On episode 20 of Alone with Peter, Dean Nelson talks about Love, Trauma, Rock N Roll, and the Keys to Consistency.
Previously on Alone with Peter
Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with singer and songwriter Dean Nelson (@DeanNelsonMusic)
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With interviews ranging from 1-2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Dean Nelson: So we recorded it, because it was really hard. Now I look back favorably. It kind of felt like we just had a boxing match with Joe Frasier. One where I got the crap kicked out of me. But we knew it was fine, and we did, but it was like, “Oh, but then a label is going to come pick it up, and we’re going to take it…” We were still very ambitious at that time. It was kind of funny how we thought, “Oh, maybe this isn’t the best quality, but it’s going to be picked up.”
I think it kind of was like this Starsky and Hutch. Having somebody around that was not a sound wall, but somebody that you can experience life with, right?Dean Nelson on meeting Danian
Dean Nelson: Spencer moved, actually, I don’t know if he moved here or somewhere else. I can’t remember where he moved. I think it was here. I met my friend Dannian around that time. My brother had moved, he was still LDS Mormon at the time and served an LDS mission. I was really depressed. Spencer was gone around that time too, and I met Dannian, who we just became super close. I think it kind of was like this Starsky and Hutch. Having somebody around that was not a sound wall, but somebody that you can experience life with, right?
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: Heterosexual life partner.
Peter Kersting: Yeah, bromance.
Dean Nelson: Bromance. I love him so much.
Peter Kersting: Bro bromance.
Creating art with those we love
Dean Nelson: I loved him. He was like a brother to me. We started doing stuff, and he was just one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met in my entire life. We had a very close and beautiful friendship that meant the world to me. He influenced me and the man I am today in a lot of positive ways that just means a lot to me. He’s a great guy. Just one of a kind. We started writing stuff. He didn’t really know that much about music. So I would tell him, not to say I knew about-
Peter Kersting: You got him into music?
Dean Nelson: Yeah. He knew more than… As a kid, I’m still feeling like I’m trying to catch up to what everybody else had, you know what I mean?
Peter Kersting: Right.
Dean Nelson: So I listened to a lot. We worked a lot together and started doing that same thing I did with Spencer. “What if we did this line? What if we did that line? Oh, listen to this guy over here. What do you think that means?” We’d sit up late and drink Robitussin and robi trip and smoke and drink a little bit. I wasn’t super into drinking at the time. It was bad. It was super dangerous, and shrooms and all that fun stuff. I was getting more into that crazy stuff, and not in… And other things too. We did a lot of prescription drugs and stuff like that, which was not great, but I came about as close to an addition to Lortab as you possibly can get without being addicted.
Dean Nelson: One time Dannian handed me a handful of pills, just handed it to me. We were songwriting. I took it, put it in my mouth. It was literally a handful. I woke up at work three days later. Apparently we’d had the cops called on us. I saw my parents. I lost my iPod at the time. It was not good.
Peter Kersting: Oh my gosh.
Dean Nelson: Yeah. I woke up on the phone talking to somebody’s parent at work and being like, “No, man, he can’t…” No, the school board, being like, “Ah man, he can’t come into work today, man. He’s got cancer. I can’t come into school today.” It was bad. It was not great.
Peter Kersting: Yo.
Dean Nelson: It was bad. Not great. We got into a lot of trouble. So we did a lot of that. I still have a book that he wrote a lot of stuff in, and that had a lot of stuff that was on an album, the kind of first one that you were talking about, the Winchester stuff, because Spencer left, and then he did his project. Then I kind of took up what I had before those songs, and then changed it a little bit. We kind of split everything. It wasn’t a big… He’s just like, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to go do this. I want to do this.”
Peter Kersting: It was different genres.
Dean Nelson: I loved rock, and he wanted to go try… But like I said, Frank Ocean came out with Channel Orange, and that kind of changed the way we looked at music, both of us, right? I went and did some more rock stuff, but I’m still getting into more… Not reggae feel, but there’s different syncopated stuff, which kind of sounds… It wasn’t reggae. I really cannot stress that enough. But more syncopated stuff instead of just running down that, which was influenced by Maroon 5 or The Police and listening to more classic rock and going like, “Oh, I want to do stuff like that, but what does that feel like if I do that?”
