Finding your inner fourteen-year-old

A songwriter who doesn't write songs

Eclectic Music was founded in the Fall of 2001. I moved to Atlanta in January 2002 and hit the ground running, trying to build my business before I ran out of savings. I took a job waiting tables for a little bit, but I was teaching full-time by June, on my own and as a contractor at a couple of schools.

By 2006 I was fully on my own, and then in July 2007 I brought on additional teachers. That's also about the last time I wrote a song. Well, I wrote one last one after the Red Sox won the World Series that fall. But since then, nothin'.

Songwriting has always been a huge part of my life and my identity, and for me to not write even one song for two-and-a-half years is a really big deal. What happened?

It's not like I haven't been feeling creative. But a lot of that creativity (and a lot of my time) has gone into my business. Eclectic Music, as much as I love it, is a lot like an evil vampire baby.

For some people, running a school would be enough. However, I've always believed that my teaching must be balanced by attention to my own musicianship. These days, I feel very strongly that my challenging left-brain work as an administrator must be balanced by joyful, challenging right-brain work as an artist. So, I gotta get back on the musical horse somehow.


Sitting on the end of your bed

Adult students often have trouble building momentum due to a lack of time and a lack of self-confidence. I tell them the same thing I'm telling myself now: you have to put yourself back to age fourteen or fifteen, before you got your driver's license, before you and your friends were up to anything cool, and well before you had a job, bills, and a stupid incessantly buzzing BlackBerry.

"More Guitar" (detail) by Michael McGillImagine sitting on the end of your bed, back at your childhood home, with a guitar in your lap, just playing the hell out of that thing. There you are for hours upon hours, muscling through the physical pain and the lack of any clue what you are doing, with brazen, cocksure determination. "Of course I can do this. Keith Richards/Johnny Ramone/Kurt Cobain/Billie Joe Armstrong/Jack White/Taylor Swift can do this."

Now, sitting on the end of your current bed or piano bench or whatever, put yourself in that same place, even if you only have ten minutes. Find your inner fourteen-year-old, and you will start to silence all the inner noise about how you're too old and you have more important things you should be doing.

If you are fourteen (or younger), you only have to silence your phone and log out of Facebook, and you'll be in the zone.



Obviously, this all works better if you give it hours, not minutes. This will not be possible or practical for everyone, but for me right now it's a must. This week I'm on Spring Break, so once I'm in the right place emotionally, I'm going to do what I did in high school and dive in completely: musical immersion.

My goal is to have four three-hour sessions this week. It's okay with me if my songwriting dry spell continues during this period - I just want to build up a little momentum. I want to get back to that place - that delicious, timeless Eden - where music was on my mind constantly and it was all that mattered to me. I feel that way when I hear a great song or play drums with The Omnivores, but it's not often enough to create the momentum to create.

If, each day, I could taste a little more of that freedom and expansiveness offered me by my inner fourteen-year-old, I might have the emotional energy to get through the pile of emails that is no doubt piling up as I write this. Or I might not even bother, and not care, and just go write a song.

"Sweet Little Sixteen, she's got the grown-up blues.
Tight dresses an' lipstick, she's sportin' high-heel shoes.
Oh, but tomorrow mornin' she'll have to change her trend.
And be sweet sixteen an' back in class again."

-Chuck Berry