Life’s been good to me so far.
I was wondering what I was going to write this month’s column about, when I was blessed with a gift from the King of all Media, Howard Stern.
I will qualify that last statement. I wasn’t given anything in particular, but as I was driving my car from a client’s place, I was fortunate enough to be listening to his interview with Joe Walsh. It was a typical Howard Stern interview, in that it covered everything from sex to addiction, to sex, but with a lot of guitar stuff thrown in there too.
As a quick sidebar, you can say what you will about Howard. Some people say that he’s crass…
But there is one thing that you can’t deny. Howard Stern is one of today’s best interviewers. Somehow he is able to connect with the guest and make them feel so comfortable that they say a lot. Sometimes too much. More often then not, the information that he’s able to extract makes the person seem human and when the audience hears it they can relate to them. This helps to break down the mystique of ‘celebrity’ while still allowing the person’s true talent to shine. And that was the case this time with James Gang – turned Eagle – turned solo artist (turned Eagle again!) guitar player Joe Walsh.
And this was the gift.
The conversation came around to how Joe writes his songs. He explained that about a year after the demise of the James Gang, he was at home mowing his lawn. He had the structure of a song already, but didn’t know what story his lyrics would tell.
As he sat riding his lawn mower and looking up at the base of the Rockies, he let his inner voice go silent and started thinking of words to his song. He was thinking about his old manager of the James Gang, and how he would tell Joe this and that, and change it every day. Joe was happier now than he had been, before he had gone the Rocky Mountain Way.
Just like that, Joe realized that this was the story for the song.
Spent the last year,
Rocky Mountain Way,
Couldn’t get much higher.
Out to pasture
I think it’s safe to say
Time to open fire…
The funny thing is that when this came to Joe, he jumped off his riding mower and ran into the house to write this all down. His lawn mower, content to be free of the rock and roll rider, proceeded to mulch it’s way to the neighbour’s yard, chewing up their lawn and garden in the process.
Sidebar: this part of the story reminds me of the movie Forrest Gump where he runs off his boat in excitement because he sees lieutenant Dan sitting on the dock.
“That’s my boat”.
Perhaps I need to get out a bit more…
OK, as usual, you may be asking me what the heck my point is. Well here I was, looking for a topic, listening to an interview on the radio. I could have tried to force it, over-thinking and wracking my brain trying to figure out what to write, but instead, I shut down and allowed inspiration to find me. I lived completely in the moment and was free of worry. And it worked.
Inspiration comes when you let yourself be open to it. When you get out of your own way. I’ve interviewed a number of people, and listened to hundreds of others who say that their biggest hits came to them really quickly – within 5 or 10 minutes. Most of them say that they’re not sure how they did it, just that they allowed it to happen through them.
Now with all of this said, there is no one out there who will pick up the guitar for the first time and write a hit. Nothing great comes without getting our proverbial ten thousand hours in first. (Unless you’re a Kardashian, in which case all you need is a videocamera and a loose moral code.) But once you’re at the point where you can use some inspiration, let go of the pressure and let the songs find you.
Heck, you can even find greatness while mowing the lawn.
Try it. At my house. Oh, and if you want to write a REALLY good song, you can paint my garage door too.
To find out more about Steve, click HERE