This is the third in a three-part series focusing on the songwriting process. We’ll break down the parts involved in song and performance by talking to local musicians
Whether it’s in front of the mirror with a hair brush, at a house party jamming with a few of your best friends or playing for a crowd of four to five thousand people, performing and capturing the audience is all dependent upon the attitudes of the musician. Mikey Seitz of Enormodome and Weezus, a Weezer tribute band, has been performing for more than 20 years to crowds of various sizes. Much of Seitz’s history in performing is in covering songs, something that can be a stepping stone to creating your own music but is typically overlooked.
“I don’t read music though I’ve tried. I still don’t. I know the very basics but it never clicked with me. I’m so much more of an ear-led person that my brain doesn’t work reading it and letting it come out of my hands. That’s a whole other art,” Seitz says. “It kind of all clicks in big chunks. Over the years, we’ve collected so many songs in the repertoire.”
Tons of musicians learn to play by ear, just looking at the countless YouTube videos and tutorials that teach people hand placement, chord structures and techniques for playing. Seitz began playing drums in junior high then picked up guitar when he was in high school and began learning covers with a friend.
“Start by playing music that you dig, and you hope to use those pieces and elements to express yourself. That’s [the] simplest form of songwriting. You learn chord progressions, chord structures, etc. You make a platform with those basic tools and then place your own thoughts and feelings on top of it. Sometimes it goes on for 30 years, and you never get better at it—at least in your own mind. It’s always fun to capture a photograph of a moment and try to make it clear.”
It doesn’tend with covers. The songs you choose to cover were once songs made by other musicians also sitting down to figure out what to write, how to express an idea and then finally placing their work into the world.
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“It comes down to this: Learning covers is a very structured thing. It’s a lot of practicing. Writing seems to come out of thin air,” Seitz says. “An idea or phrase pops into your head, you then sit down with an instrument, start trying to pull it together out of that thought. I keep a ton of little snippets on my phone or recorder or in the depths of my computer. I have over a hundred little snippet recordings on my phone right now. Sometimes when I have a few spare hours, it’s really neat to listen back. It’s like being an audience member for yourself.”
The key advice Seitz gives upon reflecting on his more than 30 years of playing music is to look at the people who surround you. The songwriting process may be different for everyone, but the friendships and connections work similarly.
“The most nervous I’ve ever been is playing for another artist that I really respect that I haven’t played with much. It’s a little stressful because I’m trying to be really good. When it’s either my stuff or with [Enormodome guitarist] Jeff [Lusby-Breault], we know those songs so well and have been playing together for so long and trust each other so much that it is seriously so fun. It’s a huge emotional and physical release. It’s the best feeling ever.”
When you play music with another person and with other people watching, it makes the experience incredibly different from playing alone in front of your mirror.
“Don’t sell yourself short in the people that you choose to make art with. Don’t waste your time on people that you don’t genuinely like spending time with because you’re going to spend a lot of intense, emotional time with [them]. Take your time and find what you want to play, play with a lot of people and get really comfortable with your instrument,” says Seitz.