16 Musicians Share The Best Piece Of Advice They’ve Ever Gotten


The more you know

Believe it or not, we’ve not even at the halfway point in this crazy year. (Emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted? You’re definitely not alone.) If you’re like us, you’re probably getting through it all with a little help from your friends—those blessed souls that can speak a bit of sanity into our lives when everything seems to be spinning out of control. (Now would be a great time to text your BFF.)

In honor of those relationships, and the words of wisdom from those who know us best, we asked 16 of our favorite musicians about the best advice they’ve ever gotten. From twists on the classic “know thyself,” to thoughts on fear, control, and living your life to the fullest, they were happy to share wisdom collected from their nearest and dearest.

And in case no one has told you this lately, here's a piece of advice from us to you: You’re good enough. Life can be a never-ending parade of weird, but don’t worry—you’ve got this. 

Photo by Steve Gullick

Marika Hackman
My old manager said to me that the stuff you say no to is the most important. That’s across life as well. You can’t always say yes to everything. You have to pick stuff that’s going to make you feel good. Good for life, good for your work. At the time, even when something seems like a great opportunity but you realize in your heart it’s not quite right, don’t do it.

Jonas Bjerre of Mew
Someone told me once to remember to be who you are. To not try to be what other people expect you to be. I think that’s very important in life, especially in this world. I think a lot of people feel depressed by the idea they have to be something more than they are. It’s almost like it’s more important for people that other people think that they’re happy and successful than actually being happy and successful. Your value system is twisted. It’s perception rather than reality. I think that is an important thing to think about. You sometimes forget. What am I trying to do here? Am I trying to fit in, or am I trying to be a happy person? Am I trying to live up to the expectations of strangers or my boss or my colleagues or peers? Or am I trying to be the person I want to be?

Sondre Lerche
It sounds a little silly, but one thing that we kept saying to each other in the studio with these last two albums was, “Be bold.” Which sounds like something you’d see hanging in someone’s house. It’s got something to do with connecting the head with the body. That was difficult for me 15 years ago. My head was floating miles above my body. That’s why the album Pleasure is so concerned with physicality. Not only the body and sexuality but with concrete objects. I should have told myself to lower my shoulders and enjoy some pleasure. 


The best advice I got came from the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's the sentiment that though life seems overwhelming and impenetrable, you've just got to take things "bird by bird," one moment at a time, piece by piece. Whenever I feel myself spinning out to obsess about the impossible future, I just remind myself to take a breath and live my life bird by bird.

Photo by Henry Gorse

William Cashion of Future Islands
We did an early show with Dan Deacon. I was asking Dan something about where we should set up. Back then, we would set up on the floor because Dan would set up on the floor. It was cool to play with the audience around you. I asked Dan what he felt we should do. I remember he told me, “I think you should do whatever you want to do.” I know it’s simple, that advice, but that freedom of approaching things and asking, “What do I want to do?” and then actually doing what you want to do. The only time you can be completely free as an artist is when you’re performing. No one can tell you what to do when you’re in the moment doing it. It was important for me to realize that I had more control than I thought.

Ramona Gonzalez of Nite Jewel
My husband Cole, who helps me with bits of the label and music, he always tells me to think about our favorite albums. Think about all the albums that changed our lives. Were they ever popular in their time? Never. Popularity should not be a goal if you want to make good art. It just can’t be. My taste is about things that are rare and unique and have a very singular voice, and things that were panned at the time of their release—those are the albums that I’ve become attached to. You can’t be influenced by that and then turn around and say, “I want to be the biggest thing this year.” You have to stay connected to those things that are aesthetically pleasing to you.

Photo by Alejandro Ros

Juana Molina
I had a duo with Alejandro Franov. We'd been playing for a while. One day, three days before a big gig, he tells me he can't do it, that he wanted to go to the mountains. I couldn't believe it. In the middle of the conversation, he said, “Listen, Juana, I think it's time for you to get some independence and put together a solo show.” I was so angry and desperate that I ran into the studio, and the first thing I did was design the architecture of my solo set. That's how I then toured the world on my own for years.

Photo by Fotini Chora

Sarah P
It was my mom who advised me to distinguish between what’s coming from a good or a bad place. To learn to tell between constructive criticism and meanness. The music industry is very competitive, and one needs a strong stomach to emerge to the surface—the surface being what most people see. Until the point I was reminded how important it is to value who says what, I have to admit that I felt as if I were drowning in deep waters.

Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear
Travel as much as you can. Some people don’t like it, but I love it. If you can, go to as many places as you can. I don’t regret a single place I’ve ever been. I have favorites—even the experiences I’ve had abroad that have been difficult, I don’t regret having them.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Hangout Music Festival

Thomas Mars of Phoenix
Growing up, I wouldn’t really take advice because it felt that we were really disconnected. It was just the four of us trying to figure out a new way to do things. It was more rejecting advice and trying to be smart about it. But now there are pieces of advice I could give. But I feel like especially in music sometimes the role of an artist is opposite the role of the teacher. These two types cohabit a little too much these days. A lot of artists feel like they’re on a pedestal and they give their vision to everything. Where I love the function of being good at what you do. Of being a citizen and doing one thing and then we all depend on each other. There’s not one person that can take over every single field. Everyone has their craft, and the beauty of it is that we’re all functioning and we all have specialties. I don’t see the appeal of one being able to do all these things. It’s a really long way to say, I don’t want to give advice.

Koury Angelo / Red Bull Sound Select / Content Pool

Sampa The Great
Live knowing that you have lived. Live knowing that you have done it to the fullest. Don’t give half. If you know you’ve done it to the fullest, you can rest easy. Every time I scare myself thinking something is too much, I know that if I do it to the fullest, no holds barred, then I can say I did it and lived, not that I didn’t try because I was too scared.

Photo by Samantha West

Morgan Kibby of White Sea
It’s something I’ve learned over time: Being anything other than your authentic self is a surefire way of being disappointed in your life. Whatever you are, even if you don’t like what it is at the time, explore it and develop out who you really are as opposed to who you think you need to be. You’ll have a lot more joy.  

Photo by Stian Andersen

Ingrid Helene Håvik of Highasakite
The only thing I’m living by is, just do it. Even if you don’t want to, just do it. Hopefully, it’ll turn out good.


Photo by Rob Baker

Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne
Stick to what you think is the right thing. Don’t get swayed. If you have an idea, and you have a plan, and you have a vision for your life, and you want them to look or sound a certain way, stick with it and don’t get distracted by any outside forces. Even if it takes a while, people will see that genuine element. 

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief
First, it sounds, and then it means. That’s just something that my friends and I came to and discovered for ourselves. It’s a nice thing that I’ve been repeating. Not trying to extract meaning from something before it comes into existence. Allow the thing to exist and not living in the past or future with it in your head.

Johan Angergård of Djustin
I think it’s very difficult to pick up on advice. Life is not black and white. There’s so much in the gray scale all the time. There’s nothing right or wrong. Everything has a bit of right and a bit of wrong in it. Advice is usually quite black and white, like, “This is the way.” That’s very difficult to use in real life. Real life is so messy and full of different emotions, feelings, and factors you have to take into account.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes