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Trying to make your own sound is hard. When I was producing for other artists, I could just produce and write songs as a normal songwriter, and almost make them generic. The artists themselves, whoever is singing that song, can put their own twist on it. When it came to my own material, I had to really dig deep, because I was just writing generic stuff. It sounded like everybody else, like Justin Timberlake, like Usher. I never wanted to sound like someone, that’s when you know it’s not going to work.
Fortunately, I come from an activist mother, so I didn’t have to rely on the history books. The history books teach us nothing about the Underground Railroad aside from Harriet Tubman. So I knew more about it but, obviously, I had to dig deeper and expand my knowledge and do a lot of research once I took this project on. I had, like, a good two months to research before we started shooting, which isn’t a lot, and I continued it throughout the five months of us shooting.
If I’ve learned anything in the more than 50 years that I’ve led MDA, it’s that the generosity of the American people knows no bounds. I’m sure that with their fellow citizens in such dire need, they’ll dig deep and do everything they can to help. I’m hopeful that many people will be willing to make two phone calls and donate to both causes.
I try to dig deep into the well of my subconscious. At a certain moment in that process, the lid is opened and very different ideas and visions are liberated. With those I can start making a film. But maybe it’s better that you don’t open that lid completely, because if you release your subconscious it becomes really hard to live a social or family life.
At a certain age you start becoming brave enough to reveal yourself and it’s the revealing of who you are that enables you to dig deeper into different characters. You’ll get to a point where you can say: ‘I can relate to that’, ‘I know that’, ‘I don’t have to make that up’ and that resonates with people in the audience who can tell that you’ve been there.
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men – not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
Realize that the reason most people fail isn’t because of the competition but because of the limits they place upon themselves, allowing defeat to take over. Take responsibility for your destiny. You can come up with a performance, if you can reach down and dig deep enough into your competitive soul. You can overcome tremendous obstacles.