All About Work is up and running again! My summer project is nearly finished, and I will be posting details about it soon.
In addition to working on that project, I’m spending part of my time this year working at a new location, and I get there by taking public transit. To pass the time on those trips, I’m exploring the world of podcasts. A podcast series that I’m really enjoying is Sodajerker, hosted by UK songwriters Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor. Simon and Brian interview other songwriters, and because they are songwriters themselves, the focus of the interviews is on how their guests write songs – definitely not the standard music-celebrity “tell us about your latest album” discussion.
One of my favourite Sodajerker episodes so far is the interview with Brendan Benson. He’s probably best known for being part of the Raconteurs with Jack White, but he’s also released several solo albums, and worked as a co-producer on such wonderful records as Robyn Hitchcock’s 2017 self-titled release. Since Brendan’s songs are so sharp and polished, I was really surprised to hear him say in the Sodajerker interview that his songwriting process is pretty loose – although he’s had to become more disciplined about his writing since he got married and became a father.
But my favourite part of the interview was Brendan’s retelling of the advice he received as a developing artist – namely, that you need to put in the foundational work so that you can do something even better when you’re inspired. And so I leave you (for now) with this immortal piece of advice for creative people: draw the f***ing flower.
I was an apprentice to a sculptor before my music career took off. He was teaching me to paint. I didn’t know if I wanted to paint or play music. I was actually kind of struggling with that decision. And so he taught me, you’re in no position to wait for inspiration or to be inspired. It’s your job to become inspired. In so many words, not his words, it was, I don’t give a sh*t what you say, draw that f***ing flower. He would sit me down and say, draw this flower. And I would say, uh, I’m not really into flowers [laughs], I’m more into, like, people. And he’d be like, shut up, draw the f***ing flower, I don’t care what you’re into. He was teaching me discipline, and that drawing something should be second nature, to you, like breathing. To draw something, to render something shouldn’t be a challenge. So when real inspiration comes, you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the tools, and you can really take advantage of it and really feed upon it.