Monday, July 11, 2011

The Gift of Song Writing

A couple of years ago, Neil Young sat down with Charlie Rose, and it was an unforgettable experience.

I highly recommend checking out the video, but I felt the need to capture the words he used to describe the "gift" of songwriting. I do admire prolific artists...

NEIL YOUNG: I had a guitar, yes. I carry one with me most of the time. CHARLIE ROSE: Because you never know when you are going to be inspired. NEIL YOUNG: You never know, you know. CHARLIE ROSE: That’s the reason you carry it with you? NEIL YOUNG: That’s right. I have to be ready. CHARLIE ROSE: It is an extension of you too. NEIL YOUNG: I have got to be ready. You never know when it is going to happen. And whenever it happens, if I have an idea for a song or something that strikes me -- I would leave right now if I had an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head, because I figure I wouldn’t even be here in the first place if it wasn’t for these ideas, and I owe it to that. So I have a kind of a mentality that I am working for this. This is my boss or something, you know. CHARLIE ROSE: That speaks to you? You don’t know when it will speak to you? NEIL YOUNG: I don’t even know if it is speaking to me. I don’t know what it is. I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t think, you know, that I am special. I don’t think that anything is coming through me or that someone is speaking to me. But suddenly it happens, and I have learned that if I don’t get it, I don’t get it. It’s gone. You know, you have got to get it, and it is a gift. So if you don’t pick up the gift -- if you don’t pick it up, what kind of respect do you have? Where is your -- you know, I mean it is a gift. You know, so you need to accept it. CHARLIE ROSE: So how many times has it happened to you? If you’re out at a dinner, do you get up from the dinner table? You get up... NEIL YOUNG: Countless times. CHARLIE ROSE: Wherever you are, you speak to it, you grab it? NEIL YOUNG: Whatever it is, I will leave and go do that first and then come back and say, I’m sorry, I had to leave. I had something to do. And I may be gone for five minutes, I may gone for two hours, I don’t know. But that is the way it works with me. And sometimes -- most of the time there is nobody around and I am not doing anything. And it strikes me and I will, you know, be alone or something, because I get comfortable when I am kind of by myself, and that’s when I write. If there is other things going on, I don’t write. But sometimes it just comes to you and you can’t ignore it, s

Every summer, my family and I spend some quality time on Cape Cod. We go to the "real Cape Cod," the Outer Cape, a town called Truro. Not much happens here and daily decisions range from swimming in the ocean, bay or pond. However, I'm lucky enough to have made connections with folks that balance a bohemian-homesteader lifestyle with a common-sense livelihood like a shell-fisherman or musician. Its the second vocation that fascinates me.

I hear music all the time. Its really great stuff in my mind. Fully orchestrated and produced, just like a Danny Elfman soundtrack. However, there is no "record" button for the brain, yet. I guess I have been waiting for this technology to hit the market. Yeah, that's my excuse.

Of course, when I meet a composer/performer like Chandler Travis and tell him I write songs too, I realize the need to have more than nine in my quiver. I mean, this dude's got like 400 in the bank. "Well, there's still time for you..." I believe the semi-interested response was. Hey, I'm getting used to embarrassing myself in these situations, but maybe that's the fuel I need to commit to transforming these ideas into ditties. No, they don't need to study the musical theory up the road at Berklee, but they do need to be.

How can I fit my hobbies into a busy life primarily as a father and entrepreneur? It's the same reason why I have become so hostile to simply jamming the night away in a high-end man-cave? It's simply not enough. Recently, James Franco has taken a lot of heat for his sucky performance hosting the Oscars. He even sat down with Playboy (via Huffpo) to explain his disillusionment with the writing. But, take a look at how much this guy does every day to document his experience as an A-Lister. Isn't this the same worthy pursuit of any prolific artist i.e. Neil Young or a writer like Stephen King? All of these folks take their trade very seriously. And, they take the time to share their experience of the process. I appreciate the mentoring. And, hey, I've got an iphone and about twenty different ways to record the music of my mind. Now, I've got eleven.