Every great artist that I have ever read about has invariably spoken about or given credit to earlier artists who inspired them in their artistic journey. It’s an essential part of the process. Anyone who aspires to any type of musical performance will have someone they have looked up to or used as a role model for their own aspirations. IMO this is frequently how recorded/marketed cover versions come about; when an established artist covers another artist. It’s a nod to that influence and a show of respect or adoration.
It’s a path that anyone can take, especially with the one-man/woman-band home studio options we have today. I think a really good way to work yourself into songwriting and production is to cover or even copy those influences and see what you come up with. There may be some sense of a “sacred cow” in doing this, but I think that’s rather silly. All the greats do it. Led Zeppelin made a career out of it, with no shame. There’s even a saying: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal!” While this may sound a bit crazy, surely it does no harm when playing around in your home studio trying to focus yourself and come up with something ‘original’ and ‘great’.
I wonder if there is a mindset that we just sit down with pen and paper, mic and guitar (or piano), and hope for something really inspired to come out? That can certainly happen, but I think preparation and knowing your influences can help a lot. Name them. Play with them. Copy them. Write a song in the style of your favorite artist(s) and see what happens. Do a parody song. There are karaoke tracks out there, sing along with a vocalist that is in your range and that you like (using an original track), then challenge yourself to sing it on your own with a karaoke track. There are sites that also offer tracks with vocals but the guitar or bass (or even drum IIRC) removed from the performance so you can fill it in yourself.
I think this is not only good practice and artistic development … it can also help get creativity moving when you’re in a funk or “writer’s block” period. It’s worth a try.
Who are your influences, and why?