Dean Nelson: I did that with a guy that was related to the guy from… This is a weird connection, to Imagine Dragons. He was the guitarist or bassist’s uncle. I love reading. There’s so many great things. I try to-
Peter Kersting: Does it impact your music?
Dean Nelson: Totally. It really does. It impacts writing a lot. I can tell it comes a lot easier. I’m not saying to try to copy and prose or anything like that, but it is really good. It just keeps the brain going. There’s a lot of good stories out there, and it just gives you a better understanding of life. Classics or no classics, anything you can be reading. There’s stuff with self-help books and-
Peter Kersting: I always feel like the type of story that would be a good book doesn’t necessarily translate to a song though.
Dean Nelson: No. Some people can do that. I know some people that can, but it’s different. It’s condensed, three minutes usually kind of a storytelling with that. So like I said, you don’t have to copy the prose, necessarily.
Peter Kersting: Yeah, interesting. Well, I want to ask you the question, when did you decide to go from ameture to pro? At least mentally.
Dannian was the guy that believed in me, but also had a lot of drive. He’s one of those dudes…where you’re just like, “I want to go do this thing.” He goes, “What do we need to do to make that happen? Okay.” …One time, [I] said, “I want to build a studio,” and he goes, “Okay, let’s build a studio.” We built a studio in the basement of our house. It was crazy.Dean Nelson on Dannian
Dean Nelson: Right around that time when I was working with Dannian, when I was working with Spence, we didn’t really get a lot of what we can… I don’t know if we got… We did a couple shows or a few shows, but I don’t know if it was a lot of paid stuff. So with Dannian, Dannian was the guy that believed in me, but also had a lot of drive. He’s one of those dudes, I know you know people like this where you’re just like, “I want to go do this thing.” He goes, “What do we need to do to make that happen? Okay.” Then it wasn’t just me trying to do 100% of the stuff. It was a 50/50 thing. He’d come in. One time, we said, “I want to build a studio,” and he goes, “Okay, let’s build a studio.” We build a studio in the basement of our house. It was crazy.
Peter Kersting: That’s so huge to have somebody like that.
When your passion keeps popping back up
Dean Nelson: Yeah, yeah. Oh my gosh, he’s amazing, right? So right around that time was the difference between… I had dropped out of school again to go play with another band or something like that. I think it was to drop out to play with another band. I just figured I kept thinking about music. I was in school-
Peter Kersting: Music kept coming back to you.
Dean Nelson: I kept going up, and man, I kind of was like, “Oh, what if I did this with this thing?” I was like, “I’m just going to do it.” It stopped being this-
Peter Kersting: So you find that was what was happening to you a lot? You’re like, “Music doesn’t work. I couldn’t do that. I’ll be an EMT.” Then something pulls you back to music.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, or I’m going to go to this [crosstalk] Yeah.
Peter Kersting: “I’m going to go to school for this,” and then you somehow keep getting sucked back to music.
Reading great books and getting inspired
Dean Nelson: I kept getting sucked in. Around that time, I started reading a lot of books. I read this one joke book, I read this book by Craig Ferguson, the old late-night talk show host. I don’t know who bought it. I think my dad bought it for me. In there, he said, “I didn’t have an education, but I started reading a lot of great books.” He said something about Crime and Punishment. I was like, “I’m interested in that book. I kind of want to see,”-
Peter Kersting: You want to know why Russians write such long novels?
Dean Nelson: Why is that?
Peter Kersting: Because it’s always winter.
Dean Nelson: Ah. Yes, actually, isn’t that funny? Yeah.
Peter Kersting: Dostoevsky is like the longest ever.
Dean Nelson: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Peter Kersting: Like you thought Moby Dick was long?
Dean Nelson: Yeah. Tolstoy, he’s got War and Peace. I read that one [sheerly] because I was like, “It took him 13 years,”-
Peter Kersting: You could kill somebody with that.
Dean Nelson: You could. You could [inaudible]. I was like, “That took him 13 years to write it? I got to read something that took somebody that long to write.” I read it, and I was like, “Oh, it’s a good book.” They’re great books. They’re great books.
Peter Kersting: I was supposed to read that book in high school. I think I read the CliffsNotes.
Dean Nelson: Every teacher has to know that’s what happens.
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: But it’s so big. Anyways.
Peter Kersting: You know what’s funny is I love reading. I read a lot. In high school, I loved reading too, but if somebody told me what to read, I didn’t want to read it.
