How Where You Live Impacts The Music You Make

For many musicians, songwriting is a reliable way to escape their current circumstances. This especially applies to those living in places they don’t like. But whether you love or loathe where you currently live, where you’re located has a big impact on the music you’re making. Here are a couple of ways how.

Where you live can inspire your music—or do just the opposite

A cramped Brooklyn apartment is one songwriter’s junk and another’s songwriting treasure when it comes to being inspired. Since every songwriter is unique, places hold different emotional significance to different writers. Living out in the middle of nowhere simply won’t cut it for many musicians, but for others, quiet, unknown places are perfect for making music in. Conversely, busy music meccas like New York City and London are ideal for some songwriters and unworkable for others.

Landscapes, skylines, and weather impact some musician’s songs overtly and others in more subtle ways. For example, if you’re making music in a place that has brutal winters, you might find yourself holed up in the studio making music more out of boredom than anything else. That can be good or bad depending on how you make music and what you’re inspired by. In a weird way, if you can’t stand where you’re from, you might find yourself inspired in some surprising ways. Inspiration is similar to musical creativity in the way that limitations can be an asset. Living in a place you love is no guarantee that your music will be any good.

Different locations carry music industry benefits and drawbacks

There’s no getting around the fact that living in more populated areas benefits musicians. Even with the close musical connections the internet delivers, songwriters living in big cities have the benefits of working closely with other musicians, having more access to live shows and venues and being located in areas with more music industry resources and connections. But it shouldn’t be a surprise when you see how many great artists come from rural areas. What unpopulated areas lack in music resources, they often make up for in affordability, increased livability, and less competition for local shows. Again, since every musician is different, there’s no single ideal place to make music in. This is why we can find incredible artists living all over the world.

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The baggage of growing up in a place informs a musician’s work long after they’ve left home

The places where songwriters grow up often impact the music they make throughout their careers. Things like where a songwriter went to school, where they had their first kiss (or breakup), and what their childhood home was like ends up being so impactful because hometowns represent a newness and vulnerability that shape people for the rest of their lives. And it doesn’t matter what your feelings are about your hometown. Whether you love going home for the holidays or cringe at the thought of where you grew up, the places we’re from leave a first impression that shows up in the sound and stories in the music we make forever.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

RebeccaHow Where You Live Impacts The Music You Make


Join the conversation
  • dheeraj - February 27, 2019 reply

    The popular music of our day reflects the culture of our day. We can see the fingerprints of a certain generation in the lyrics and sound of that time. One recent and almost outrageous example of this is the song “#SELFIE” by the Chainsmokers. It’s a pretty spot-on commentary about the youth and media culture of our day

  • 10K-DB - February 27, 2019 reply

    It all changes so fast its sometimes hard to keep up with.

  • Bruce - March 1, 2019 reply

    I grew up in the Cleveland+Detroit music world nexus. This sound is exemplified by the MC5, The James Gang with Joe Walsh, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Cream, the Beatles (via John Lennon) and the Monkees (don’t laugh), top-40 of the ’60s that was distorted and loud. In recent years, I’ve gotten to be friends with a Philadelphia guy, who grew up thru the same time era, and his taste is mainly in the mellow bubblegum stylings and rock&soul, with a touch of Billy Joel and Elton John for good measure. For the longest time I could not believe that anyone could love the nameless bands that made the nameless hits. But no. Now I’m in Boston, centah of cultchah, and historic home of the folk world. OK. It’s a big world. You want to be where you love it and they love you. Or make something that they will start to love.

  • Joellen - March 4, 2019 reply

    Hi there, everything is going nicely here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s in fact fine,
    keep up writing.

  • Gary Bixler - March 6, 2019 reply

    Great creativity can be exercised from wherever you are. One of the weaknesses of our modern techno affluent societies is that we are “spoiled” in a real sense. We are always looking for the perfect spot, the perfect circumstances, and the perfect timing to do what we do. The poor do not have that option. So, when we look back at the world throughout history, and at the current world and its difficulties, and see the creativity spawned in adverse environments, it should inspire us to overcome our own unrealistic expectations and create, create, create, out of our own inner drive to create something good. Someone had to invent lemonade out of those lemons. I’m currently a “senior” musician, and I’m encouraging older people to invent, and create, even in the middle of their often difficult circumstances. Whoever invented retirement should apologize. We need, even as grey hairs, to passionately create wonderful things, first love for others, and then things that give pleasure and enjoyment to others through our art. I hope someone will do a series of articles on the lesser known seniors who are creating music and art of all kinds. These days, when many seniors feel abandoned by society, and looked down upon as if they have nothing to contribute, it’s extremely important to know we can create every day, in our own humble place, no matter the level of our talent. Thanks for listening.

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