Maggie Kubley is a Chicago-based musician, artist, producer and all around awesome person. She’s a member of Celine Neon, who absolutely rule. She also records under her own name and released her first single from that project, “Get Me Wasted,” last month. (I’m in the video for half a second!)
What is your process for getting something done? (Do you set a daily writing goal, either for music, lyrics? Do you tell yourself “I will spend two hours creating” ? What’s your process for creating?)
I can’t lie — my very first step in getting something done is usually to avoid it. I will write lyrics for a song, and then know how the song should sound and where it should go, what it should be, and all that. But then to actually sit down and get started on it is very hard for me. I will avoid it until I feel bad enough about it and then I’ll finally sit down and start in on it.
Once I get going, I try to just let it flow for as long as I can. My first time sitting down with a song, I will usually stop working on it feeling like, “this is shitty.” Then the next day, I will come back, listen, and 90% of the time say “this is good!!!” From then on out, its a pretty quick process. I will listen to the song obsessively and work on it as much as I can in my free time (and sometimes during the time I *should* be working) until its finished.
What’s your workflow like? And where do you work? What do you use (software, computer, pen and paper, a specific keyboard)?
I sing all my ideas and jot down all my thoughts throughout the day into Evernote. I write in my journal a lot. Then I sing the songs that really stand out to me in the shower, and work them out there for a few weeks. Then I record all my tracks in either Garageband or Ableton.
Then I email the songs to myself and listen to them over and over again for a few days while I’m out and about, walking, on the bus and whatnot. Then I sit back down and finish them. I record all my songs in my bedroom or in my apartment studio.
How do you deal with distractions or procrastination?
Lately I’ve been trying to be on my phone less. I got a watch so I don’t have to look at my phone for the time. I’m trying to be on social media once in the morning and once in the evening. My phone is the biggest distractor. I hate it. If I can get that under control then I can usually pay attention.
The older I get the more negatively I am affected by procrastination — it makes me very depressed and anxiety ridden to not do stuff. I see it as me not achieving my purpose. and so I try to identify why I am procrastinating so I can kill it at the source. Usually I’m scared, I don’t know what I’m doing, or I think that the task will be unpleasant and will take a lot of time. I work hard to try to find ways to combat procrastination, for the sake of my mental health.
Getting started on something is so hard. I try to tell myself to just do one thing. Doing that ONE thing usually makes me feel like “oh, that wasn’t so bad, why don’t I try doing the next thing now?” And then before I know it, I’m doing it and feeling great.
How do you self-edit your work? Do you record demos, then make changes? What’s that process like in writing music?
I don’t want things to be too precious. I keep messing with a song until it moves me. Until I love it, until I can’t stop listening to it. But I also try to remember that I’m going to be way more into my stuff than others will be. I work under the mantra “just because it FEELS good doesn’t mean it IS good.” So many times I think it feels so good to make a song that we assume it is good enough to share with others, that the songs mere existence will make them feel good as well. This isn’t the case, in my opinion.
Before I share a song with fans, I really try to zero in on what might make them come alive by hearing the music. What about the song will move them. I keep trying to hone in on this and edit accordingly.
That said, I don’t want this process to take too long. Perfection is rarely my goal. I don’t want to labor over something until it is flawless. I like to move fast, move on to the next thing, keep things new and exciting.
How do you deal with or accept feedback?
I don’t get enough of it. I get it from my friends but I wish I had a mentor to guide me. I wish I had a mentor too!!! My bandmate/best friend Emily, will always give me straightforward, no bullshit feedback. And my other bandmate/brother, Will. He’s great for feedback as well. I get anxiety about feedback, I’m not great with confrontation, but I WANT feedback because its important to hear how I could improve. What effect my work is having on people.
How do you know when something is done?
I know when something is done when I am jumping up and down screaming, loving it.
What keeps you going?
Nothing makes me feel as good as writing songs. If I don’t keep doing it I lose sense with who I am. Writing music keeps me in good mental health. If I stop creating I feel meaningless.
If you have imposter syndrome, how do you deal with it?
I usually just say “fuck you my shit is dope” and get on with it. Who this “you” is, I don’t know. Its the voice inside me that seeks to destroy me by making me scared and feel like I’m not good enough. I fight this “you” on the daily, I think it is definitely one of the most important struggles of my life.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in regards to creativity?
I guess, “just go out there and do it” — just try. The worst it can be is awful.
If you could give the younger you advice when she was starting out, what would you say?
I’d tell her that things take time. I’d try to open up her eyes to process of making art and becoming an artist, how long of a road it is. I’d tell her to keep her head down, stay focused on making work that is true to who she is and be less focused on what other’s want, what other’s will try to label her as, what others are doing.
Care less about what other people think. I’d tell her that someone else’s success isn’t her failure. Emily reminds us of this often and its something that really helps me.