Dean Nelson: Oh yeah, you can’t. That’s the thing is that somebody that… Yeah, if you’re forced to read all that stuff, nobody wants to do that. There’s a lot of things… My brother starts to read-
Peter Kersting: I’ve always hated when people tell me what to do. It’s the biggest thing for me.
Dean Nelson: Oh yeah, it’s the least rock and roll thing you can do. Rock and roll.
Peter Kersting: I guess I’m very rock and roll. It’s like don’t tell me what to do.
Dean Nelson: Well, you’re a rock and roller, but you don’t try to be.
Peter Kersting: You tell me to wear pants, you’ll be… If you want me to do something, tell me not to do it. That’s pretty much what it is.
Dean Nelson: That’s the biggest thing I see with everybody that wants to be a rockstar, rock and roller is you’re trying to be one, so you’re not one. It’s just you got to be one.
Peter Kersting: Yeah. That’s funny that you could pour all your energy into being just a football star. I wanted to be an actor and a singer and an astronaut.
Dean Nelson: You’re handsome, you got a good voice, so it makes sense.
Peter Kersting: And a cop, and a-
Dean Nelson: Life is long, dude.
Peter Kersting: Choose just one thing. I’ve done a lot of different stuff. I’ve done a lot of different stuff, but I think-
Dean Nelson: I’ve done a lot of stuff too. I don’t regret doing those things.
Peter Kersting: I think the cool thing about doing so many different things, the fact that you’ve been interested in poli-sci and that you’ve taken EMT and that you’ve been in and out of school, and you still come back to music, I imagine that has influenced your music.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, for sure.
Love and Trauma
Peter Kersting: The fact that you have loved and that you have lost, not to get too sappy or romantic, but I’m going to quote something that you said to me before. Every time you love somebody, you’re dealing with some kind of trauma.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, you are. Yeah. Love and trauma, hand in hand, dude. Love is trauma. I don’t mean that in some kind of stupid Nikki Sixx lyric. I genuinely think that’s how we deal with things. Those walk hand in hand. If you’re dealing with love, you’re dealing with trauma. If you can be patient with the fact that if you feel like that trauma that you’ve been dealt because somebody you love then you lost, or somebody was mean to you, or the way that parenting is, parenting might be the biggest example, or marriage is another one, there’s still love based in that thing. I choose to believe in that love more than that trauma, but also have to respect that that is trauma as well.
Peter Kersting: Is that one of the reasons why music speaks to you? It helps you kind of deal with some of the loss or the trauma in your life?
Dean Nelson: Yes. That’s the way that I can process a lot of those things. Reading is another one, writing is another one of those things.
Peter Kersting: There’s something about the creative process that’s cathartic.
Dean Nelson: Yes. Then listening, listening and reading those, once again, being a fan.
Peter Kersting: Participating, yeah.
Dean Nelson: Of movies, of other musicians, of reading books that are what I consider great books.
Peter Kersting: I love this conversation. I’m learning a lot about you, which I always find fascinating learning about people and their motivations and what’s shaped their story, because I think that as you get an idea of what’s happened in somebody’s life, you can understand why they do what they do and why certain things are important or not important to them. If you don’t know my backstory, you maybe don’t understand why I do the things that I do or why I really react strongly to certain things over others, right?
Peter Kersting: So to hear your story and how it’s progressed is fascinating to me. I think kind of trying to relate it back here, there’s some key things that I would like you to talk about in just not necessarily a general way. I think you should be speaking from your own experience, but these are things I’ve identified that I think everybody who wants to do something creative, which I believe if you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be creative. You want to be an artist, you definitely have to be creative. You want to travel the world, there’s a reason why. You want to experience what the world has to offer. Anybody who’s trying to do these kind of things, they’ve got that commonality.
Dean Nelson: Yeah.
Takeaways from Dean’s Experience
Peter Kersting: So with that comes the resistance or the obstacles or whatever you want to call them, it comes with an unconventional path. I’m curious in this next part if we can kind of just try to be thinking about those people who are listening to podcasts, what are some things that they can learn from your experience? So maybe first would be what are some ways that you’ve been able to look at failure in a healthy way so that you can continue to create music?
