Your Very Own Box


I love stand up comedy. I think there’s a lot to learn from people like Marc Maron, Stewart Francis, Jerry Seinfeld (of course) and Jen Kirkman. There’s also a really funny stand-up comedian named Demetri Martin. You may or may not know him. He’s famous, mostly, for using chart paper to get his jokes across. This includes things like, “here’s a graph of my ability to draw mountains over time..” and “here’s a graph that shows how attractive you are versus how much I can take of you talking about your cat.” They’re pretty funny, trust me. He’s known as a bit of a one-liner comedian and reminds many of famous one-liner comedian, Steven Wright. There’s a great podcast on The Nerdist network where he talks about being constantly compared to that particular comedian or being told things like, “oh…you’re that guy who does his shows with chart paper.” He goes on to say that people are always going to try to put you in a box, to easily explain exactly who you are, but that his goal in life is to make the strangest, most oddly shaped box in the world so that the box was on his terms. It’s a neat idea, right?

I’m a musician. But what sort of musician am I? I’m constantly referred to as a “folk” or “classical” musician, which is fine. I have some basic education in jazz but my roots are firmly in rock. I grew up listening to Queen, Maiden, Def Leppard. I love Rush, Mark Knopfler, Alanis and Tears for Fears. So how do I classify my musical tastes? Well, I like what I like. And that’s how I feel about myself as a musician as well. I think a lot of people just look at someone who plays an acoustic guitar and decide that they’re a certain style. And when I put Even Flow on my recent album, it probably throws people off a little bit, which is also fine.

I think that too often we hem ourselves into a corner. We join a “tribe”. And that can be really rewarding sometimes. Deadheads are a pretty cool tribe, but I think that it’s important to not close off our minds to the idea that there are things that fall outside of our typical field of view that might be really interesting. We immediately decide that a musician or actor isn’t “our style” because we look at what they’ve done in the past without giving them the opportunity to show us what they can accomplish. For years, we all thought of Jim Carey as this incredibly one dimensional comedic actor until films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show proved otherwise. We all thought we knew who Alanis was and we either liked or didn’t like the former Can’t Do That On Television star, but when she came out with her first album as Alanis Morrisette, it caused many to pause and reevaluate.

I recently overheard someone talking about Nova Scotia Music Week, and event I was incredibly lucky and blessed to be a part of, and they said that they don’t check out any NSMW shows because “they don’t like the fiddle.” Now while I believe they were being facetious, to a degree, it always saddens me when individuals close themselves off to potentially powerful experiences because they think they know what it’s all about.

Who or what has surprised you? What were you surprised to find out was incredibly different from your understanding of it? Have you ever found yourself being put in that “box” that Martin talks about? How have you defined your own box?