Davy Knowles Blog #2: Spark

In the last installment of this blog we looked at how I set about collecting ideas, and a general overview at my slightly haphazard creative process.

But what about the actual ideas themselves? How do they come about?

In the last blog I mentioned jotting musical ideas down in my phone as and when they come about. At this point I must mention that a good 80% of them will be absolute inane babble, completely unfit to be out in public by themselves, and frankly appalling when I wake up the next morning and listen to ‘that exciting idea I thought of at 4am’. There are some things I do to help spark an idea, if there is nothing that really does it for me in my iPhone archive.

The first is to take myself out of my comfort zone. Every guitar player (and I’m sure this must be true for any musician, whatever the instrument) has a go-to lick, or certain chords they lean on. Before I pick up the guitar for the first time that day, I try to think of it, and me, as as a bit of a blank canvas (sounds super cheesy, I know) and consciously make a decision NOT to play my go-to lean-on stuff. Which sounds simple enough in theory, but in practice it is something I do find pretty difficult. Sometimes you are surprised by what pops out with this approach. Almost like you are ambushing the guitar (and your creativity) just to see what reaction you get.

Technology can also be your friend here. Generally speaking, we guitarists are obsessed with gear, much to the amusement of the other members of the band who like to poke fun at the ‘mission control’ setup you have on your pedalboard. Yes, we get made fun of, but it’s still better than being a drummer, right? I kid, I kid…

Sometimes, a new sound is just what you need to set off a creative spark, something that takes you in a different direction, a road you’d normally not walk down. Pedals are amazing for this. A great sound can really alter the style of the song you are writing. Dial in a ton of reverb and a big glob of delay, and suddenly you have this lush soundscape to play with. Put an octave and fuzz on your guitar and try to summon your best Jack White impression.

Here’s a good example of this approach working for me. I wrote a tune for my new album (coming out soon, hopefully! Excuse the shameless plug…) because I dialed in a nice slap echo sound using a really twangy guitar (a Danelectro with those cool ‘lipstick’ pickups). That sound sparked a riff, I went digging in my notebook and found some lyrics for a Jack Kerouac style song (I’d just finished reading ‘On The Road’). That cool slapback guitar sound made me think of late ’50s Americana and rock n’roll, and the constant movement of that riff made me think of the constant movement in Kerouac’s book. They all worked together. I set about filling in the gaps for the new song, ‘Catch The Moon And Run’. Now, don’t ask me where that title comes from. It just sounds nice, and makes me feel like I am in a Kerouac novel. You don’t have to justify every word, and it doesn’t always have to make absolute sense!

How many more times must I run
Catch that greyhound, have my fun
City to City, day after day
See all that’s worrying me
Just fade away

How many more times
Until I’m done
Everybody telling me
To catch the moon and run

I’ve been living in San Francsico
We hear those jazz bands
Wherever we go
Tall tales, white lies
Don’t mean a thing on a hot summer night

How many more times
Until I’m done
Everybody telling me
To catch the moon and run

Back home in New York City
Ain’t an ounce of love left in me
But I’ll keep waiting, for that call
To pack my bags
And move out the door

How many more times
Until I’m done
Everybody telling me
To catch the moon and run

– Davy Knowles

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2 Responses to “Davy Knowles Blog #2: Spark”

  1. Rusty Fingers says:

    Aaaah, your blog makes me want to write a song (never wrote a song before).
    But first I need to get some new pedals to set off that creative spark… 😉

  2. Alison Gude says:

    Davy:

    I’m glad you published the lyrics to “Catch the Moon.” I could have sworn you were singing: “I was living in San Francisco, see those Giants fans wherever we go.” Ah well. Thank you.

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