There’s an endless list of movies that have attempted to effectively document aspects of the independent and mainstream music worlds. With everything that’s involved in being a singer/songwriter trying to break into the music industry, documenting this world is not as easy as it seems. Here are some of the films that somehow got it right.
Long Way to the Top
Here on Ear to the Ground we have a long relationship with this essential documentary. Its deep significance lies in how it de-romanticizes the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. While most tend to think that musicians on the road do it mostly for the fame, Long Way to the Top shines a light on how this is actually only true for a small segment of the talented individuals who tour to play. Most do it for a simple love of playing their music for the world. From the seemingly mundane nuances of finding a place to eat or where to do laundry on tour, to the long and burdensome hours spent on the endless road, Long Way to the Top covers it all. The film is essential viewing for anyone who thinks they have what it takes to experience the joys and heartbreaks of really trying to make it big.
Here’s a potentially fresh new take on the tired old formula of a romantic film based on a collection songs by The Beatles. Himesh Patel stars as a singer-songwriter who wakes up in a world where no one remembers any Beatles songs, a fact which he uses to transcend into a modern music legend. Starring alongside him is the Billboard-topping, Grammy award-winning Ed Sheeran who plays himself, not in a mere cameo, but in a starring role that’s integral to the plot. Apart from Yesterday, other Beatles songs we’ve already seen featured in the trailer include Something, Let it Be, and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, a hit which is featured in a Lottoland infographic on rock songs that changed the world. In the trailer, each song is effectively used as an instant way to jump between broad narrative themes, a testament to how deeply The Beatles have affected the musical zeitgeist. And this is exactly what the movie’s humor and concept rests on – in a world where no one remembers The Beatles, their songs would bop even harder. The plot is also guaranteed to resonate with any hardworking musician. Being the sole originator of The Beatles repertoire – it’s every singer/songwriter’s fantasy.
Walk The Line
If you like classic singer/songwriter biopics, here’s one of the finest ever made. Featuring Joaquin Phoenix in the role of the iconic Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon in the Oscar-winning role of his wife and fellow country legend June Carter Cash, Walk the Line is an unexpectedly intimate look into the rise to fame of two of the most recognizable voices in country and rock. It’s also an inevitably political discussion about how music cannot exist in a vacuum, and how popular music can cause irreversible waves of actual action. A moving, fair, and significant tribute to the Man in Black and everything he stood for. It is one of the most motivational films for any struggling singer/songwriter who’s out there looking to send a message.
Love & Mercy
Love & Mercy is a disturbing but crucial look into the mind of Brian Wilson – the man behind the musical genius of the Beach Boys. Played by Paul Dano as a young man and later by John Cusack as a middle-aged singer/songwriter, Wilson struggles with deep-seated and traumatic issues from his past – all while pioneering one of the most recognizable sounds in pop music. A reminder that no matter what is happening in a musician’s life, the music is still what propels and defines them.
***As always, we thank our partners here for their movie recommendations but they do not necessarily reflect the views of Ear to the Ground Music or it’s two handsome editors. All opinions are that of our guest author.