Asheville-based musician, composer, filmmaker and producer Ben Lovett (not the Mumford & Sons band member of the same name) recently launched the four-EP series, Lovers & Friends. It came about when he was introduced to 12 songwriters in Los Angeles, and during a series of blind-date-type meet-ups, composed songs with each of those strangers-turned-collaborators. Follow the series at youtube.com/user/LoversLabel.
Here, Lovett talks about creating art, where ideas come from, and how to not be held back by fear or uncertainty.
A fundamental part of my philosophy is to never let the fear of not know what I’m doing prevent me from trying.
The first thing I really ever did was make music for these guys’ movie in college, when I was a freshman or sophomore. I had no idea what I was doing. I was like, “I don’t know anything about writing music for a movie,” and they were like, “Well, we don’t know anything about making one.” I was like, “OK, awesome.”
That whole experience was so encouraging and rewarding that it multiplied into all these other things I’ve done. If you were to find a common thread, it’s [that] I charged into them inexperienced and without any idea of what I was doing. But if you’re too preoccupied with looking cool, you’re going to miss out on a lot of stuff. If you’re trapped in the fear of coming across looking stupid or untalented, you’re really not even allowing access to all the other parts of yourself … that you need to create art.
You’ve got to learn that even your most embarrassing moments are not going to kill you. In fact, sometimes they give you a really good story. On a long time line, that’s all you’re looking for — as many good stories as you can find.
If you knew were [ideas] came from, you’d go there more often and just stand at the door. It’s almost like you accidentally tune into that frequency. You have these moments where it’s coming in, but it’s coming in a little hazy you’re just off the dial of it. You’re constantly trying to figure out which way you need to lean or turn to get it to come in clearer.
Every songwriter and writer and artist has had these moments where it’s just, bam! Bolt of lightning. All of a sudden this whole thing comes through you in one spell. You don’t know why or where, but it’s so profound and it’s so real. You only ever feel the slightest bit, if any, responsible for it. You become addicted and you’re waiting around, trying to do anything you can to get it to come back.
There’s no more sort of religious experience, for me, when you go from nothing to a song that now exists. It will outlive you and it’s a companion for the rest of your life. It makes you feel lucky to be alive and to be in touch with that, [as if] you were tapped [to] have that luck that day.
I feel more like I’m just waving around my butterfly net most of the time. Every now and then you’re like, “A butterfly! Oh my god!” You can only really ever get better at building your net or waving it around. You don’t really know how to make the butterfly fly into any better.