“cover bands don’t change the world”

by | Jun 26, 2019 | Artistic Endeavors | 46 comments

I love Todd Henry’s quote from the Accidental Creative podcast, “Cover bands don’t change the world.  Don’t be a cover band.”

Initially, I took the quote at face value.  Right.  Do your own thing.

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot more lately and getting a little deeper with it.  It really is not simple or easy…mostly because the market wants you to be a cover band.  It constantly pushes you in that direction and you have to not only fight against it, but intentionally focus on doing your own thing.

Think about it.  Using the band analogy… If you’re a new band trying to gain footing, are you going to do better at concerts playing songs you’ve written that no one knows?  The tunes are unfamiliar and they can’t sing along with the lyrics?  Or a crowd pleaser that was already a hit?  The audience is fired up, singing along, and there is huge applause at the end.

Transitioning over to our world, as a designer, is it easier to establish your own look or to regurgitate a version of someone else’s signature style that brands and customers are clamoring for?  Is it easier to create your own story and style on your blog or Instagram feed or to mimic the accounts and pages that you see growing leaps and bounds?  It is so, so easy to play into the sameness.  It’s what is working!  It’s what customers want!  It’s what sells!  And, in many cases, it’s what clients are requesting.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this same thing in some shape or form.  This push into the mainstream.  This pull into uniformity.  It’s real and it’s strong.

When this realization first hit me, I honestly felt discouraged at the uphill battle.  This battle isn’t a new one, though, but one that’s been exaggerated by social media in recent years.   We’re more aware of it.  In the creative world, introducing something new has always been risky and typically met with a great deal of resistance.  It wasn’t until I went to the Louvre followed by a visit to the Musee d’Orsay that I had an appreciation for how radical the Impressionists were.  How far they strayed from conventional art.

So, if the odds are stacked against us, how can we find our own creative voice?  These are a few things I’ve started implementing as a part of my own creative process…

get offline

I find that I offer this as a solution for many creative struggles, but it really is a creative cure-all.  Get off the phone.  Step away from the computer screen.  There is so much inspiration online, but it’s being done!  Take bits and pieces of that inspiration, but don’t bathe yourself in it.  Don’t let that be your solitary source of inspiration.

Look at magazines and books.  Go to an antique market and find fresh inspiration from decades or even centuries ago.  Go to a farmer’s market and look at the colors and textures displayed.  Tour gardens and old homes.  Travel.  Walk.  Hike.  Listen to music.  Read poems and classic literature.  Sketch and write.  Visit museums.  Get out into the world with a notebook and write down everything you see and observe.  Let the real world be your creative buffet.

curate variety

Especially if a part of your business is being on social media, you’re not going to give up scrolling altogether.  And, there is a lot of good that can come out of collaboration, being a member of a creative community, and learning from other artists.  Do all of that, but curate a feed that is filled with variation.  (I’ve shared this advice before, too!)

Follow creative feeds that offer a style different than your own.  You’ll find yourself challenged and stretched and you won’t feel so overwhelmed by the sense of sameness that comes from following only like-styled, like-minded people.

Be intentional about seeking out designers, artists, writers, thinkers, makers, photographers, comedians, poets that offer a beautiful, inspiring variety.

look to the past

I’ve always looked to antiques for my primary source of inspiration, but I’ve been diving further into that idea.  I’ve been looking at antique textiles for color and pattern design ideas.   I read through classic novels, poetry, essays, prose, and philosophy to find quotes and inspiration for words, phrases, similes, analogies, and topics to write about.

It’s no surprise that there is a wealth of inspiration in the public domain to pull from.



I have unintentionally done a lot of reading lately on studies about play, free time, and meditation.  It’s been a recurring theme in a few books and articles I’ve read lately and it’s been fascinating!  (Essentialism, The Atomic Habit, Harvard Business Review)  All of the studies and experts agree that innovation comes out of play and/or when the brain is allowed to wander.

Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play said, “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.  Nothing fires up the brain like play.”

As this recurring theme kept popping up, I started to pay attention to how little free time and play time I set aside.  If I’m going to be unoccupied for any period of time, I grab my phone or a book or something to prevent boredom, even just for a few minutes.  Even in my unhurried creative time, I usually have an objective.  So, I’ve been forcing myself to just sit in quiet.  On my daily walk, I set aside time without podcasts or audiobooks to just walk and think.  And I can already tell you that I’ve had some pretty profound thoughts and realizations during this created quiet space.

As a person who thrives on productivity, I have to admit that this is hard for me, but I’m working on it!

give yourself permission

Any time you’re shifting gears and creating something that’s different – either from the mainstream or from the rest of your body of work, there will be a little resistance.  Or a lot of resistance.  Or everyone might love it.  Either way, you don’t know what the outcome will be when you first launch it into the world and you need to be ready to defend the exploration.

