Before I go into this month's topic of discussion, I would like to announce that the recipient of the 2004 Production Scholarship goes to Shaun Rothmann. For more info please check the "What's New" link.
I’ve decided to touch base on one of the most frequently questioned subjects available regarding my work. This subject could have very well ended up on the FAQ page. However, the question I am about to answer was not presented in a formal matter by a panel. Rather it is a question that is most frequently asked time and time again by the people who are familiar with my work and writing style.
Categorically speaking, the question that I am about to touch upon pops up the most in the lyrical aspect of my work. However, I do not want to limit this information solely to lyrical writing as it may be applied to all creative aspects of artistry. However, I have decided to use an example of lyrical composition for the demonstration. Recently, I was reminded of how frequently I am asked, “How did you come up with those lyrics?”
The creative process seems to be one of the natural wonders of the world and so I’ve decided to make it the topic of this segment's “Producer’s Page”.
First and foremost, I want to make understood that the creative process is not something that comes from me but rather something that flows thru me. It is not something that can be forced but when it does decide to show up it generally pours down like Niagara Falls. This is something that the record companies, most being corporate business heads, fail to understand. They push a new “HOT” new artist for a specific deadline on a project to be completed and then the artists are forced to be creative. Most of the time it is typical for a good artist to have an abundance of creativity flowing through them. But on occasion, even the best of the best may suffer from writer's block. If this happens during the time frame of a specific deadline then it is quite possible that the artist, being pushed into a demanding and contrived environment may feel squeezed as if wrapped inside a boa constrictor to put out work (which is possible however the work usually is not their best) and then the record companies don’t understand why that particular album is not as good as the others.
You may not be able to analyze this theory on a conscious level, however on another level of a more subtle nature, you will be able to decipher a song that was written by divine inspiration, sheer raw emotion, passion, or some kind of honest creative expression verses one that was commercially forced just to put out. The difference is in the spark, the magic, that shiver that just happens to go up your spine every time you hear a particular song, or those words that you can somehow relate to that really push a “certain something within you” button.
The creative process...how does it really work? Let me give you an example through my own experience and again I am going to refer to my lyrical writing. In my most recent work, I had the opportunity to combine raw honest emotion with divine inspiration. It is something that sneaks up when least expected and strikes quickly with blatant honesty- no sugar coating added.
First of all, the words came from a direct experience that left an emotional impact upon me. (I would like to state that the experience doesn’t necessarily have to be direct in nature and I will go over that after I cover this). Secondly, my soul knew what it "felt"... however my brain didn’t know how to put it into words.
The next step began by writing the first couple of lines....then after that nothing really seemed to flow. So, knowing how the creative process works, I decided to put it away for the time being and go onto another project. A few days later I picked it back up again.....and again nothing really worthwhile came out of the writing session. Instead of feeling frustrated (a state that leads to forced writing), I found something else to occupy my time. About a week later, the matter popped back up in my mind and I said to myself, “I know what I want to say...I just don’t know how to say it”. I could "feel" it but I had not yet found a way to express it. Then I forgot about it and went on to other creative endeavors......
A couple of months had passed and I was driving in my car when suddenly.... bam!... bam!... bam!... from out of the blue, the words started to flow so fast that I had to pull over to the side of the road and grab a pen and a piece of paper just to keep up. The lyrics came in and out so quickly that if I did not write them down at that particular moment they would be lost forever. This happened so rapidly that before I could finish the last line...in came another......and right behind it another.....each line fighting to get it’s own adequate amount of space in time for me physically write it down before the next set of words popped up. It reminded me of an airport runway on a very busy day. Have you ever seen the planes lined up for take off? Sometimes there will be 4 or 5 behind you and as soon as you pull up a little farther... you’ll see another one lining up behind the last one. Luckily, I was only a few minutes from home so I managed to drop what I had planned to do and get myself back home ASAP. In the meantime I had a pen and paper on the middle of the steering wheel (where the horn is located) while driving down the road. (Very dangerous... and since then my hand held cassette recorder is now a permanent fixture in my car.)
