Our friends from In Time podcast, Ameer Khan & Joe Marlow, discusses creative process, techniques and culture on everything related to music production. They have graced Soundbrenner’s blog with written versions their insightful interview sessions with respected musicians such as Mark Holcomb, Adam Neely, DOMi & JD Beck.
On this episode, Mark Lettieri, known for his work with jazz group Snarky Puppy, dialed in with In Time hosts. Guitarist, composer, producer and instructor based in Fort Worth Texas, is also known for his work with The Fearless Flyers, Cory Wong and Joe Dart, Erykah Badu and even comedians like Dave Chappelle.
His recent recordings has landed on tracks of David Crosby, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Adam Levine, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Tori Kelly, Ledisi, Tamela Mann, Eric Roberson, Lecrae, Lupe Fiasco, Keyshia Cole, Xzibit, as well as numerous radio and television jingles.
We started off our conversation quite light, talking about current music we’re listening to, how lock down was going (podcast recorded in April 2020) and philosophy behind song writing. As the relationship matured we started advancing onto more musical discussions. On the topic of finding your sound as a musician Mark gave us this golden nugget:
“Well I’m still trying to totally figure that out. I definitely hear a lot of my influences in my own playing and songwriting. I think it’s a matter of maintaining a level of honesty with yourself.
You have to ask yourself the question: ‘What I’m doing right now. The playing, the writing…is there enough of me in this and not somebody else?”
Songwriting philosophy takes a different form and perspective from one musician to another. The duo gave us some insight to their take on it, also aspirations for originality and what draws them to other peoples music.
Such a huge eye opener in giving a practice philosophy with approaching music to reflect on your inspiration yet not completely emulate them. He’d later go on to add to that point:
“The other thing for me I noticed…any time I would transcribe parts, solos or whatever. I might learn something note for note and then I would forget it. Then just do my own thing.
You’ve taken it in, you’ve soaked in what’s important about it then you let it go.”
This perpetuates that thought of you building someone else’s’ playing more into your subconscious thinking space rather than an active one. Where it should be your own playing that overrides actively and inflections taken from the musicians that inspire you.
Mark left us scratching our heads with his final twist before he went on to enjoy his morning bacon:
“Here’s a good question, if your favorite guitar player asked you to come sit in with them tomorrow. Could you play and have a musical conversation with them without sounding like them?”
Where most musicians could only ever dream of playing with their musical heroes, there’s always a possibility it could be a reality however playing in context with another person is when you put the practice into purpose. It’s a real question we should ask ourselves, can we play with our inspirations but not make it sound like we’re a carbon copy of them?
Thank you for reading this excerpt of the episode, Mark Lettieri is essentially our square one to this season’s podcast. He helped and enabled us to achieve so much success from it after responding to an spontaneous Instagram direct message we’d sent him as a spur of the moment.
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