Artist Resources

Tom Waits on Making Your Work Personal

Tom Waits (aka the best ever human) certainly has a way with words. In an interview from 2006, the man with the whiskey soaked voice discussed his admiration for the late Lead Belly regarding the fact that the blues legend died on the day before Waits was born (December 6, 1949). He explained how now, every time he listens to Lead Belly’s records, he feels a special, almost spiritual connection to the man. He went on to say that he hopes to leave behind some of himself within each of his songs so listeners can experience similar feelings as Waits felt for Lead Belly.

He said:

"Some day I'm gonna be gone and people will be listening to my songs and conjuring me up. In order for that to happen, you gotta put something of yourself in it. Kinda like a time capsule. Or making a voodoo doll. You gotta wrap it with thread, put a rock inside the head, then use two sticks and something from a spider web. You gotta put it all in there to make a song survive."

"Evil Eye" by bluegiant

We all can take something from Waits’ words here. It’s important to impart some of yourself into every piece you create. Sure, you don’t have to pull every design, photo, or illustration from the depths of your soul, but you can still try to put that special “thing” into everything, regardless of how impersonal it might feel. Being unique, being special, being you is a huge reason why fans become fans and why they buy your shirts, totes, pillows, duvets, stickers, and more. It’s important to stamp each one with a bit of you, just as Tom does and Lead Belly did before him. There’s a reason we remember the greats as the greats they are, because they gave us something to remember them by, not just a product.

What do you think? Do you try to put some of your “essence” into each piece you create? Let us know in the comments below.

But wait, there’s more…

Here’s a bonus bit from Mr. Waits about why he gave up booze. I really dig this one too:

"I've always wanted to be curious and provocative, I guess, and interesting, and interested in this kind of sparkling, you know, sapphire we all call home, you know. I always wanted to be mystified by it all - and rather fascinated with life itself. I think maybe when you drink, you're probably robbing yourself of that genuine experience, even though it appears what you're doing is getting more of it. You're getting less of it. And it takes a while, when you've had a rock on the hose like that for so long. It takes a while for the hose to be a hose again, you know, and for things to start flowing."

Good stuff.

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Jen Durant

Redbubble Artist Relationship Manager