Almost everything in life has an expiration date. Milk sours, medicine becomes less effective and Nokia 5110…well you know what I mean. A delay to seize the moment allows something to slip away. Professional athletes, models and actors are all slaves to the clock of time. At some point, they become too old for the specific job in which they have invested everything. Do musicians face the same reality? Do they have an expiration date?
We’ve seen singers and bands come and go. One minute they’re the hottest thing on the face of the earth, the next thing, just another familiar face on the street. It’s like hosting a party and you have to keep your guest entertained for as long as you possibly can. Like musicians, fans’ priorities and commitments change as they grow older. Can fans and musicians naturally evolve and grow together?
I had the privilege of meeting Mr Jose Mari Chan recently prior to one of his Sydney concert tours. Mr Chan has been a prolific songwriter and singer for some 45 years and still counting. Certainly not a one hit wonder, Mr Chan has produced hits after hits; his music has been the voice of many generations and has captured different audiences, young and old along the way. So how does he do it?
When I asked Mr Chan the question he said one has to be like a sponge – you need to absorb everything and like a blender you mix it all and that’s how you stay fresh. Mr Chan doesn’t read or write music and claims to only play a bit of piano. So how does he write his music? According to him, he doesn’t use a guitar or piano when composing, as it is limited to chord changes. Adding that, often musicians rely on a riff or chord progressions to get them in the mood, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but inspiration can strike at any time that you have to be independent of your instruments.
Mr Chan never tried to be something that he’s not and is reflected on his songs. He write songs that mattered to him, undoubtedly in love with his wife Mary Ann, Mr Chan has composed songs for her which also became the theme songs for many people. What makes a song appealing is its relevance to the listener which is why his songs are still in our lounge room, bedroom and in our cars.
His voice is distinctive, simple but gets to the point. I must admit, I’m not a big fan but after seeing him live on stage, I know now why he’s still in the business. I asked him, “what advice can you give our aspiring musicians”? “Be yourself, have your own voice and don’t sound like anyone else”, he said.
Like any industry, if you don’t keep up with times you will be left behind. These changes are inevitable for the progress of human kind. For musicians in particular, be true to yourself, be a sponge and stay fresh. Ultimately, your expiration date is determined by your music.