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Rocker Dave Grohl: stay true to your voice

Categories: Music

For aspiring musicians of all stripes struggling to get heard, Grammy-winning rocker Dave Grohl has simple advice: stay true to your authentic voice.

Speeches might not seem very hardcore. Nevertheless, the easygoing Foo Fighters and Nirvana alum offered an engaging and inspiring keynote address at the South by Southwest Festival Thursday. Check it out here.

Dave GrohlDave Grohl performs with the Sound City Players on Thursday during SXSW 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/Associated Press)

Peppered with a few swearwords (c'mon, we're talking rock 'n roll, after all), his speech ran the gamut: personal, nostalgic, self-deprecating, honest, scathing and optimistic.

Grohl's main message was woven throughout a winding tale, which recalled (and demonstrated!) how as a 12-year-old he was "multi-tracking" with two cassette players, his punk-music awakening, his heartbreak after Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's death, his amazing return with Foo Fighters all the way to his current life as an industry stalwart and father of two young girls.

The musician inside comes first. Ignore artifice. Be true to your musical heroes by expressing your own, unique voice. And just make music, by any means possible.

"There is only your voice, your voice screaming through an old Neve 8028 recording console, your voice singing through a laptop, your voice echoing from a street corner," he told a rapt crowd, which stretched beyond SXSW's Austin, Texas borders thanks to web streaming.

"What matters most is that it's your voice. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it. Scream it until its f---ing gone. Every human being is blessed with at least that — and who knows how long it will last?"

Naturally, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, who famously recorded the entire Foo Fighters debut album — writing each track, playing all instruments and singing his songs in one blistering, "therapeutic" week in 1994 (two years after Cobain's death) — advocated a DIY aesthetic.

Technology has made "it easier for aspiring musicians to start their own band, write their own song, record their own record, book their own shows, write and publish their own 'zine — although now I believe you call it a blog. But now, more than ever you can do this and it can be all yours. Left you your own devices, you can find your voice."

Sage advice for musicians indeed, but adaptable for artists in any discipline.

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