Mr. Not totally perfectThe rap sensation believes that perfectionism kills creativity and the secret to solving your problems is to focus on others.
THE RED BULLETIN: Perfectionism seems to be de rigueur right now. But you think it can be dangerous. Why is that?
MACKLEMORE: It’s natural to want to get the best out of yourself. But ambition can backfire and perfectionism can kill creativity.
So, did your 2012 hit with Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop” (which won two Grammys and went multi-platinum), come about … by chance?
I make sure that my music is as good as it can possibly be. But at a certain point you have to step away from a piece of art and put it out into the world. That’s the tricky bit. If I have a song in my head and it doesn’t turn out the way that I want it to, it can be extremely frustrating. So frustrating that it stops me from trying to bring ideas to fruition in the first place. Music is not an easy career. It’s one of immense difficulty and self-scrutiny.
So what do you do about it?
I remind myself that flaws are part of being human and of art. I could work on an album for 10 years and still feel like it’s not perfect yet. There are effects like auto-tune to correct every wrong note, but they get away from the root, from the raw and organic moments that create music. It’s about being able to display your flaws in a real, vulnerable way. That’s what makes art beautiful. Make mistakes!
Salvador Dalí famously said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Can you relate to that?
Definitely. In our society we focus too much on outcomes. We’re judged by numbers, such as Facebook likes, when really the beauty of art lies in the creation process. Only once you’ve understood that there’s not just one correct way to your goal can you freely bring your ideas to fruition without frustration.
That sounds reasonable. But if a doctor was treating me, I’d still want him to lean toward perfectionism.
While we’re on the subject of medicine, did you know that depression often comes from perfectionism, from only thinking about ourselves? People who can’t take the weight of expectation anymore feel like losers. Once you get stuck in this vicious circle, it’s time to step back.
What do you mean?
Take time off. Disconnect from the internet. Get outside of your own selfish intentions and motivations. Be of service to your community and others.
Should we seek help, then?
No, I mean actually help other people. When I do service work in my community, I realize that my own problems aren’t that big anymore. The minute you start helping others you realize that there’s a blessing to all of it and that the suffering we deal with is only temporary.
New album: This Unruly Mess I’ve Made