She sits across from the music legend, black shirt hanging loosely around her shoulders, hair draped over her chest.
It’s been 3:22 seconds since either of them have spoken.
During that time, Pharrell kept making strange faces at the music playing between them – a raised eyebrow here, a smirk there.
Do you remember how nervous you were when you first showed a piece of art to a friend? Remember how your heart slammed against your throat? Remember the sweat on your fingers?
Now imagine that same experience, only you are showing your work to a star decades into the career you want to pursue.
As the final notes of “Alaska” drifted through the air, a loud silence fills the room.
What is he going to say?
Pharrell takes a deep breath, looks at Maggie Rogers and says:
“I have no notes for that.”
Here’s what I love about all creative work: The whole is better than its parts.
Know that when you do creative work, you live in a space where 1+2 does not equal 3. Sometimes 1+2 = 15. Other times, it equals 42. Other times, -17.
There is nothing new under the sun. Hybrids, though, exist in the infinite. Hybrids are exactly what give us unique and new material.
It’s important to know money is not a solution for this. Money is a tool, it’s leverage. It gives you potential, sure, but it can’t guarantee an interesting result. I have seen no-budget YouTube videos I will never forget. I have seen million-dollar studio productions I can’t remember.
So what happened with Maggie Rogers? What elements made an industry legend stop in his tracks and say to a teenager – “I can’t improve what you have done”? Why did the music feel so fresh?
Here’s what Maggie says:
“I came to school and made straightforward folk music… but stopped making music for a couple of years in the middle of school. So I studied abroad and had a really spiritual experience with [French] dance music. So I wanted to combine the folk imagery and harmony and mix that with the backbone and energy of dance music.”
You can see the same phenomena in another musician enjoying a massive coming out right now – Dermot Kennedy.
“I always planned on doing acoustic stuff… but I’ve always listened to the tones of hip hop. I was in a session with [a hip hop producer], and we had this rhythmic guitar part, and he put a really heavily programmed beat into it. It just felt so good.”
For Maggie Rogers: Hard Banjo and Folk + French Dance Music = A new and unique hybrid
For Dermot Kennedy: Straight Irish Guitar + Def Poetry Hip Hop = A new and unique hybrid
You need a non-music example? Fine. How about Daisy Jones and The Six? A book which combines the tropes of rock-star fiction with the raw voice of a documentary. Add to that the audio experience, with different voices for every part (as opposed to one narrator making different voices), and BAM – another hybrid.
How about Pablo Picasso? His cubist paintings and collages are literally hybrids of different styles and different people.
Where do these world-changing hybrids come from? After all, most people don’t think “You know what, I’ll just mix this peanut butter with my woodworking to see what happens.”
Instead, they come from an obsession.
Maggie stopped making music and absorbed herself completely in another culture, another experience. She came out a new person.
Dermot listened almost exclusively to hip hop in his younger years. He just never thought to mix them.
Picasso painted over 300 canvases each of his 91 years on the planet.
So how can you find your own hybrid?
Live fully. Love fully. Try everything.
Allow obsession to reign.
(Even if it occasionally blows up in your face)
Much love as always ❤️
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