- Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?
It’s hard to say when the work starts and stops for me. I feel like when you’re a writer, you’re always writing. Everywhere you go, as you walk around living your life (hopefully with eyes and heart wide open) everything you encounter can become fodder for story and song. I always have a stack of books around my house and studio that I use for reference in my writing time. Some of them rotate and some writers just tend to stay with me, timeless like a Bible for my art. This year I’ve been obsessed with Patti Smith’s memoirs, such as Just Kids, M Train and The Year Of The Monkey. In writing my first record I went back to Annie Dillards’ The Writing Life over and over again and the poetry and prose of Wendell Berry. I still keep dog eared copies of their work out and around me when I’m working. I don’t draw material from these writers. What I gain is inspiration.
So, heart direction comes first, then it goes straight to the melody. I’m a big fan of music-first writing. I either start from a melody I’ve had kicking around in my head or a chord progression. Once I find the melody, then the vibe of the melody makes itself known and the words begin to come out. I usually will have an entire song written in with full melody and chords all sussed out within a session. Lyrics come last. I also keep a Google doc of phrases as they come to me and sometimes if I’m stuck or if there’s a phrase I remember particularly loving that I wrote down, I’ll open it up and play with it. But the melody always dictates where the words will go. So then as I’m improvising I begin to uncover the inspiration for the lyrical context for the song, and all those influences from my day to day life, moments I’ve lived, thoughts I’ve had, the beauty I’ve seen, conversations I’ve had, they all culminate into the melody and poetry becomes alive in the lyric. It’s a kind of mystical discipline, I suppose.