Music Chronicles - Some Books I Love, Authored by Musicians
Creative individuals of all fields are usually no stranger to double dipping into different creative ventures. Whether it's a painter who dabbles in poetry, or an author who likes to illustrate their characters to life, creative types often take the time to express themselves across different mediums. One intersection that seems to be among the most common is musicians taking on writing. Some are offered book deals to tell the wild stories of their time in the industry, and others just have ideas, whether fiction or nonfiction, to share. Some of the best autobiographies were written by musicians, and they often give insight into a career that is usually considered to be quite illusive. As a writer and person who works with music, I've sought out a lot of these books. Getting those valuable insights into what it was like to be a rockstar, or to see what some artists that I admire have to say is always a worthwhile endeavour. In this post, I've put together a small selection of some of my favourite books that were written by some artists that I admire. Some are nonfiction, or autobiographical in nature, while others are a musician's take on creative writing. Either way, hopefully there's something that you might enjoy!
How Music Works - David Byrne
This was one of the first artist-penned books I read, loaned to me by someone who taught me the majority of what I know about music. With that sort of recommendation, I took the book quite seriously. David Byrne was already an artist I enjoyed, but it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to seek out his book. In case you don't know, David Byrne is best known for his time as the peculiar but brilliant frontman of the Talking Heads. They produced some innovative, genre-redefining music, and were among a chief few who helped birth the genre of new wave in the 80s. Byrne's book is part autobiography, part industry and artistic analysis. He talks about what he believes makes music work, both sonically and commercially, and relates it to his own experiences in the industry. From his earliest days playing the world renowned underground club, CBGB, to writing musicals that wound up on Broadway, Byrne relays much of his career in the form of an analysis of how he made it work, and how you might be able to make it work too.
The Book of Longing - Leonard Cohen
This is a very personal pick, but Leonard Cohen's poetry is among the pieces of media that have resonated most with me in my life. I was not in the best place in my life when I first found this book, which was only about a year ago now. We had just entered into a worldwide health crisis, and I was cooped up in my downtown Toronto apartment, unable to head outside without it feeling like a risk, and without my partner and my family. Reading Cohen's poetry and his exploration of feelings of loneliness, longing, and desire resonating with the feelings I was experiencing at the time. Cohen's particular command of language was second to none, which I spoke at length about in a recent blog post that you can find HERE. I'll keep it brief here, but this is one book that I've been infatuated with that brings me to run the full gamut of emotions, from melancholy, to longing, and joy.
Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road - Neil Peart
Neil Peart was one of the greatest musicians in history. I don't think anyone would make an argument against that. With his second to none mastery of the drums, to his introspective and intriguing lyrics, he was instrumental in the success of Canadian rock icons, Rush. His life was far from perfect, however. Shortly before authoring this book, Peart lost his wife in a car accident, only months after losing his daughter the year prior. It was a pair of tragedies that completely shattered his world, and caused him to step away from music for some time. During that period, he got onto his motorcycle, which had been a passion of his for a long time, and he decided that he was going to drive across the continent. Starting from his home in Quebec, Peart travelled all the way across Canada then through America and down into Mexico. This tome chronicles his experiences during that time. It's all at once heartbreaking, introspective, and inspiring. It is one of the most moving memoirs out there.
How to Make it in the New Music Business - Ari Herstand
For my last pick, a book I haven't been able to live without. Ari Herstand first wrote How to Make it in the New Music Business in 2016, with an updated version dropping in late 2019. It is a comprehensive guide, not to stardom, but how to make a living in the industry. Herstand covers, speaking from personal experience and the industry expertise of some of his peers, nearly all the aspects of a music career that one could look for. From building a team, to marketing, to getting butts in seats for live shows (once those come back). This book has been a bible of sorts for me, and many others. It's an outstanding at-hand resource, one I can turn to to remind myself of the particulars of our baffling industry, and it has helped me a lot throughout my time as an artist manager.
I can't even begin to cover even a respectable scope of the books out there that have been written by musicians. If you search for yourself, please do let me know some of your favourites, because there's bound to be countless more books out there, most likely by artists you love.