Dean Nelson: Everything in a journey, the journey is based off of failure between those two things. There’s no such thing as like… To me, you can’t ever say never. It’s not a straight line between any of these things. By making mistakes, by joining bands that you have no part of being or purpose in being in, but being honest about that with the other band members too, you are strengthening yourself, and technically is considered a failure when you leave, but if that… Well, I guess that… Yeah. When you leave, let’s just call it a failure. It’s more complicated than that, but yeah.
Peter Kersting: But that’s an important part of it, right?
Dean Nelson: Yeah.
Peter Kersting: What do you define as a failure? Do you define failure as it not working out the way it was supposed to?
Dean Nelson: I don’t. I used to but I don’t do that anymore. If you get married and then you get divorced, a lot of people say that’s a failure, but I don’t think it has to be a failure. I think that you still had that intense amount of love and commitment at one point. Although it might be sad that it ended, it felt right at the time. Maybe it was right at the time. Maybe we can get into some moral discussion, but it doesn’t have to be like… Or a philosophical discussion. I don’t think right has failure… The way that we perceive failure, it always has to be right or wrong. But to me, I see failure as more like a stepping stone to get to that next part where you feel like you belong until you die.
Peter Kersting: Well, if you relate it back to your music, you talked about pumping out a lot of bad songs.
Dean Nelson: Yes. Absolutely.
Peter Kersting: Are those songs failures? When we’re talking about having a better relationship, because I think there’s a temptation to say, “That song wasn’t worth writing because it is a failure,” and is that fair to say?
Defining success, writing bad songs, and learning from the process
Dean Nelson: I don’t think it is. Is it like what is a successful life? You can luck into writing something good that you don’t even understand, but to be able to… More often than not, write a good song, you have to write at least, I would say 100 songs. I worked with a guy that worked with Pixar. We recorded something from that EP Twist the Blue that’s out on Spotify as well. I’ll plug myself real quick.
Peter Kersting: Nice.
Dean Nelson: This is the one that he’s talking about. He’s like, “I really like these songs a lot. These are cool songs, but you need to go write 90,” what was it? “96 more songs like this, and then somebody will pick you up. If you’re looking to do something like this, write 96 more songs like this. It will usually be the song you did not think was going to get picked up.”
Peter Kersting: Yeah, that is the thing too.
Dean Nelson: Just consistently write all the time. If you talked to me about being a songwriter and I go, “How many songs have you written?” And you’re like, “12.” I’m going to be like, “You’re not a song…” I might not say that to your face. I’m all about I’m trying to be positive, but not fake positive. Hey, I would say, “Go write some more songs. That’s what you should be doing.” Even if all 12 of them, if you wrote “Billy Jean”-
Peter Kersting: But I think sometimes-
Dean Nelson: … “Thriller”, freaking “Hot for Teacher”, that’s a weird one to throw in there, what’s that… I got to throw something in, “Circles” by Post Malone, you could do “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. You’re going to make me do all of them?
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: Dude, that’s a good song.
Peter Kersting: That’s four.
Dean Nelson: I’ll do it. Okay. “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, “Hey, Jude” by the Beatles. I keep going late. Let’s do something newer. “Peach Pit” by Peach Pit. Oh shoot, “The Less I Know, the Better”. Oh, I’m really struggling to finish this out. Which number am I on.
Peter Kersting: I think six or seven.
Dean Nelson: I’m six or seven? Dude, this has got to be so many-
Peter Kersting: Okay, it’s fine then. I get the idea. But if you wrote 12 of the best songs is all your wrote.
Dean Nelson: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Sorry, no.
Peter Kersting: What do you say to Tarantino then? He’s only made nine movies.
Dean Nelson: He could be the exception to the rule.
Peter Kersting: Yeah, maybe the exception to the rule.
Dean Nelson: Death Proof is still an okay movie, but it’s-
Peter Kersting: He’s probably written a million scripts that he didn’t turn into movies though too is the other thing.
Dean Nelson: Oh for sure, yeah. He doesn’t just just write just that.
Peter Kersting: But that gets me to my next thing, right?
Dean Nelson: The greatness is on the cutting room floor, man. That’s how you got there. Those are the [inaudible]
Peter Kersting: I love that phrase too, because here’s the thing, I can’t imagine that there hasn’t been something in the failed song or failed band that you haven’t used in something that is a success.
Dean Nelson: Oh for sure, yeah. You can get that.
Peter Kersting: Whether it’s a technique you learned or it’s actually a lyric from a song.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, I get what you’re saying.
