On finding inspiration

I have to admit that some ninety percent of everything I create is stolen.

I’ve heard it said that you are an amalgamation of your five closest friends. You borrow bits from those you meet and recreate yourself as life goes on. Whilst we aren’t born as a pure blank slate (for surely there’s something that exists from the spark of life itself, right?), personality is a learned trait, a series of wavering paths that criss-cross into the human other people see. There are strong influences: boulders in the stream that shift your focus and push you out of the way, but there are also a myriad of others, weak pebbles that slowly wear you down and ease you in new directions. Underneath, a wild cross-current of emotions tints everything with shades of positivity (or negativity, depending on my energy levels).

So if my behaviours are a learned trait, a fusion of mixed messages from the thirty years that underpins my time on earth, my creative output epitomizes this. I’m constantly falling in love with ideas, stealing them and turning phrases that others create into works that I sheepishly call my own. At the heart of it surely that’s all that art is. A reconstruction of ideas. Miles borrowed from classical music and Dylan borrowed from Guthrie and the blues has influenced seemingly everything since 1908. We take the things we love and learn how they work. In the process we dismember them, stringing them out to dry, their innards pulled apart to facilitate greater extrospection. Sometimes these things we love survive the inquisition and live to fight another day, but often the process is enough to kill them. We cultivate the dead corpses and hope that enough tender love and performance craft can birth them back into the world as new compositions. This is how new genres are born.

What have I been stealing from recently? The main influences underpin everything. Nick Drake and Laura Marling and The Tallest Man on Earth are constants. Recently Ali Farka Toure makes an appearance. Van Morrison and Paul Kelly are mainstays, but I struggle to believe anyone would pick it in my music. Mostly though I’ve been borrowing from concepts. I’m struggling through writing a song called the Heat Death of the Universe, a folk expose on man’s need to dwell on the minutiae of life whilst ignoring the larger issues. I’m attempting to write a song for my friends and the scenes they belong in, or wish to belong in, or have been unhappily placed in by wider societal norms. I constantly write songs inspired by students: the drama of the five year old mind is cannon fodder for a three hour set of folk lyricism.

I’m collating ideas and concepts and lines and melodies and songs and free-form late night thoughts into a folder I’m affectionately calling “A Little Wilder”. It’ll be just like “We Were Wild”, but one step farther down the track. I’m planning a solo tour for the second half of the year, and the romantic streak in me has left a blank space of four days up near Dorrigo National Park. I’ve got a little tape recorder and a collection of semi-vintage mics and there’s a chance that I might have enough material ready to put it together into recorded format in the back of a van with the possums and gumtrees for company. Will it be good? Will I enjoy it? Is it something to look forward to? Who knows.

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