I like my art over the top. My favorite movies, actors, books, music, paintings and couture all share the common element of being pushed further than it might seem possible. Recently I found something I thought epitomized what pushed something in my opinion from “good” to “special.”

Nick Cave is most famous for being a musician, but he is also a writer, most recently penning the script for The Proposition starring Guy Pearce. I bought a book of his writings recently–song lyrics as well as fragments of short stories and an essay or two–and found something he wrote about the German band
Einsturzende Neubauten:

“They are simply a ‘great’ band–and I use the word in the classical sense. To me, the essence of their greatness does not lie in their unorthodox attitude toward making music–rather it is based on a fundamentally orthodox premise. What makes Einsturzende Neubauten great in my eyes is the same thing that makes Johnny Cash–or the Velvet Underground, John Lee Hooker, Suicide, Elvis, Dylan, Leadbelly, The Stooges–great. They are all innovators but what sets Hank Williams apart from the bulk of his contemporaries is the same thing that sets Einsturzende Neubauten apart from the huge, faceless morass that modern New Wave music has become. Through their own hard work, by steadfast lack of compromise, through the pain of true self-expression, through a genuine love of their medium, they have attained a sound which is first authentic, and which is utterly their own. But not for the sole purpose of being different. They are a group which has developed its own special language for one reason–to give voice to their souls.”

My goal, when I write, is to give voice to my soul, even though that might sound pretentious coming from someone who writes fairly light romance; the means here, the motivation, is more important than the end. I might never feel as if I have truly developed my own ‘special language,’ as Cave says; but I can strive for that goal. No matter what genre an author writes in, in what style, I think the reader can tell when a soul has been given voice. Your favorite soul vocalists are no doubt different than mine (and I’m not talking Aretha). But what they share is an authentic sound.

What do you think makes a great artist?