Music has been a constant in my life since I was an awkward 12 year old girl and my childhood best friend, Ronda, introduced me to Def Leppard and Duran Duran. In my car, in the shower, the kitchen, at work, in my studio, it’s there. Always.
Music often transports me to another place, allows me to settle in, exercise my vocal chords and if I’m alone, practice a few dance moves. Music also frames my creative ritual. A typical art day for me means a few steps out to my studio, lights on, heater on, incense lit and music on. What I listen to depends on my mood that day. Sometimes it’s my iPod on shuffle (Dixie Chicks to Led Zeppelin), other times it could be a One Republic album 75 times or Sirius set to alternative 80s or singer songwriters of the 70s. Many times it’s all of the above.
On occasion I try an audio book. It’s usually something funny. Life is too serious therefore everyone needs a little David Sedaris in their life and he reads them which makes them 100 times better. My personal favorites are Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.
When I asked friends about their listening & watching habits, this is what I found.
Allison Buenger – Nothing…or NPR, podcasts. This American Life, Radiolab, Invisibilia, Serial.
Stephanie Rond – I don’t watch anything but I do listen. If I have a full studio day full of intense creative thinking I shuffle all the Coldplay albums so I can go in and out of “it”. I guess his voice and their music puts me into a meditative, inner dialogue state. If I’m doing more of creative thinking in a productive rather than thinking….I listen to all kinds of music. If I’m doing super mundane stuff, like cutting stencils, I listen to podcasts.
Betsy DeFusco – I never watch anything when I am painting but almost always have music on. Lately I have been listening to Yoyo Ma playing Bach, because that’s what my studio mate is into. at first I didn’t like it, but now I love it. Really helps you get in the zone. Other days it’s lots of other things, ranging from classical to pop (Taylor Swift fan) to Broadway tunes. It kind of has to be something I can dance around my studio to.
Amy Leibrand – If I’m shooting in the studio, I listen to moody music; stuff that hits me in the gut tends to get the mind going. If I’m doing less creative things, like framing or staining, I listen to NPR or podcasts.
Mollie Hannon – When I take actual photos, I don’t listen to anything. To be honest I’ve never tried it. When I edit photos I listen to music. It really depends, but most of the time it’s mixes I make with lots of slow intentional melodic music, like Andrew Bird and Beirut. When I write I listen to music as well, but it’s usually something more aggressive, with a faster pace. Finally when I assemble art pieces I don’t listen to anything at all because it’s usually last minute and I’m in a rush and I need to super de-duper focus.
Lisa McLymont – I just flew through watching the Deadwood series while working. Talk radio. For sounds, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cinematic Orchestra, Little Dragon, and Sbtrkt are my go-tos, and Glass Animals is my new ear candy.
I play things when I want to get into a groove. I’ve tried to play different things for different projects, but I don’t like focusing too much on these details when I’d rather be focused on making! This is connected to why I forget to eat while working in the “zone”
Caroline Kraus – I do a lot of driving so music always fills my car. When I’m shooting during a bright sunny day, music from Donovan, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, mixed in with a whole lotta music from Stax Records, Motown, and Muscle Shoals.
In the evening at that beautiful golden hour, things slow down and darken a bit with Junior Kimbroug, Lee Moses, The Xx & of course one of my favorites, The Velvet Underground.
But as the sun takes the light, the music gets darker still. My car fills with the reverb of my favorite band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Joined with the likes of, The Kills, Black Angels, Iggy & The Stooges, The Oh Sees, The Cramps & Deap Vally.
At home editing, I go between music, podcasts, and movies. It really just depends on which way the wind blows.
Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Ratatat, Thievery Corporation & Spindrift all help me focus down.
I have recently been obsessed with The Harry Dean Stanton, Partly fiction, doc on Netflix. The pacing is great.
Of course the Serial podcast got me through many hours of editing. But I also listen to 99% invisible, Savage Love, Radiolab, SModcast & Every day feminist.
If this post sparked something and you’re curious about the habits and routines (audial and other) of other famous creatives, you might want to check out Daily Rituals: how artists work by Mason Currey published in 2013 by Knopf.