Inspiration in the raw
by Thomas Gaffney
(Foothill Ranch, California, USA)
To begin this short story I must let you know that I am not a professional musician, nor have I had any extensive formal music training. I very curious to find out if Genius Songwriting can help me structure my music.
When I was 14 1/2 years old I ran away from home and lived on the streets of Downtown Denver for about two years. In those two, what seemed to be long years, I experimented with so many new things in a certain chaotic order that it woke something up inside of me and I have had it ever since then: a huge need and thirst to constantly express myself through writing poetry and playing music.
I met a group of guys at a coffee shop called Muddy's Cafe who were locals at the cafe and lived in an abandoned warehouse where their band would practice and have huge parties. So, one day I was watching the lead vocalist play his new song on his acoustic guitar. The band filled in with bass, harmony and drums as they let themselves feel the vibe he was creating and it turned into this magical moment where I all of sudden understood a spiritual aspect of making music that I never knew existed.
When they were finished and getting ready to go out for the night, I asked if I could hang back and try the acoustic guitar out. I had never played before, but this connection I made caused an urgency to pick up the guitar for some reason. He was stoked that I asked and let me stay.
I looked at this book he had called "the guitar handbook" and it had a page that showed pictures of where your fingers need to be on the fret board in order to sound a chord. So, I recognized the G chord shape from when I was watching my friend play. I began finger picking that one chord for an hour with just my thumb and my index finger until it sounded tolerable to my own ear. Then, I experimented with moving my middle finger and index finger down to the C and then down to the F and I felt the bass notes change and resonate on to my chest from the back of the guitar and it felt amazing. So I kept messing around with it. By the time my friends game back I had a really nice finger picking pattern with the G chord shape moving up and down the position and I showed them what I learned and told them about the connection I made when they were playing that last acoustic song before they left.
Well, none of them believed me that I had never played before and they started questioning my connection I shared with them. Then, they decided that I had definitely played before and I had already had that little song figured out. I was so hurt and upset and confused. Here I was minding my own business watching them play and this "thing" happens to be and I had the courage to follow the light and see where it lead too. I thought they would be stoked and maybe could help me understand what I just did on the guitar, but instead they were kinda pissed thinking that I was lying to get some attention or something. I was shot down for a while and did not pick up a guitar for a few years.
Finally, the next time I picked up the guitar my little song came back to me and I built and progressed from there. I go through huge mental blocks (like the record long lasting one I'm in now)and it's tough to get that connection going. No matter what...I always start with that first little song, feel the bass notes that are so familiar from that night in the warehouse and if I don't come up with anything new, then at least I still made the connection that found me that one day; and, even though those guys hurt me for it...it's the most inspiring songwriting experience I ever had. It was my first experience, my first song and its so powerful to me that it keeps me connected.
My tip to anyone is this: If you are going through a period of time where you are blocked and cannot muster any original creativity...meditate back to your first experience where music found and chose to connect with you. You may not get your answer right away, but you will be able to be in the moment that changed your life and that is a great place to build anything from.