“If you’re born with enough curiosity to bring yourself to certain [creative] points, then you’ve got enough curiosity to say ‘What can I try that I haven’t done?’.” –Bob Weir
Grateful Dead co-founder and Dead & Company frontman, Bob Weir offered this piece of advice to GRAMMY U Nashville students at a SoundChecks event on Monday Nov. 5, stressing the importance of challenging oneself.
Students from Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University were treated to a private, in-depth sound check featuring a number of Weir’s original songs and a cover of Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle,” featuring John Oates and Buddy Miller.
Over the course of nearly 30 years, Grateful Dead sold more than 35 million albums. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Weir managed to develop quite the following. When asked about his ability to establish and maintain such a large and diverse fan base known as "deadheads," he spoke about how the band's style of music transcends trends.
“With this particular style of music, it never goes in or out of style. We’re listening as hard as we’re playing," Weir said. "And that approach to music appeals to a person who requires a little adventure in his life and, therefore, a little adventure in his music.”
Quite a few years have passed since the so-called Summer of Love in 1967, when the Grateful Dead were a young band just starting out. The changes are especially noticeable in the music industry. From the advancement of audio engineering technology to the use of social media as a major marketing tool, the way artists and their teams create and sell music is completely different from the earlier days of Weir’s career. In regards to how technology has affected his creative process, Weir offered this perfect answer:
“Some people are going to hate it. Some people just roll with it. And I like to be somewhere in between there, I’m ere towards heritage, but I’m ere towards what’s new as well.”
Former Ratdog bandmate-turned-Bob Weir And The Wolf Bros-drummer, Jay Lane, chimed in, attributing the success of any record to its initial creative purity.
“It just needs to be organic. Not a project. That’s the key,” he said.
Weir chose to close the Q&A on a faultless note by giving students a key piece of wisdom regarding staying motivated and present in such a competitive industry:
“Just love what you’re doing. Make sure that you feel it," he said. "And if you hate it, hate it. But really HATE it. You need luck, and you need passion. The luck you might not be able to supply, but the passion is up to you.”
Overall, this SoundChecks experience was truly unique in allowing students to see into the industry’s past, present, and potential future through the eyes of a musical giant. Countless students left inspired and excited for their future careers in the music/entertainment business, with an itch to always dive deeper than the surface on any creative endeavor, and always keep the song in mind.
In the words of Mr. Weir, himself:
“You’re not going to get famous for playing the instrument. You’re going to get famous for playing the song.”