To Be or Not to Be: Finding Musical Identity—Part 1, Musical Style by Luke DeJayne of The Fundamental Elements

Luke DeJaynes of The Fundamental Elements guest posts about how the band finds its musical identity in an industry that can sometimes look for cookie cutter musicians.  In the first of two blog posts, Luke explores how bands develop musical style.

To Be or Not to Be: Finding Musical Identity—Part 1, Musical Style

By Luke DeJaynes of The Fundamental Elements

Making music is a form of art. Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” This definition sounds pretty straight forward and leaves the door wide open for an extremely personal expression by the creator of the art. However, after six years of being in the music industry with the band Fundamental Elements (FE), I have come to learn it’s not so simple, at least not when trying to turn art into a career. I’d like to break up this post into a couple sections and discuss finding musical identity from the perspective of an independent musician.

Part 1, Musical Style

The first creative factor I’d like to touch on is musical style. Typically as a band or an artist when you determine your musical style, you create from the styles that have influenced you most and express your personal taste. However, if this was the only thing to consider, life would be much simpler for the working musician. I’m afraid a lot of times “style” is pushed to a much lower level of importance when determining musical identity.

The reality is that artists have to tackle a plentitude of questions like, What is popular now? What is selling? What contacts do we have at record labels, concert venues, producers and what style are they looking for? What style can we legitimately pull off given the make up of our musicians?

There are many things that help shape or blur our personal musical style. For example, I grew up listening to a lot of jazz. Let’s be honest, people, no one buys jazz. I have determined that I cannot simply play jazz and make a living at it. There are people who do it, but they’re the exception. However, I have found a group of guys to play with who all appreciate jazz, and that carries over into the creative process. Even though the music of FE is more pop/ soul based you can hear the influence jazz has played in my life. Style is a melting pot of your influences.

FE has been heavily influenced by a lot of soul artists like Stevie Wonder, John Legend, and Earth Wind and Fire. So does it mean we don’t have our “own” style because we have been influenced by such artists? I don’t think so. The truth is no one is completely original. Everyone is influenced by previous generations of music, but the beauty comes when you find where you can put your own twist on the music that has influenced you. I Doing so isn’t that difficult because we are all unique people and see things slightly different from each other. There have been times in the past when we have heard “you sound too much like so-and-so.” But I think that’s always been the nature of music. If you like an artist, chances are you can find similarities in the sound. Of course there are also times when you get compared to someone who you don’t even sound like, but that is just difference in people’s perception of your music.

Here’s the point: How do you have a unique, personal sound, and yet still fit in to what

the public wants to hear and purchase? I think it comes down to quality. I know, I know, that sounds old-fashioned. There is a lot of music out there that I would consider lacking in the quality control dept. But I think the key is finding your unique spin on what has influenced you, and doing it with excellence.

Keith Urban is one of country music’s top-selling artists and has been for years. He does not fit the typical Nashville mold regarding sound and style. I once heard him say this about his struggle to be true to his own style, and yet be successful, “Being unique will be your biggest hurdle until it becomes your biggest blessing”. I think that’s so true. Not fitting into a mold will initially land you with some struggle of where to fit in. However, once it catches on, you will be remembered a lot longer than those who fit into the cookie cutters more easily.

I’d love to hear your responses here on Backseat Writer or e-mail me at

Check back next week for the second part of Luke’s guest post on musical identity in which he discusses musical content.  Also, check out The Fundament Elements online at


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