For someone who has been around music and musicians most of her life, it’s amazing how much I don’t know. Here’s a (partial) list:
Anything about charts, intervals, structure, amplifiers, cables, pedal tuners, string gauges, theory, and harmony.
Which begs the question (emphasis on begging): with no training, experience, vision, or time, can I think of myself as an outsider? I’m not bipolar like the great Daniel Johnston. I don’t ignore formal rules and convention like the mysterious Jandek. I’m not isolated or particularly unusual. And yet. The mainstream is hardly where I’m headed. I don’t fantasize about a career in music. My tool kit is negligible. And still I want to write songs. Paradoxically, my foundation — 25 years of serious contemplation — is also my Achilles heel. I’m a music critic. I know what’s good and what’s not, or at least what’s good and not good in my book. If I apply my critical faculties to my nascent songwriting efforts I will lose my nerve, if not my mind. So this is the challenge: to allow myself the space to create without judgement. And that is one hell of an exotic destination. When we’re young, we’re allowed – no, expected — to be boldly and baldly green. Not so in midlife. We’re meant to know what we’re doing, where we’re going, and how to get there. The prospect of sitting down with my guitar and letting early, tentative ideas exist in the world for EVEN A MOMENT without instantly banishing them in the name of good taste makes me feel exactly like what I am.