This isn’t something that’s combative, involving intense debate or desperately seeking permission from others, but it’s an internal fortitude; a love for your creative work that can stand up to criticism and people who just don’t like change.

There is an article I loved in the summer issue of the Magnolia Journal.  Joanna writes about the freedom to evolve.  A body of work, a signature style, the thing you’re known for, can all become boxes; confining and inhibiting growth.  It’s okay, and even beneficial, to step out of that box into unexplored territory.  Just give yourself permission to do that.

I write on this blog, so that those who read it will be inspired.  They will feel braver and motivated when they close the browser.  And I hope this blog post accomplished that…


  1. Krista

    I love reading your posts! This was wonderful, thanks.

    • Peg

      I feel the same way!

  2. Vanessa

    I’ve always thought your style was so distinct that it surprises me you struggle with this. It is a huge reassurance to know that I’m not the only one struggling to stay true to my own ideas and thoughts.

  3. Beth

    This is a great post that I really appreciate! Thanks 😁

  4. Gina

    Mission Accomplished. Thank you.

    • Emily

      So inspired.
      I’ve been mulling over the direction I want to take by small business come the new year… and THIS felt like you were literally speaking to me 😇 I’m going to step outside the box and be brave. Thank you!

    • Sherry Hicks

      This was a great post and the timing was great for me to read this thank you for sharing

  5. Shawna

    Bravo! Thank you for being honest and encouraging, all at the same time!

  6. kim

    Beautifully and thoughtfully written!

  7. Sarah Reed

    This was exactly what I needed to read today. <3

  8. Julie

    Hi Marian. I’ve been following you for a long time now and I enjoy each and every post. You’re an inspiration to me as well as others. Thank you for being real and for sharing yourself with so many. Psalm 144:15

  9. Suzanne Quirk

    Thank you Marian! Mission accomplished – this is just what I needed today!


  10. Lynn

    Surround yourself in a home that makes you happy. Make changes as you tire of colors and styles. That’s what keeps it fresh. Satisfy yourself because you live there!

  11. Ashley

    Just yesterday I picked up a design book from before the Instagram days and was shocked. The images presented were so original and different from each other in style and character. It was so welcoming! I commented to my husband that all the images I see today on home decor are similar and I did not realize the change had even happened. Great thoughts on changing it up a bit!

  12. Chris Moore of Seattle

    This is a very good post. Mary Engelbreit had a magazine I still miss called ‘The Home Companion’. In it she interviewed people-usually women-who were successful is whatever genre they were designing in. It was anything! Stationery, paper mache figures, rugs, needlework, on and on. She always asked something like what do you wish you would have done differently? Without exception they said I wish I would have listened to MY voice right from the beginning and not to the naysayers. EVERY time.

    • Betsy

      Chris, I’m right with you on missing that inspirational magazine. I always felt Mary stepped outside her box to offer homes and creative people that were different. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Chris Moore

        Betsy, you can get back issues of that wonderful little mag on Ebay. They are just as great the 2nd time around, or the 4th, 5th etc.

  13. Sherry Kurtz

    This reminds me a bit about what Brene’ Brown often speaks about–those who are at the forefront wanting change and fighting for it are the ones who are being vulnerable and courageous. My fear of criticism for my (writing) work has kept me “small”. Your words are encouraging for any field of creativity, so I appreciate your openness about the struggle–it’s real. We have to push a little, past the prickly, to feel the growth. Push on sister!

  14. Maria

    You always inspire me! Always, always and this post is just so spot on!! Again thank you!

  15. Heather Wolgamott

    Your words are inspiring. Thank you!

  16. Denice

    This post is so timely for me, not only for my creativity, but as to ministry. The Lord has me doing some out-of-the-box things ministering to women and it feels a little scary with no pattern to follow. However, the fruits already are wonderful, so there is confirmation that I am on the right track. As far as decor, I LOVE the farmhouse look and have waaayyy before it became popular, but I find myself looking for ways to freshen up my very recently renovated and decorated farm house. ; ) This was just the encouragement I needed to branch out to other styles and accounts. Thank you Miriam, for always being transparent and encouraging.

  17. Joan

    OH WOW. really powerful!
    and WHAT AN AMAZING PORTRAIT, absolutely beautifully done, like a master.

    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you!

  18. Laura

    Yes, thank you for this!!! I have really been struggling with this issue. So much of what I see in the home decor world on social media is the “Magnolia Home” look, and while I absolutely love Joanna Gaines and what she does, it’s just not really me! But I feel like my home or my Instagram might be a lot more popular, if I went that route…

    I used to feel this same way about my artwork, too. When I was in art school, there were certain teachers who really pressured their students to paint like them and their “following” was always very popular. But I loved patterns and the British Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris prints, and that was NOT popular. Yet I fought to do what I loved and I think I’ve ended up producing some very unique and unusual work…so, I guess what I’ve just realized is that I need to translate that approach into my home as well! But thank you for all these words of advice–I think they are spot on, and I will be paying special attention to them.

