Oh.: Playing Cover Songs or Originals? The Pros and Cons
by on February 3, 2018 in Bio Indie Musician Resources
Oh. song, Oh. Musician, Oh. music, Oh. Progressive Rock, Oh. Progressive Metal, Oh. Olivia Hadjiioannou, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, Oh

“One of the fundamental causes of the disintegration of society is copying, which is the worship of authority.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

The way I listen to music

I haven’t had a lot of time lately to listen to new music. But, when I do listen to bands or artists perform, I always listen in a particular way; not so much as a fan — but as if they were my teachers.

In the past while listening to or playing another artist’s music, I would try to enter their space. In a way, try to become part of the band somehow, part of their creative process and learn from experiencing their music as they did – pulling in their abilities and their essence.

Now, why don’t I play covers?

Playing a song for the pure enjoyment of it or to study and learn from another artist is one thing. It is another to replicate their works and/or attempt to perform their songs as they did them or interpret them and/or re-imagine them and make them somewhat your own.

There are phenomenal artists out there that interpret other people’s work and sometimes bring in even more to the original song. And sometimes these artists even prolong the longevity of the song. These artists are musician-performers, — entertainers — and that needs a special talent and charisma. There are artists that have taken another artist’s songs and made masterpieces.

The Time it takes

But, there are couple reasons why, I don’t feel comfortable with covers. First, I consider myself more of a composer; and would much rather spend my time creating new songs then spend time learning songs that have already been performed by another artist. It takes endless hours to perfect a perfect representation of another artist’s work.

Stealing their stage

Playing another artist’s music, sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable. In a way, it feels as misappropriating the original artist’s intention and their hard work – and risk showing a lack of respect in some way. It’s subtle.

Though, on the one hand, I would feel honored if someone liked one of my songs so much and took the time to learn it as it was composed (for example like a symphony orchestra tries to play the music exactly as Mozart wrote it) and played it at their gig. But, if another composer, arranger or DJ took my song and released it or took the hook and made it into something else entirely and released it, I personally would find it disrespectful. I feel if someone takes and adds stuff and removes parts and puts a solo in a different place, they distort the essence of the song. So, as long as the original artist is still performing the song — for me — it’s almost like confiscating the song away from the original artist’s stage and moving it to your stage. It doesn’t feel quite right generally.

Remixes

Remixing a song for a club to reach a larger audience, is a path some artist’s take to get their song heard to reach alternative audiences. Others do covers to increase their fan base, make some money gigging and hopefully be able to slip in an original song of their own into the mix. But, I’ve seen in front of my own eyes how that turns out for most artists. They get labelled in that role for many years and never truly find time for their own work.

Being typecast

The biggest muddle when doing covers songs would probably be — being discovered because of a cover song and being typecast in another’s role. There are quite a lot of songs out there that have been remixed or covered, and people don’t know who the original artist is, they never heard the original song and attribute the song to someone else forever more.

Some examples that come to mind are:

“Respect” — Aretha Franklin (1967) vs.Otis Redding (1965)

In 1965, Otis Redding wrote and recorded the song “Respect.” Two years later, R&B singer Aretha Franklin popularized it, and the song became her signature. Both versions have the similar lyrics (though Franklin’s added the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” chorus to the song).

Listen to what Otis Redding says in the first 2 minutes.

“Torn” — Natalie Imbruglia (1997) vs. Ednaswap (1995)

Ednaswap wrote the song ‘Torn’ in 1993. They weren’t the first to record it, though – the first release was by a Danish singer called Lis Sørensen, in which the song had been translated and retitled ‘Brændt’ (Danish for ‘burnt’).

In any case, I enjoy singing covers with friends or at a small club once in a while. When I first started out people hounded me to do covers, to show off the vocal skills. Possibly to get some attention, fill up my YouTube channel with content or get more subscribers etc.. In the end, it wasn’t really necessary and I’m glad I held out long enough and found a small niche of fans who want to hear my original music.

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