This cosmic influx went on all day. It didn't take long to recognize it as a form of inspirational writing. When this happens, I can pretty well forget about anything else for the time being. I’m not saying that I cannot go about my business but when I do, I find that my life is kind of on autopilot as my subconscious takes over and somehow carries me through my normal everyday activities. I get so involved that I may not even remember to eat. I avoid phone calls as well. Generally when creativity pops in on this level, I am aware of it and try to avoid placing myself into any situation where I have to really think or hold some deep involved conversation. Why? Because. I find myself somewhat detached from the everyday routine world and launched into a heightened creative mode. This shift allows me to be a temporary vehicle for the cosmic influx to flow.
When the energy leaves, there is generally a ton of information left behind to sift through. This is where the editing of the lyrics come in. During inspirational writing, I am always supplied with more than enough ideas for one tune. In fact, in many instances, I have taken some of those leftover phrases and made them into into entirely different songs altogether.
One artist that I feel is aware of this process is Craig Chaquico. I was speaking with him one day when he casually said to me “It doesn’t come from me...it flows through me” and I could relate.
I’ve noticed that other artists experience the same kind of thing. I was once invited over to another very successful artist’s home and we were talking when all of the sudden something hit him like a light bulb. He said, “I gotta go...I hear something and I’ve gotta get this down right now...I can’t help it” The average person may have been insulted, put up a fight, became all defensive and bent out of shape, but I understood perfectly and voluntarily left him to do his thing.
Several times, I’ve been in recording studios and during the creative process we lost all track of time. Anyone that has ever worked with the subconscious mind is aware that 2 hours can seem like 20 minutes. That is because space and time as we know it is an illusion. Let me give you an example: Next time you have a very boring task at stake that repels you to even think about... see how slow the time goes by. On the other hand, have you ever noticed how time flies when you're doing something fun and then you look up and are quite surprised to find that the sun is already coming up?...
I generally book musicians into the studio at night when there is nothing else scheduled until the next day. That way the creative process is not placed into a forced environment. I’ve noticed that this occasionally gets musicians into a lot of trouble. I hear guys getting nagged all the time for being late and some woman is screaming on his cell phone...”Where are you? Why aren’t you home yet? Well, when are you coming home?” Women, a little note of advice from the other side of the fence: Don't waste your energy getting in a bad mood over this because the minute you hang up the phone your man looks at the receiver and says "shut up" and then completely forgets about the entire conversation and goes back to work deeply involved in his creative input. (Although he may regret it when he has to deal with you the next day). I’ve noticed that being an artist and having a relationship with a non-artist may cause a major strain, unless of course, the other person is very strong and independent. Otherwise you end up spending half your relationship “explaining”. I myself have ended a relationship or two due to this particular factor. The last thing I need is some guy calling and whining while I’m in the midst of a writing session. "Would you like some cheese with that whine?", I ask. I don’t mean to sound cold but I pretty much know what I need and what I don’t need.
Okay, back to the subject that I promised to touch upon in the beginning of this article, and that is writing through direct experience as opposed to indirect experience. As I had stated before, direct experience is writing about things that happen to you on a personal basis that leaves some kind of a mark on your soul. Indirect experience is a little different for it works in a few different ways.
One of those ways is through tapping into the energy of another and then expressing their experience into creative form. The way this works is by precisely attuning with the selected subject's vibratory frequency. The soul knowledge along with all the attached emotions is then transferred to the writer's inner knowing. A heightened degree of sensitivity, receptivity, and awareness is a mandatory prerequisite for this type of writing to successfully manifest.
Another form of indirect subject writing is to just imagine what it would be like to step into a chosen persona. If you’ve ever seen the Steven Spielberg movie “Catch Me If You Can”, you will find that it is based on a true story about a man that was able to “slip” into several professions and do them all quite well. By the time he was 19, he had made his way into professionally becoming a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, a CIA agent, and a school teacher. This man had mastered the art of "becoming" to the utmost and I highly recommend this movie for viewing. When doing this form of indirect writing, I suggest doing a good amount of research and even some field work (if possible) on your subject matter (which is how the character in the movie was able to attain his mastery) so that you are "familiar" with the specified archetype and fully capable of expressing the role.
There are endless ways to write. (I once heard an interesting, catchy rhythm in a washing machine while doing laundry, quickly ran upstairs, and wrote a tune based upon that). I have also heard about a conversation involving one of the best drummers in the world. Apparently he has actually derived some of his signature tones by pounding against the metal of road signs. The possibilities are infinite. I feel I've covered enough information for one night. So this is it for now.....It’s 4 o’clock in the morning. Time to sleep. See ya!