The Artist Creative Process: Insights from Jackie Venson, Andy Langer, and Kam Franklin
At SXSW 2024, a panel discussed the challenges and triumphs of the creative process for independent artists. Guitar virtuoso Jackie Venson, acclaimed journalist Andy Langer, and powerhouse vocalist Kam Franklin of The Suffers shared candid perspectives on everything from mental health to industry roadblocks.
The Emotional Toll of Creativity
One of the first topics addressed was the difficulty of creating art during times of crisis and upheaval. As Venson put it, "It's extremely difficult to create in times of war, especially when you guys are supplying the weapons for the war." Franklin echoed this, recounting how creating felt like a "puppet" act after witnessing tragedies like the murder of George Floyd while her social posts about such events were suppressed on platforms meant to share her art.

The necessity of good mental health for creativity was paramount. "I invested [in] this therapist, and at first I was really [asking] 'Why am I here?'...Now I'm like, 'Dang, I have to get myself together because I've chosen to be in an industry filled with many people that are glorified for being...mean,'" said Franklin.

Musicians Jackie Venson and Kam Franklin in conversation about the artist creative process and how each artist approaches their process in creating music. SXSW 2024
Overcoming Roadblocks
Another roadblock discussed was the sheer amount of work required beyond the music itself – the business of being an independent artist.
As Langer noted, "You're forced to be an MBA over here and an artist, a creative person over here – and they don't always work together."

However, the panelists cited creative solutions and maintaining boundaries as keys to surmounting such challenges. Venson hired friends for specific tasks like email management. Franklin eventually built a full team after years of doing everything herself. "Once you do allow yourself to trust people, give out chances...the whole world opens up," she said.
Those Magical Creative Moments
Among the panel's most insightful moments were the windows into the creative process itself. Venson described an approach of separating melodic ideas from particular beat compositions, allowing her to toggle through numerous beat possibilities until a transcendent pairing occurred.

For Franklin, it was recording ad-libs with her bandmates separately to create a massively layered effect. "You get wild stuff because people are...approaching it a way that I would never," she explained.
As the session concluded, both artists expressed optimism for the future of music and creativity. They emphasized the importance of community, resilience, and adaptability in navigating the ever-changing landscape of the music industry. Their message was clear: despite the challenges, creativity finds a way to thrive.

In a world increasingly mediated by digital platforms and facing global crises, Jackie Venson and Kam Franklin's insights at SXSW 2024 offered a poignant look into the artist's creative process. Their discussion not only shed light on the struggles and triumphs of being a musician today but also served as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of art in driving change and fostering connection.
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