Brother, brother: an interview with Justin Shider on Creative Discipline

Justin Shider outside in the sun

My editor and I decided to do a series on Creative Discipline where I’d interview creatives about the art of discipline and how they overcome obstacles in their respective careers. This first discussion is with my brother, Justin Shider. He is a sought-after engineer, musician (drummer, bassist), and producer who tours the country with bands like BLK ODYSSY and Tim Shider. Our discussion provides insight into the mind and unique work habits of a young musician.

TS In a recent article I define Creative Discipline as the ability to complete a single project from idea to creation - to development to production. However, it may also be defined as one’s creative practice e.g. cinematographer, dancer, or sculptor. How would you describe your creative discipline?

JS Creative discipline to me is accomplishing anything from start to finish, very similar to what was said in your article. However, executing an idea can be very challenging without experience or any knowledge of what you’re trying to create. For example, I am a sound engineer and producer, and whenever I have an idea it starts off as a sound in my head, from there it is up to me to be disciplined enough to sit behind my work station and bring that idea to life. NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES!

“... wherever there is sound, there is inspiration...”

TS What are three things you cannot create without? And why?

JS Three things I cannot create without: one is my laptop because that is where all of my creative software and content lives, and also I can create anywhere in the world with it, plus, 90 percent of my contacts/resources are stored in my laptop. Secondly, I need a variety of physical instruments. Being a real musician I like to use real instruments such as guitars and live drums. Lastly, an idea. Again, it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, wherever there is sound, there is inspiration, and with inspiration comes ideas, and that’s really all I need to create. As an audio engineer; sound is so very intriguing to me, the idea of frequencies (small squiggly lines) turning into a full production always gets me, that alone is inspirational to me. My inspiration comes from everything, a quote, a child mumbling something funny, the tone of a cat meowing, it doesn’t matter. If it catches my attention well enough I will most likely put it in a musical arrangement.

TS Walk me through your creative process? How do you create? Can you identify a routine?

JS Honestly speaking, I cannot identify a routine, it's always all so different. Sometimes my creations begin with a melody, a beat, or just a simple sound. For example, every summer morning in NJ, cardinal birds chirp extremely loud and they sound sort of like laser beams. Let's say for a moment instead of those birds annoying me and interrupting my most peaceful sleep, it actually inspires me and I jump out of my bed and I create a song similar to Jackson 5’s “rockin robin” and call it “crazy cardinal” this is a usual method to my madness. Using ideas by legends from the past. Everyone loves a song that reminds them of another song they love.

TS When do you know it’s time to abandon a project?

JS NEVER! Never abandon a project. Thank God for the save button. I still have music from 2012 that I find myself going back to and finishing. Some ideas are priceless and you never know when you need it. Plus as a producer I find myself sometimes recreating music I've already made, unconsciously. And when I realize it, instead of me continuing to create that “new” piece, I'll just go to the original source and complete that idea. In fact, this is how I usually work. I’d jot down multiple ideas, take a break and come back to them if they fit the task at hand. If not, they'll just be unfinished projects floating in my archives. Whenever I leave a project undone it’s because I'm either not feeling the vibe, it may sound too similar to something that I’ve created before, or it's just plain ole boring.

TS At what stage in your creative process do you invite collaborators?

JS I'm currently at a stage in my creative process where I am learning to invite collaborators. Surprisingly, collaborations of producers are actually very popular. Anyway, I started collaborating with other musicians on certain projects that need certain expertise. If I am working on a gospel project, I'll need gospel musicians, same thing goes with any other genre.

TS How important is it for you to finish a project from start to finish?

JS It's only important for me to finish a project from start to finish when I have a deadline. I like to enjoy my creative processes, all the way to the point where it feels like I'm just having fun - even if I have a deadline. If I don’t have a deadline, then I'm constantly jotting down ideas. This keeps my creative juices flowing. So if a professional opportunity presents itself, I'd be more than ready to commit.

“before you make it a job, make it a hobby”

TS What tips do you have for creatives who may be facing their own creative challenges?

JS Have fun creating, before you make it a job, make it a hobby. Get good at it before you offer any services, learn your skill(s) inside and out! BECOME A PROFESSIONAL! Lastly, when you do make it a job, learn to listen to your clients, do not put more of yourself into the work than they are asking for. Give your client exactly what they want, if you feel the need to add something, be clear to negotiate with them before you do to keep from causing any conflict.

TS What projects are you currently working on and where can our readers follow and find your work?

JS Currently I am working on a series of projects with local artists in NJ. Unfortunately, I cannot name names, but feel free to follow me on Instagram where I will be keeping you up to date with what will be coming soon! Also, if you are a local artist in NJ, or you are just visiting Jersey, and need a place to record feel free to reach out! Follow Justin’s work on IG - @jussbeatzz

Headshot of Tylie Shider
Tylie Shider

“I consider myself an investigative-playwright with a background in journalism. This is an exciting opportunity for me to marry my degrees in media and theatre as I continue to develop plays and make a holistic contribution to the American theatre.”