How to Find Your Creative Identity
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One’s creative identity is foundational to who you are as a musical artist. Understanding what you value, what you like, and who you are is unendingly important.
So how do we find our creative identity?
Find What You Love
What music do you love? Take a moment to write down your top-10 favorite artists.
Usually, who we are as an artist is a healthy mix of our favorite artists and the core of who we are.
You will often find your own identity reflected by your favorite artists. If all your top-10 artists are male country singers who tend to have themes of love and cowboy boots, your creative identity probably isn’t going to be rapping about how loaded you are.
Maybe it will. But it probably won’t.
Next, it can be helpful to also write down your top-10 favorite songs. If you have too much repetition of the same artist in this top-10, maybe restrict yourself to 1 song per artist.
Once you have these top-10 lists, we can move on to step 2 of finding your creative identity.
Find Your Value Judgements
Now we’re going to utilize those top-10 lists.
First, find what binds these favorites together. Here are some things to look for that might bind these different artists and songs together:
Genre - Post Grunge, Adult Contemporary, Country, Pop, R&B, etc
Lyrical Themes - Life, Loss of Love, Party Life, etc
Melodic Style - Staccato, Legato, Utilize Large Vocal Range, Utilize Small Vocal Range
Instrumental Style - Piano driven, Synth Driven, Distorted Electric Guitar Driven, etc
Arrangement Style - Sparse arrangements (few instruments), Thick arrangements (more instruments)
Mood - Happy, Sad, Angry, Angsty, etc
Sound Character - Catchy, memorable, emotive, etc
You may be surprised by what binds together what you love. Maybe you only care about genre, but like all lyrical themes and moods. Or maybe you don’t care about genre, but only like music that is on the sad side of things. You may love catchy music in all its forms. Or you might prefer memorable, piano-driven songs with sparse arrangements.
It’s important to figure out what unites many of your top 10 artists and songs, but finding some outliers can be just as important.
For example, you may find that 8 of your top 10 artists are all rock bands. But then you also have a country artist in your top 10. That doesn’t seem to fit, so what characteristic does it share with those rock bands? This shared characteristic might be what you actually care about.
Maybe you really just like dense, thick, “epic” sounding arrangements with sad lyrical themes. Which usually goes along with rock music. This doesn’t necessarily mean you like rock music per se. It might be that dense and thick sad songs are your thing.
To take this a step further, it can be helpful to find artists that you would consider similar to artists on your top 10 that you don’t like. Because this gives you a way to separate what actually causes you to love your favorite artists and what just happens to be a characteristic of them.
Find Your Why
Why are you a songwriter? What is the greatest compliment someone can pay you as an artist?
You might want to provide something positive in a world of negativity.
You might want to be brutally honest about what you’re going through so others going through something similar feel less alone.
You might want to bring solace to those who were abused.
You might want to make people dance and feel ok despite the pain they’re going through.
You might want people to just smile when they hear your music.
Whatever your reason is, know it.
Find What You’re Good At and Not So Good At
Use your strengths. Reduce the impact of your weaknesses.
If you aren’t a great guitarist, write songs in a way that no one would know.
If you can’t sing lower notes consistently, don’t write a song in that range.
Set yourself up for success.