In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, LA-based songwriter and performer Dent May—who is also a self-described hotel bar lounge singer and aspiring daytime TV talk show host—shares wisdom about finding creative inspiration and focusing on yourself. Dent May plays Market Hotel on July 13 with Shannon Lay.
@RoteCampbell: Should everyone sing or should we limit the number and focus on having great singers? Songs are flowing out of me now that I’m a dad. Never thought of myself as a singer before this. Am I a singer? Do you advise this?
Yes—everyone should sing. Traditionally “good” singing voices are overrated. David Byrne said something like, “The better a singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying.” I also think that any human is capable of singing competently and in pitch. There are plenty of things you can do to improve your voice, but don’t ever let it stop you from making music. The most important thing is to make sure the voice you’re using is truly your own. So many vocalists sing in weird accents, trying to emulate someone else they’ve heard. Just take a deep breath and let it rip.
@andreagarcie: Hey dent! I got a question for you, what’s the best way to focus on yourself instead of comparing yourself to others around you? Help pls
My mother has a saying: “Comparison is the root of all evil.” If someone’s doing something you think is cool, don’t let that make you feel insufficient. Be happy for the person, and use that energy to chase your own dreams. It’s easy to scroll through social media and assume that everyone out there is happier, more successful, better-looking, and so forth, but the truth is that no one’s actually that happy. Everyone sort of hates themselves, and it’s all just a façade to cope and keep going. Set goals for yourself that have nothing to do with anyone else, like “I’m going to write the best song I’ve ever written today.” Trying our best is all we’ve got, and it’s enough.
@krstyhrtwll: Hello, I am a big fan of your music! I was wondering where you draw inspiration for your songs as well as what you do to reinspire yourself when your creativity may be lacking while writing?
I draw inspiration from anywhere I can. Often I’m directly inspired by other music that I like, but there’s no limit to the sources one can tap for inspiration. Sometimes I come up with exercises. When I was writing the song “Across The Multiverse,” I pulled up the Wikipedia entry for “multiverse” and wrote down a bunch of interesting words I came across. I also keep a huge list of phrases for potential lyrics and song titles on my phone, and I am constantly singing ideas into my voice memos. The best way to maintain productivity is to take notice when you have a good idea and then put the work into nurturing it. It’s rare that a song comes to me in a flash of inspiration. It usually takes weeks or months or years to work it out.