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.
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.