Peter Kersting: Or whatever. Is that a failure anymore?
Dean Nelson: In that way, you shouldn’t be… No, no. But how much of it… Okay, let me ask you-
Peter Kersting: Basically, did you learn from it?
Dean Nelson: Yes.
Peter Kersting: Then is it a failure?
Dean Nelson: No, no. It shouldn’t be. Did you know that at 22?
Peter Kersting: No way.
Dean Nelson: No freaking way.
Peter Kersting: Did you feel that way?
Dean Nelson: No. Hell no. I didn’t-
Peter Kersting: No way. Do you feel that way now even?
Dean Nelson: I do feel that way now.
Peter Kersting: That’s still pretty hard to do though.
Dean Nelson: I’m still trying to get to feel that way consistently. Well, I also don’t… I’m an amalgamation of all these different ideas. Who am I today? I’m going to be somebody different tomorrow. I’m a different person than when we started the conversation.
Peter Kersting: Do you hate “Who I am Hates Who I’ve Been”, “Who I am Hates Who I’ve Been”?
Dean Nelson: Relient K?
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, I do. That’s a great song. Listen.
Peter Kersting: Relient K, yeah, that’s good stuff. We could throw a bunch of screamo songs in there.
Dean Nelson: Oh, easy.
Peter Kersting: (singing)
Dean Nelson: I love it man. Yeah. Throw it-
Peter Kersting: Actually, they can be in the bad song list probably.
Dean Nelson: Ah, whatever. What is greatness defined anyways? Yeah.
Peter Kersting: Double bass drums.
Dean Nelson: I don’t like them.
Peter Kersting: I know. I know.
Dean Nelson: It’s not for me.
Peter Kersting: I always remembered Pablo talking about how much he hates that.
Dean Nelson: You know who can do it really well? I think he uses one, Archetype? Archetypes Collide, Tyler Flame. Have you met him?
Peter Kersting: Archetypes Collide, yeah. He does a double bass drum?
Dean Nelson: I’m pretty sure he does a double bass drum.
Peter Kersting: That’s funny. Hanna’s husband.
Dean Nelson: He’s a good guy. Yeah. He’s a good drummer.
Peter Kersting: I still haven’t watched him play. I was kind of hoping.
Dean Nelson: Dude, he’s phenomenal.
Peter Kersting: He seems like the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with.
Dean Nelson: I need to go see… Oh, dude, he’s such a cool dude.
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: She’s a great lady too. They’re a great band.
Peter Kersting: She is nice. I heard she’s a good bassist.
Dean Nelson: I think I’ve heard her play too. So I’ve seen him play. I haven’t seen him play live yet.
Peter Kersting: Yeah. Really?
Dean Nelson: Let’s go to a show.
Peter Kersting: I would love to.
Dean Nelson: Let’s do it.
Peter Kersting: I would love to.
Dean Nelson: See, I need to be more of a fan.
Peter Kersting: They’re going to do a world tour, I think.
Dean Nelson: I have no doubt.
Peter Kersting: I heard that somewhere.
Dean Nelson: Oh, they already set it up?
Peter Kersting: It’s already set up, yeah. They’re actually-
Dean Nelson: I’m not surprised. They’re amazing.
Peter Kersting: They’re getting out of the small pond right now, it sounds like.
Dean Nelson: Those guys are amazing.
Peter Kersting: Archetypes Collide. To be fair, perfectly transparent, I haven’t actually listened to their music at all.
Dean Nelson: They’re good.
Peter Kersting: I’ll have to check them out.
Dean Nelson: They’re really good.
Peter Kersting: Okay. A couple more things though. Just like-
Dean Nelson: I put them on those local playlists, man.
Peter Kersting: I love that idea. I love that idea.
Dean Nelson: Or let’s crank them out. Yeah, yeah.
Peter Kersting: The local playlist. I really like that idea.
Dean Nelson: Let’s crank it out. Yeah, I’m sorry, man.
Peter Kersting: Dealing with inaction, because I think this is a product of looking at your failures the wrong way though is inaction or fear. How do you overcome that?
If you have a problem stopping playing Xbox, disconnect your Xbox and put it into a box. Put that box into a tiny box. Put that box into a smaller box, and then smash it with a hammer.
