I've been asking myself some fairly profound questions lately. You know the type:
- Am I really an existentialist? and does it even matter?
- Why do my kids text me instead of dialing my phone number?
- Why is television so crappy?
For some reason, questions like these tend to occur to me while I'm driving. Scary, isn't it? For example, tonight I almost missed my turn while deep in thought about the origins of my musical motivation. The question was "Why do I write songs?" There it was, floating around in the car and, at times, blocking my view of the road. I decided I'd better try to answer it before I passed my street and was halfway to Phoenix. I thought I could save time by being methodical, and working my way back in time.
I started with my most recent song. It's not quite finished -- I just came up with the melody yesterday. The lyrics were written about a month ago. The seed for the song was planted when I was having a discussion about my father's death. I went to bed. The seed must have germinated in the night, because the next day I felt like writing a song. For some reason I thought about my father's journal, which my sister had just sent me. I had a feeling I'd find an idea there. After spending a few minutes flipping through the pages, I found what I was looking for...a true story about war and fate.
Last year I wrote several songs that showed up on CD # 1 and CD #2. Through a process that I don't understand, a theme, melody, or lyric would find their way into my consciousness from who knows where. I might dream them, or think of them while half way between sleep and wakefulness. I might just sit down with the guitar, determined to write a song, strum a chord, and an idea would spring up. Or I would be out walking or driving, having a conversation or just deep in thought, and suddenly an idea would "strike a chord." It was that way with Vertical Horizon. Somehow, the path I was walking on, the bird I was looking for, and the sky above all collided, and the emotion I felt needed to be expressed. I went home and wrote a song about two planets and friendship.
One of the first songs I wrote was "Inspiration," which came about after a 1-minute conversation about the upcoming election in 2008. I said, "hey, that sounds like an idea for a song." I went home and it sort of appeared on the page. I don't remember thinking about it or writing it. It's like when I'm in that zone of writing a song, I'm almost meditating or having a different kind of brain wave activity. If you've ever written a poem, baked an incredible cake, or taught your child how to ride a bike, I'm sure you know what I mean.
But I think this songwriting thing goes back even further. Stay tuned for the previous episode. :)