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How to be Understood without Limiting Creativity

Connie Lim
When I first moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in music, I had no idea how my musical versatility would become such an obstacle. -says Connie Lim

During years 1 and 2 of my Los Angeles journey (which is an ongoing journey, mind you), I sang without strategy. I just wrote, and sang.

The music industry people who surrounded me, however, thought I was an unfocused performer in genre and style. They would say that my vocal tone in one song sounded like Norah Jones, while another sounds like Gwen Stefani. I even got country references! So confusing.

Thank goodness for the “other” category. The “other” category bought me quite some time

When I was auditioning on the first season of The Voice, I felt so bad for not knowing which genre I was: should I declare myself pop? R’n’B? Country? Rock? Gah! I really had NO idea! I loved singing Bonnie Rait, and I loved singing Kings of Leon. Or Adele.

I would always put a little twist on my covers, but I didn’t quite understand what that twist was. Thank goodness for the “other” category. The “other” category bought me quite some time.

I would meet with managers, producers, and A&R people who told me I needed to commit to becoming the best at making a focused sound. I would thank them for their time, and go home a bit concerned. You know when something is so beautiful you just don’t dare name it some mortal monicker? That’s how I felt about songs (yes, my friends also say I’m idealistic. I’d say proudly so).

Why was this game so hard for me to grasp? My songs were songs. They are these magical outlets for the soul to escape the human body.  To me, they are a series of unique lyrics coasting on top of a beautiful melodic landscape. I didn’t purposefully declare one song R’n’B, and the other Rock Pop. They were just songs that were expressing something inside of me that needed to come out.

You can imagine how cathartic it was when a potential manager, Tony, told me that I was not just an artist… I was a songwriter for other artists as well. It explained why audiences from my Los Angeles shows kept telling me that I had a very eclectic sound; that not one song sounded like the other… different styles. Rather than thinking that was a bad thing, I embraced my diverse writing habits. Tony was the first industry person that encouraged me to write all the different styles I wanted (thank you Tony!). He viewed my dynamic range as a strength, rather than a weakness. What a concept!

In short: create freely first. Then think about how to fit it into the commercial music industry later.

With this new and empowering information, I learned to prioritize who I am over an industry standard. After all, the music industry thrives off artists who take risks and try new things. Once I rediscovered this, my life began to change drastically.

No longer do I beat myself up for writing an alt-country song when I so wanted to write a swanky indietronica tune. No longer do I torment myself when I start writing a song outside of “my desired genre”.

Rather, I let my songwriter write whatever she pleases. Then I take a few days, weeks, or even months of space away from the song. Once I have had enough time away from these songs, I re-listen, and then categorize the songs into different genre folders after the fact.

In short: create freely first. Then think about how to fit it into the commercial music industry later.

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