    • Marian Parsons

      Very well said, Laura! I have tried creating things before that were about what I THOUGHT people wanted and they didn’t sell well and I wasn’t proud of them. Once I started producing what I really loved, I valued my pieces more and I was able to build a loyal customer base who loved what I loved. We often forget that even a small part of the market can be a massive group of people!

  19. Dorothy Lewy

    Your words resonated today and I so agree with you that we get lost in the media and don’t allow our own brains to fly free!! We all have to make that happen! What a crime to waste our own creativity.
    Thank you for reminding me in today’s post to go back into myself for inspiration.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes! Well said! Your own creativity is a special commodity.

  20. Christina

    Hi Marian,
    Thank you for this post. I bought my first house and I have been struggling with this so much, finding my original voice in decorating. I spend so much time looking at Instagram, blogs, Facebook, magazines, and other things. I find that too often I’m trying to replicate what other people have done. In some cases, I don’t think it’s a bad thing but I feel like I fall back on this attitude too many times. I want to be creative and unique in my home. I want it to represent me and not be a cut and paste of what others have done. Thank you for the advice to take time to play and to enjoy silence.

    • Marian Parsons

      Such a great comment. I agree that it’s not a bad thing to get inspiration from all of those places, but when it’s feeling too “cut and paste” you’re not giving yourself the chance of discovering your own voice.

  21. Pam

    Thank you for this, it is very helpful🤗
    I’ve been following you for quite some time, after a major life change, I really needed this.
    Always a fan

  22. Karen K from Buffalo

    I always come here on your blog to get inspired!

  23. Judi

    Thank you Marian! You are a true friend – you really are,

  24. Jan

    I am fascinated by your evolution as a designer. I’ve only recently found your blog, so I went back to your earlier posts about your previous home before you started milk paint. Your skills and tastes have developed as you came into your own. You have done just what you wrote about today. Thank you for the inspiration you provide so generously. I love your work.

  25. MaryS

    That portrait is STUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Pam

    Great post today, Marian.

    Astonishingly beautiful portrait! Your talent sings through her.

    Keep going!

  27. Shelly

    Thank you so much! This really is what we all need to hear! I spend so much time reading blogs, to the point I don’t get as much done on my days off work around the house. There is site that sells decor, I won’t mention the name of it, but I can pick out their items they sell in the bloggers homes. Some of these homes look as if no thought went into the decor, they just order the merchandise everyone else is, so their homes end up having no personality. They are decorated the same. You have always had your own style and we love you for that! Thank you!

  28. Naomi Shelton

    Such great reminders, Marian. Even for me at age 75! A lot of my life for the past eight years or so has been taken up helping and supporting my daughter parent her twin boys who have some special behavioral issues. All three live with me so I only have a small amount of time to do my own thing or think my own tho’ts. But, as they grow older, I expect to have more free time and I want to be able to do some creative art work. I do spend time looking at all the trends in design and art online so I appreciate your tho’ts on doing one’s own thing and not getting caught up in doing what everyone else is doing.

    Thanks for a valuable post. You always have many thoughtful ideas in many different areas for us to chew on.

  29. Susan

    Marian, I’ve read your blog every day for over five years, and this was my favorite post EVER. I’m going to print it out and pin it to my inspiration board in my studio. I think I’ll go to an art Museum this weekend!

  30. Kathie

    I have always tried to create beautiful spaces, but my style isn’t conformist. I’ve searched endlessly to label it, but I don’t fit into just one. I seek out others who might have some elements in common, feeling it might validate my choices. I’ve even contemplated ditching my style to conform but you’ve given me the confidence to embrace my uniqueness. Thanks Marian, your words soothe my heart!

  31. Jenn

    I loved this! I have been feeling the online funk….everything looks the same, it’s all been done, not much inspiring. Thank you for the reminder!

  32. Suzette

    Another great post!
    The portrait is beautiful!

  33. Elaine McCarty

    Thank you for this post. It is thought provoking, and will stay with me . Much of what you say about the same-ness in many decor blogs has struck me as well. I am getting back into the creative business world after many years, and so I am doing a lot of reading, researching, and looking, looking, looking. I need to be doing more looking elsewhere, thinking, and writing – and I will! I read your blog often, and always gain from my visits. Thank you.

  34. Leanna

    I think too that being a “cover band” is a way of seeking approval for what we do or want to be. Although some of his subjects bother me. I do think about how Picasso sought out the different and tried the different. His work spans many different modes from paintings to ceramics to mixed media and he is lauded for it.

  35. Cynthia Johnson

    I love how you are able to get us thinking~ let The your band play on ~

  36. Vicki Cooley

    Awesome post! You speak to all of us! Inspiring!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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