Inspiration overload

I went to a conference last weekend called Face The Music. It was full of heavyweights from the music industry, ready to discuss the challenges facing music makers. ‘How do I find an audience for my music’? ‘When is the right time for my band to tour the world’? ‘Do I really need to release my album on vinyl’? The biggest question facing me as a musician was, however, not addressed at this seminar: how do I turn all these voice memos I’ve recorded on my IPhone into songs?!

All the guys in my band are facing the same problem. In fact, I’m sure every muso at Face The Music has the same problem. Our IPhones are at full capacity. They’re littered with fragments of Masterpieces recorded on the voice memos app and we can’t delete them until they’re fully realised!

Perhaps the voice memos app was not specifically designed to help songwriters capture their moments of inspiration but it does a failsafe job of it. It brings me great comfort to know that any time I have an idea it can effectively be documented and tucked away in my pocket. By the end of a week though, I’ve got a phone full of recordings of rhythmical train sounds, random lyrics and church bells, all marked for follow up. It’s inspiration overload.

What happened before voice memos? Did musos rush to their akai twin deck when they had an idea? Did they have to quickly seek out a piano and some manuscript? It can’t have been easy without an IPhone. Maybe this is why they wrote great symphonies in the 19th century. They just had to sit down and write (and they didn’t have to face the temptation of a sneaky game of Fruit Ninja in the process).

I want to unburden myself but ‘memos’ are hard to part with. I have no problem with clearing out my email inbox every week. Every now and then I even clean the empty coffee cups out of the back of my car but cleaning out my voice memos is a different beast. After all, there might be platinum award winning song in there somewhere. ‘Memos’ are like lazy middle aged guys at a party talking about getting the band back together. It probably won’t happen but it could.

The solution would appear to be turning ‘memos’ into great songs which, I’ve discovered, often requires more than a morning at a cafe with a leather bound notebook. It can be a torturous process. Inspiration just comes to you but the rest you have to somehow conjure out of nothing. For me, this often involves forcing myself to sit in a room, desperately searching… waiting for another piece of the puzzle.

According to Painter Chuck Close ‘inspiration is for amateurs- the rest of us just show up and get to work’. Perhaps then, only way to unburden myself is to focus more on the writing part and less on the inspiration.

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