our art, for what we believe in, and why we believe we were created. Many of us have wrestled with alligators and tousled with whales.
  

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSYtQy9EqTA]


Mojo is a great example of the the creative spirit, and how it must go on. It's stripes and spots, wiring, and thought process were meant to fly. After all, that magnificent flight through thundering skies and over tempest sea has carried civilization forward. 

What's your story?  Have you always loved music?

I consider myself to be a conceptual artist.  I create art from the heart and express myself as creatively as possible.  All of it comes naturally to me.  I'm the youngest of eight; the only one in my family who plays an instrument.  My art/music emerged from a strong passion and grasp of sounds that go back as far as I can remember. I choose the concepts behind my work as they make themselves apparent in my life. I've been playing guitar for five years less than I have been alive; 38 years, which affords me the ability to reach and achieve creatively.


As an artist, I try to surround myself with people and art who are better than my own.  I'm blessed that in my career I have been able to record or perform with many great people and some guitar legends I have admired since I was a kid.  I’m quite respected for my playing but even more so for my creativity.  This stems from a true passion and love for music that was so evident as a child that my mother immediately put an instrument in my hand.  I'm very happy she chose the guitar. 

My first “official” release came when I was only 15 years old, which stemmed an active recording career that has branched to an International level.   I have always loved music and seek it out.  My electronic music collection is up to four terabytes.  I listen, consume, and experience music as much as possible.  I absolutely love music and take the challenges life throws at me with a guitar in my hand and a smile on my face.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Yes, I have had several, but one of the most recent ones is without a doubt when I sold out in Spain.  I showed up that day to what I thought was a pub gig only to find out it was a theater.  The place was decked out with art and filled with people there to share in it.  I first looked out into a large room from side stage only to see row after row of empty seats. Then the next thing I know someone walks in and says, “You are sold out tonight."  

I had never been to Spain before.  It was the first time that I saw how my art was touching the lives of others through the Internet on a large scale.  For once in my life, I was able to put faces to the numbers I read when I look at my download statistics and CD sales.  It’s easy to feel that you're getting lost in a fruitless effort when pursuing your art; Pow!… that really touched me.  I definitely knew I'm onto something.   I mean, really … I have had a lot of ah-ha moments in my career.  Like little love taps they creep into my life and kiss me, whispering in my ear to keep going.  As far as a focus ... my focus is the same as it has always been; to create art/music and follow my creative heart.  

Mojo Perry's upcoming CD cover art.
For you, is music more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to make music?

This is a very difficult question for me to answer.  Music is my whole life and has been for as long as I can remember.  I've never thought about this either way until just now.  I have such a strong desire to create that the expression just shines without me ever really thinking about it.

I really believe that being creative is allowing yourself to make mistakes, art is knowing which ones to keep. I also believe that one cannot serve without the other. Creativity and expression are lovers that will never part. However, I do try to be selective as to which songs I release and which ones I don’t. I want to contribute honest, positive art. The rest I archive and add to a collection of songs that I hope will be a wonderful box set someday after I'm long gone.  So … you might say my life is a collection of art in process. 

How would you describe your musical style, and why does this appeal most to you creatively?

First and foremost I'm a Songwriter. I approach every song I write as an individual piece of work. I have strong Blues roots at times, which often throws me into the Blues Genres.  All in all I would have to say that I am a Psychedelic Artist. I love manipulating sounds and pushing limits with my guitar. The beauty of the Psychedelic Genre is that the audience for it expects different, wild, and creative ideas, rhythms, and sounds; I absolutely adore that freedom. My career is based on it. In the marketplace I find myself in Psychedelic, Rock, Blues, Jam Band, Acoustic, and Singer Songwriter genres.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? 

I think this is an individual question because the farther out you go, the more different you become. I look at people whom I've been drawn to since I was a child: Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Jimi Hendrix; they all suffered, they all were laughed and scoffed at but stuck it out. I'm doing the same thing; weathering the storms and creating art/music and living it up when I can and toughing it out when things are down. It’s not complicated for any true artist; it’s in our blood.  The best blessing for me in being highly creative is that I always have a way to express what I'm feeling, going through, or am dealing with. As for the struggles I go through in pursuing my art, I'm continually shown how much I care about my art, what happens to it, and the fact that it is out there. I believe that when there is a connection to your creative side you explore a lot of things off the beaten track, which means there are certain hazards that come with it. With all of it I have grown in a way that I never would have if I had not gone through those tribulations and I'm grateful for all of it.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Yes I have. Discretion is the better part of valor. I've had many circumstances over the years on both personal and professional levels that proved to be a struggle for all involved.  I have it going on with various family members now and many others who just don’t see why I push so hard when I get so little back. They don’t experience what I see, hear, feel, or believe, and they certainly don’t have something so convictive in their life to push for. How could they understand ? I don’t even get it myself; I’m a slave to my art and the passion that burns in my blood. It’s simple but very complicated. I don’t think it will ever change and their will always be difficult situations. I will deal with it the way I always have.  With my art/music and the gifts of being able to create something out of nothing.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ7BUNBVlkE]

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about for various reasons.  Have your biggest dreams come to pass yet?  What do you dream of achieving now? 

You are never alone when you have a dream. I have learned over the years to understand success in various ways. My biggest dreams have not come to pass; they are just beginning to happen for me. Sure, there are things that haven’t happened the way I wanted them to but that’s normal. But the other side of that coin is that there have been many great things that did happen. Sometimes it sucks to be broke at times but then again I have a lot to be grateful for.  

As far as dreams go… man… I will always dream and work to achieve because that’s just what I do and when all is said and done people will be able to learn about me through my art/music, read about me, watch videos, listen to my work, and more. That’s what I'm dreaming to achieve. Just leaving my mark and being as happy as I can possibly be with a guitar in my hand and a pocketful of dreams.  Well… all of that as well as continuing to grow as a guitarist and pushing limits. (Smiling)

Do you ever wonder if what you're creating or expressing is as meaningful to others as it is to you?  How important is that to you with regard to your overall goals? If you've created something that purely expresses who you are, is that enough, or is the circle only completed when someone else says, "Yes, she understands me," or "Yes, that's how I feel?"

Yes, I do wonder. As near as I figure, I don’t think anything an artist can create can be as meaningful to others as it is to them.  How can it?  When someone is moved enough and creative enough to create something from nothing and have a fully realized piece of work at the end, your talking about a journey from start to end. Only the person who creates it gets it that way; it’s really personal for me.  To me, the circle is complete when I feel good about my art/music, expressed what I need to express, and written, played, and created the way I want to. My overall goals will never be affected but as a person I may be affected here and there. And in the times where I'm writing in regard to a person or situation and don’t get the response I want, well… I did the best I could.


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQoF0gemYIw]

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

I think there is a big difference. However, it takes talent that is sharpened and challenged repeatedly to explore creativity and created a distinguished fingerprint. Combined with method, vibe, and a multitude of other ingredients to get to a point where an artist label is achieved. 

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