you remember that dirt-cheap classical guitar i picked up about a month ago? you wouldn’t think a $149 guitar (and not even a 60-year-old-one at that, but a new $149 guitar) would have much going on. when it comes to modern day guitars, from my experience you generally need to spend somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 before you start to get into the realm of things that are actually good. this thing, meanwhile, costs less than two tanks of gas, and is a laminated, factory-assembled poor man’s version of a poor man’s classical guitar.
i’ve also written at least a dozen new songs on it so far, and recorded two of them, using that guitar instead of swapping it out for something better at the recording stage.
two of these songs have toppled out at over the past few days, at about 6:00 in the morning while my sleep is at its messiest, which normally means i’m at my least productive, musically and otherwise. yesterday, in between brushing my teeth and doing bedtime stuff (as you do when your bedtime is roughly when the sun comes up), i wrote something like a gospel blues song in about five minutes, which is not really like anything i’ve ever written before. today at roughly the same time, again in-between doing before-bed stuff, i wrote a completely different song, and again it came flying out pretty quickly. both of them written on this cheaper-than-cheap classical guitar. the gospel blues song actually features lyrics about jesus and stuff (don’t ask me where that came from…though i was raised roman catholic, i’m not even remotely religious and haven’t been since the age of reason), and i aim to have some fun with building up vocal harmonies and counterpoints when i record it. it was probably inspired on some level by the odetta record travis let me borrow:
when bob dylan is inspired by your music to pawn his electric guitar and amplifier in favour of picking up an acoustic guitar, setting off his own personal musical sea change, you’re obviously doing something pretty impressive. and when you sort of subliminally inspire me to write a gospel blues song, my sleep is obviously a mess and it’s a little after 6:00 in the morning.
the other song is not even remotely gospel blues. i don’t know what it is exactly. it’s musically subdued, but lyrically pretty acidic and fatalistic, and feels like maybe one of the best things i’ve ever written. i’m not sure why. there’s nothing all that complicated going on, and if i had stuck with my original vision for the next album it wouldn’t even make the cut, because there’s no messing with structure or dynamics there. it’s a pretty simple song, but—as is so often the case—it just feels right somehow.
it’s now at the point where at least four or so of those classical guitar songs are probably going to be on the next album. good thing i decided to throw out my original concept and just let the music go wherever it wants to go…in all, there are about 30 songs shortlisted for the album, but only about half of those are going to make the cut. which ones will make it is something that’s still somewhat up in the air, since the whole thing keeps shifting and changing shape as i continue to write more songs for the album. it all comes down to feel in the end. feeeeeeeeel.
i wonder what it is about certain instruments that makes them set off such an outpouring of inspiration and ideas. it’s not limited to guitars—it’s happened with synthesizers, ukuleles, banjos, having a real piano for the first time…at least three or four of my albums wouldn’t even exist if certain synths hadn’t come into my life at specific times. without the 1932 regal and the six-string banjo, CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN as we know it wouldn’t exist either. without the upright piano, the last few albums would be gutted, if not entirely different. it seems like just about any new sound will get the brain to perk up and say, “hey…i’m not used to this! let me see what i can do with it.” and they don’t even have to be good sounds.
maybe it’s the creative imagination’s reward to you/me/itself for being fed new stimulus?
only huey lewis could say for sure. and he’s obviously given it some thought. just look at how furrowed his brow is with concentration:
or maybe he’s about to pound on someone’s windshield with that golf club. break some glass for me, huey! i still have a soft spot for “stuck with you”. it’s the organ’s fault.
in the meantime, the interview concerning travis’ forthcoming album has been postponed until sometime later in the week. i guess that means i can go ahead and fix my sleep, and then get to finishing this album already. vampire johnny, prepare to meet farmhand johnny…of course, you’ve met before. but have you ever really sat down and talked to one another?