Luke DeJaynes of The Fundamental Elements concludes his two-part post on musical identity, especially as it pertains to his unique band. In his second post, Luke discusses how content plays a role in how a band is perceived by the public. Be sure to read To Be or Not to Be: Finding Musical Idenity— Part 1, Musical Style.
To Be or Not to Be: Finding Musical Identity—Part 2, Musical Content
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.
Once you have determined what you sound like, and how you are going to fit in, yet be
unique (whew!), what in the world do you have to say? Again, we find ourselves running into the same problems. Do you write content you know specific groups of people will identify with? Or do you write content you identify with and hope similar people will find your music and hope there’s enough of them to take your career somewhere? I don’t pretend to have the answers to any of the questions I’m posing.
FE has chosen to write content that reflects us as people, but that is still hopefully accessible to most. We don’t take things so far into our personal perspective that no one else besides us can relate to the messages. As a group of Christian guys this becomes increasingly difficult because FE is not necessarily a CCM band. Our lyrics have a definite undertone of spirituality and what we stand for as individuals, but certainly not in the traditional Christian music sense.
We have never felt like it was being true to ourselves to just do specifically music for only Christians. We write music dealing with real life issues, but written from a perspective of an underlying faith. We also let our life reflect our message as much or more than the lyrics. One great avenue we have found is partnering with an organization called Mocha Club. We work with them very specifically on helping orphans in Africa get the care they need, and FE has our own team project with Mocha Club so we are very personally involved.
So does blurring those lines help or hurt? Once again I don’t know. We have certainly heard arguments from both sides. People in the Christian music industry have certainly told us, “If you’d only be more obvious about our Christian message (translation: say “God” and “Jesus” more) you’d certainly be able to have a successful music career.”
And we’ve have had mainstream people tell us, “If you’d only lose the ties to Christianity in your music you would stop alienating the mainstream people and you’d certainly have a more successful music career.””
So, do we listen to one side or the other in hopes of advancing our career? Or do we stay true to being exactly who we are and saying what we want to say? For some artists it’s worth being flexible with style and content in order to fulfill their dreams of a music career. For some it’s more about expressing themselves exactly as they want to, and that is satisfaction enough whether the success comes or not. I think that it really depends upon the artist and their specific goals.
I also believe it’s not one way or the other. It’s not strictly “art versus success” but there are many levels in between that artists who aspire to be successful must face. Hopefully I have been able to shed some light on the struggles to find musical identity as an artist. We’d love to hear your responses on this blog, or send them to us as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much to Luke and The Fundamental Elements for taking the time to write this blog post and offering BSW readers a free song download! Be sure to visit the band online at http://www.fundamentalelements.net.
DOWNLOAD A SONG FROM THE FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS’ LATEST ALBUM “THIS MOMENT” FOR FREE! TO DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY OF “SOMETIMES,” CLICK HERE.