This is the corner of my room. You can see a load of books, a ton of CDs & miscellaneous musical equipment & ephemera.
The books are vital to my writing process. I read every day. Sometimes I read for research for the folklore & popular culture talks I give, sometimes I read specifically for subject matter for lyric writing, mostly I read for fun. Whenever I am reading I always have a notebook to hand in case there is an idea or a turn of phrase that inspires me.
I listen to a lot of music. I think that if you want to be the best musician you can be you need become the best listener you can be. I mostly listen to instrumental music when I am reading for fun; Popol Vuh, Messiaen, Glass, Ives, Boards Of Canada, however I do enjoy Sonic Youth & Pavement when I’m reading too. When I’m researching, I read in silence.
I listen to lyrical music mostly in the car. Currently it’s Willie Nelson, Stick In The Wheel, REM & Flaming Lips. Next week it may be Blind Blake, Kraftwerk, Black Sabbath & The Copper Family. As I age I realise that I don’t differentiate between musical genre as much as whether it’s got a heart behind it & is well done. Great electronic music can be very close to modern classical to my ears. Likewise the spirit of a great punk or grunge performance & a traditional singer.
I can’t describe how much I love music, but I suppose the music I make & record is my way of demonstrating it.
All of this preamble is part of a creative process. Creativity is creating something new where there wasn’t something before. It’s sometimes a flash of inspiration, other times it’s a meander, other times a combination of the two.
Creativity thrives on inspiration. Find stuff that inspires you. Enjoy being a fan & liking stuff. Look at the artistic practices of the artists you admire & try them.
If you want to make an album where there wasn’t one before you need a place to be creative in. A place where you can meander & preamble as much as you like with no-one to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. The early stages of writing a song, a tune, an album can be delicate, fragile. Sometimes before you know what you want to do you have to try a bunch of ideas which don’t work. You need to ‘Dare to suck’ as the old song-writer’s adage goes. A successful creation is based on multiple iterations of failure. Best do that out of earshot, for the sake of family & friends.
When creating, ‘yes’ is a very helpful word in the early stages. Give yourself permission to experiment with words, melodies, progressions. Make & record stuff, leave it for a day or two, then see if you like it. If you like it, see if you can make it better. Take your creation apart & see if you can re-assemble it better. If you can’t reassemble it, it wasn’t good enough. When it’s more developed it can be very helpful to play new material to audiences; they will tell you what they like.
Hope you found this interesting. More next week.