Some days ago Nathan and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. It made me ponder what has made our marriage strong and happy. Some of the things I thought of were trust, respect, honest and open communication, a mutual wish to see the other person succeed, and willingness to compromise – just to mention a few. I chose to mention these things because they also carry over to what you need when working with a collaborator.
My most successful collaborations have been with people with whom I can be totally honest. I can tell them if I don’t like something, or if I want to try something different, and I trust they will do the same to me. If I spend all my time burying my opinions and thoughts, then I get frustrated – and it’s my own fault. I value honesty. It leads to a kind of freedom.
They are people I respect, for they have spent the time learning the craft and are out there making it happen on their own. They are not relying on me to make their career happen. We are a team because together we are stronger – not because alone we would fall apart.
They are people I know will be willing to compromise when we disagree, and find a track that works for both of us. Sometimes this is the middle ground. Sometimes it is a case of picking the best of two good options. Often I have to re-evaluate my opinion on a particular detail of a piece and realize that it really isn’t important. I don’t have to be right all the time. A successful collaborator feels the same way. This makes the collaboration a unique adventure and often results in a fresher piece of music.
Perhaps the most rare quality is that these are people who have my back. They honestly want to see me succeed. I believe that one of the main reasons most musicians don’t promote each other is fear; fear that your success means my failure… fear that there aren’t enough opportunities for both of us… fear that I will be left behind. I have found a few people that would rather promote me into a golden opportunity than see that opening lost. Partly because they know I will do the same for them.
Have you found someone like this with whom to work? They are out there! Go find them. First though, I challenge you to examine yourself. Be the kind of person that others seek out. Good character attracts good character. Success attracts success.
As I work on these things myself, I have found a greater sense of ease, adventure, joy, peace, and satisfaction in my collaborations - whether in music or marriage.