Why solitude is good (and necessary) for musicians

[Another helpful guest post from Jess Walter. – AC]

Solitude and its Immense Benefits to Musicians

One of the most esteemed musicians of our time, Leonard Cohen, once said: “I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is.” Songwriting is without a doubt one of the most personal of all creative processes and also the one that can benefit the most from a certain degree of isolation. While it is no secret that some of history’s greatest composers, including Mozart and Hayden, created some of their best work during isolation, modern-day musicians can also benefit from isolation, especially in nature. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of a technology-driven world to find solitude could result in some of the best work a musician has ever produced.

Bears make good company

One musician who put the theory of creative isolation to very good news is none other than Michael Franzino who was the guitarist of post-hardcore outfit A Lot Like Birds. Before the band called it a day in 2018, Franzino reportedly locked himself up in a cozy yet secluded forest bungalow somewhere in the Sierra Mountain range with nothing but chirping birds and bears for company. A crowdfunding initiative that raised in the region of $13,000 enabled Franzino to spend nearly 2 months in the cabin with no internet and the nearest town nearly 40 miles away. The isolation clearly did its trick as Michael penned a number of superb songs such as one entitled ‘1 (800)273 255’ which is the number for the American Suicide Prevention Lifeline. He also wrote ‘Maternity Leave (Funeral March 28th’ which made reference to his mom’s overdose when he was 18 years old. The album almost wasn’t released because of its personal nature but in the end, the album, which became known as Somewhere in the Sierras, was recorded in the studio with Dryw Owens.

Even Radiohead enjoyed some solitude

More than two decades after its release, Radiohead’s OK Computer is once again trending, but this time for a somewhat different reason.  A hacker recently stole 18 hours’ worth of unreleased music files, demanding a $150,000 release fee. Instead of giving in to the demands, Radiohead went on to release the music themselves, making them available for online purchase and with proceeds going to charity. While most music fans will rate OK Computer as one of the band’s most important and successful albums, not everyone knows that most of the album was recorded in isolation in Jane Seymour’s Tudor Mansion. The actress allowed the band to use her property in exchange for her beloved cat being looked after while she was away. Another highly popular album that was largely written in isolation is Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. which was penned by Justin Vernon in his dad’s secluded hunting cabin in Wisconsin during winter. Although not every musician has friends with mansions or dads with cabins, it is easy enough to obtain your own private space if you set your mind to it. There are a variety of cabin kits that will enable anyone to create a place for solitude, even if out in their own backyard.

How does solitude benefit a musician?

While the mere thought of solitude can be somewhat frightening, it can also be immensely beneficial to a musician.  Solitude gives a musician the opportunity to engage in original thinking that is often brought on by a healthy amount of daydreaming while alone.  It is also a lot easier to face your fears and make sense of all your thoughts when you are alone as opposed to being surrounded by constant distractions. Chances are good you will also come up with some of your best ideas while alone, as solitude is known to foster creativity. In addition to boosting creativity, solitude can also help ward off depression which is incredibly useful especially considering the recent number of suicides in the music world.

While they might sound similar, there is a big difference between solitude and loneliness.  Although both can be conducive of astounding bursts of creativity, it is the former that will benefit creative spirits like musicians the most.

Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.