Overcoming Inaction: Bomb often and learn from the mistakes
Dean Nelson: Fear, to me, is not that hard to overcome, because I bombed so many times. I bombed a lot. I cannot stress that enough. I bombed lot of the time. I’ve been really bad for a really long time. Inaction is really hard to get out of. The biggest thing is by doing something, what I consider crappy right off the gate, just do something to move it. There’s a lot of different things you can. If you have a problem stopping playing Xbox, disconnect your Xbox and put it into a box. Put that box into a tiny box. Put that box into a smaller box, and then smash it with a hammer.
Peter Kersting: [inaudible]
Dean Nelson: Yeah. What is it that is the inaction? Because once you can cut away those little things, you’re going to be doing a little bit better.
Peter Kersting: Do you think a lot of it’s distraction?
Dean Nelson: A lot of it is distraction-based, I think. If you can do that. Then immediately do something that mixes it up that is a shitty version of whatever it is that you want to do.
Peter Kersting: So would you say-
Dean Nelson: If you want to become a songwriter or you want to become a singer, go out, carve out this one thing, and then just go like, “I’m going to go play this open mic night. That’s my first step,” right?
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: It doesn’t have to be the next [inaudible].
Peter Kersting: The opposite of inaction is taking the first step.
Dean Nelson: Taking the first step. That is the hardest part, or like you guys have been doing this, which is great a jam session. Do that. That might even be easier than that. Pick it up. Make a TikTok. Do whatever it is. That is the benefit to that thing. Go do that thing immediately.
Peter Kersting: I think-
The 15-Minute Principle (Rule)
Dean Nelson: If you can do that the day of, you’re going to be good. Then instead of thinking, “I’m going to do this every day for a year, which is a lot of time to do that, do it a small version of that. I’m going to do it every day this week.” Done. That’s it. There’s a principle that I’m sure somebody else came up with, I’m just going to coin it as mine. It’s called the 15-minute principle that I made up. If you do something 15 minutes a day, you’re going to be really good at that thing.
Peter Kersting: I like that.
Dean Nelson: The [Malcom] Gladwell, what is it? 10,000 hours has been disproved. It’s not true. It’s not right. I’m sure you will get great at something like that, to master something, but really, I tell all my students this, if you do 15 minutes a day, you’re going to be really good at that thing. Who are you trying to be, Jimi Hendrix? He’s naturally going to be better than you for the rest of your life probably. I’m going to say exactly, he will be better than you the rest of your life. If you want to be the exception and prove me wrong, I don’t care. Go ahead and prove me wrong. Sure. Go ahead. That’s great. I would love to be wrong.
Peter Kersting: I heard he just picked up a guitar and played left-handed upside down.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, he strum the right-handed guitar upside down.
Peter Kersting: That’s so crazy.
Dean Nelson: Isn’t that crazy?
Peter Kersting: Yeah.
Dean Nelson: He eventually was not doing that. I’m sure he did not always have every guitar that way.
Peter Kersting: I’m sure he didn’t always do that. I’m sure he got custom-made guitars.
Dean Nelson: He also just literally would walk around with a guitar all day. So yeah, hell yeah, he’s going to get good at it. I heard he didn’t know that much about theory. The Beatles don’t know very much about theory at all, and they’re considered the greatest songwriting group, one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
Dean Nelson: The hardest part to recording any song is plugging in the interface. That is the-
Peter Kersting: Step one, is that step one?
Dean Nelson: That is the hardest part. Well, it is, and also something always goes wrong. It’s like what the heck? My preferences wasn’t set the right way, or you don’t mean… There’s so many examples. Beyond that, once you start, that’s why the 15-minute principle works, because it never just goes 15 minutes. It almost always becomes three hours. But if I tell you to be a great guitarist, you got to practice five hours a day, like I have a buddy, Tony Finau, the golfer, I know that guy. He’s great. You know what he does? I know, because I’ve asked him. He practices at least five hours a day. He’s going to the gym or doing something like that every day. You can’t see me. I’m doing air quotes, “every day”.
Peter Kersting: “Every day”.
Dean Nelson: Because he took one day off, but every day, yeah. That’s what he does. That’s what he does, but he didn’t do that. Sometimes I’m sure he tricks himself and be like, “I’m just going to do this for 15 minutes. I’m just going to the gym for 15 minutes. Literally all I’m going to do at the gym, I’m just going to do some curls, because I like curls. Then I’m going to leave.” Then you get there and like, “Okay, I kind of want to do some squats.” Why am I mixing leg and arm day together? I have no idea.
