19: Authenticity

By: Thomas DeVoy

When I was in middle school, I started getting into bands like Fall Out Boy, All Time Low, and Relient K. I wanted so badly to be with them touring and playing music like they were doing. I was just learning to play guitar and drums, and I saw they had a specific style that I wanted to emulate.

I bought my first pair of skinny jeans. I thought they were cool, and I was excited to wear them. I was the only boy in eighth grade to have them, and everyone made fun of me for wearing them. 

I was devastated. 

I could not understand why an article of clothing would give me so much ridicule.

People called me a faggot and told me I was gay because I liked to wear tight jeans. I pushed forward and thought the jokes would stop and that my classmates would eventually get bored and move on, but they did not. They continued to verbally and physically harass me so frequently, I started to ask myself if they were right. 

I knew my sexuality, but being constantly told who you are, however wrong you believe it is, can make anyone start to believe it.

Those kids did not know what kind of impact they had on me, and I bet half of them only bullied me to avoid being bullied instead. Their words hurt me so much that on my first day of freshman year of high school, I hung up the skinny jeans and conformed to the style that everyone else had.

I was defeated. 

You have to emulate to create.

Before you can learn to create something new, you first have to emulate people you look up to. We have all been that new musician excited about learning to play every song from our favorite band. Mine was Green Day at the time.

John Mayor wanted to become the best blues guitar player, so he learned every lick he could from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He learned from the greatest and eventually developing his own style. 

That is perfectly okay. Emulating is a learning technique.

If you are a new band, it is natural to start writing songs that sound similar to your favorite artists. It is part of the process to finding your voice.

In the beginning, you are not going to know what your voice sounds like, and quite honestly, it will constantly be developing over your entire life.

So what if you are a Black Keys knock off band for the first year or so of your career. It is a part of learning.

Just do not rip off artists songs and say you wrote them. That is not cool.

Authenticity beats cool every time. 

Eventually you are going to start to develop your own sound, and when you do, the writing process will start to come more naturally to you.

Do not stray from that voice, and do not keep trying to sound like your favorite bands. Be authentic and real through your music. People will respond far better to it, and you will feel more accomplished creating it. 

People can spot a fraud a mile away. We have this human instinct to judge what is real from what is fake.

Do not think you are getting away with anything when trying to be something you are not. Be yourself, and do not let anyone take your voice away from you. Not everyone is going to love your music, and that is okay. 

It is not for them. It is for you. 

When I was a sophomore, I finally decided I could wear what I wanted. I had friends to defend me now, and we were not the newbies in school anymore. So I dusted off those skinny jeans, (metaphorically speaking. There was no way I was fitting in the same pair).

I made the decision to wear what I wanted no matter what other people thought.

And you know what? It turned out okay.

Sure there was a joke here or there, but largely, people responded to my confidence and authenticity, and with that came respect from my peers. It made me more popular to be myself. 

Everyone gravitates towards different interests, and that is amazing. It is why we have such a diverse workforce or so many different genres of music.

So embrace who you are. Do not do something just because it is cool. Do it because it is being true to yourself.

I promise in the long run people will respect you for it. 


THOMAS DEVOY is the Creative Director at Urban Geographer. Connect with him on social media @THOMASDEVOY