Peter Kersting: I don’t know. It’s a bad idea, but you’re doing it for 15 minutes.
Dean Nelson: Well, no, I’m just going to do this. I’m just going to go on a rim for… Rim.
Peter Kersting: Rim to rim. Rim to rim to rim. I just want to do rim to [inaudible]
Dean Nelson: Rim to rim. [inaudible] I speak. The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.
Peter Kersting: The ideas that we’re playing with are almost universal, in like it doesn’t matter what you do. You could just be doing your normal job right now, but I think a lot of people, they want to do something that they… When you look at a musician or an actor or a writer or somebody, you go, “Wow, what they do is so inspiring. I can’t believe they can do that.” I think what that person is seeing is that that person is taking a risk. That person is going out to do something that-
Dean Nelson: To me, it’s like doing this. Oh, I’m alive. That kind of hurt. Not all art has to be that way, but its just like… Versus the mind-numbingness of going to your 9:00 to 5:00 every day, or whatever variation every day.
Peter Kersting: In order to do what you’re suggesting, the 15-minutes and tricking yourself, or just taking the first step, that connection, I think you have to have a strong reason for why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Dean Nelson: Okay.
Stephen R Covey: Beginning with the End in Mind
Peter Kersting: So there’s a concept Stephen Covey came up with, this guy who wrote The Seven Habits for Highly Effective People.
Dean Nelson: Seven Habits, yes.
Peter Kersting: It’s called Beginning with the End in Mind. I’ve read his book partially five or six different times, and I always get to a certain point in the book, and I go, “I’m not ready for that next step. So I’m just going to leave for a while and come back and reread everything I’ve already read,” and then get to that point again and go, “I’m still not ready.”
Dean Nelson: I’m back.
Peter Kersting: Then I’m going to stop. But beginning with the end in mind is a concept that has really, really stuck with me, because if you don’t know why you want to do what you do, then you’re not going to have enough motivation to do it when it’s hard. I think that is one of the defining differences between someone who likes the idea of being a musician and someone who is actually a working artist.
Dean Nelson: Yeah, because I’m just telling you I’m not the most successful person, but it’s a lot of hard work, and it’s not just like, “I’m just going to go get drunk with my friends over and over again.” That’s a fun part. That’s a benefit to it, but it’s also like how if you’re just doing that, how am I going to pay my bills? I also can’t afford this nice thing. I tried to make art, and it didn’t come out as good as I wanted it to. That’s a huge thing. People are just like, “Oh, my interface just is not nice enough to make that.” You do not have the ability and/or the equipment to make it as pristine as Tyler the Creator, new album Call Me if You Get Lost. I don’t know if you listened to that album. It’s a banger.
Peter Kersting: No.
Dean Nelson: It is so good.
Peter Kersting: I’ll have to check it out.
Dean Nelson: Oh, it’s so good.
Peter Kersting: He’s done some weird stuff, man. He’s definitely experimental.
Dean Nelson: Dude, he’s crazy.
Peter Kersting: I like that about him.
Dean Nelson: But he’s one of my… I’m not going to say one of my favorite dudes, but he’s one of those dudes that I really look up to.
Peter Kersting: Really? I wouldn’t have guessed that.
Dean Nelson: That last, Igor, oh my gosh, that album, I heard it [inaudible] was like, “This is a masterpiece.” Which is funny, because I’m really not much of a hip hop guy.
Peter Kersting: Yeah, I was kind of surprised.
Dean Nelson: You look at me, and you go like… You can’t see me right now. I’m wearing dress shoes, and my pants, my jeans are cuffed.
Peter Kersting: I literally can’t see you. You’re turned sideways.
Dean Nelson: I’m turned sideways. Yeah, I’m skinny as shit. But I really get influenced by all that other stuff.
Peter Kersting: I think as a musician, you have to be. If I could have you leave on a single note, if there’s one thing that you wish you had known or could tell yourself right now about your pursuit of artistry, what would you say to yourself?
Dean Nelson: Don’t put so much pressure on whatever you’re working on right now. Not because it’s not going to turn out well, but just enjoy. Stop trying to swing for the fence and just make something you like.
The 15-Minute Principle (Rule)