Creation is all about new life. Music is all about creation. When we write songs and jam in a progressive way, we are essentially moving forward. We take bold new steps with our guitars, our voices, our pens and papers. As musicians we want to strive for originality and breath fresh life into the sounds and atmospheres we create. Yes we push on through and break down walls and barriers with our music, but as we move forward let us not forget the importance of looking back.
Recently, I've been incorporating autobiographies of some of my favorite musicians into my reading. I just finished Life by Keith Richards. I'm currently reading Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead.
I have been so inspired by the lives, successes, trials and tribulations of these great musicians. Reading how Keith Richards came up with his classic guitar and lyrical hooks that shaped the many hits of the Stones is invaluable to me as a writer. Getting insight from Phil Lesh how the Dead operated, practiced every day for 2 years straight and ran their touring as scene is unbelievable. I mean the stories that these guys have — the lives they led and continue to lead are just amazing.
From reading these books I have found a brand new source of inspiration for my own practice, writing, performance and band leading. Really, the books have given me a renewed energy and a desire to be great, to push myself to new musical heights.
When we listen to records we don’t get a full story. I mean you get the music, you get the words and you feel the performance but when I read these books behind the music, it opens up so much more to me. I feel the lives of those musicians. The roads they travelled. The relationships they had. The commitment to their music and their band and it really makes me feel and understand the music even deeper.
As I gain more knowledge about the inside stories of the bands that have been at the forefront of rock and roll, I learn many ways I can improve and push myself into the future. Shit, I'm going to be 40 this year, and getting ready to record my 12th record, but I feel like I'm a new artist.
Just like listening to the records I love and channeling the energy and music into my own energy and music, I'm finding that I can even channel those stories and techniques I’ve read right into my stage and my guitar. It's powerful stuff.
Looking back. Looking back. Looking back and what do I see... I listen to a lot of music. I listen to new music and I listen to old music. I listen to old blues a lot. People like Bukka White and Lightening Hopkins. I listen to old reggae and dub by Scientist and The Ethiopians. I listen to the Stones and Zep. Jimi Hendrix. I listen to hip-hop from its golden age. Cypress Hill, De La Soul, KRS-ONE. All this music in my collection of vinyl, it's all stacked in old chests. Every record is dope. Pick any one and take a ride. Listen back to the past and take a ride forward.
I've always felt that my parents gave me a solid foundation. Through their stability, love and support they gave me a springboard from which to leap to great success. I feel listening to the right kinds of music can give you that same stability, love and support. The music you've grown up listening to and the music you discover along the way will be the foundation of your own original music. That's why it's so important to constantly check in with your sources as you blaze new trails to new unwritten songs and unplayed grooves. When you go back to the roots of what you do, you reconnect with the sounds that created you. This is power and inspiration. This will help you create new jams.
When we talk about rock and roll, we should really talk about the blues. Name your favorite rock and roll guitarist. I bet that the favorite guitar players of your idol were an old Bluesman from Mississippi. Maybe Robert Johnson, maybe Son House, Fred McDowell, maybe all of them and a lot more. If you love Led Zeppelin, and you aspire to play like Jimmy Page, why not go back and spend some times with the records Page learned from. Go to the source. Go back to the delta blues and learn it. Live it as best you can. Bring those licks you learn into the 21st century.
It's really no mistake that some of the biggest artists of my generation — The Black Keys and Jack White — learned their blues from the source. They looked back to the original recordings and took what they learned into the now. They progressed the blues. It's what I try to do everyday. I listen to the old jams. I learn them. I perform them. I stumble upon forgotten chords, I make new chords up. I get inspired and I write a brand new jam written now for now. That's what we are doing after all right? We are trying to write and perform timeless music that's right on time with the times we are living. Got that?!
So take the time to go back. Make it part of your practice. Make it part of your quest for originality and greatness. Every skyscraper has a deep foundation. The deeper the foundation, the stronger and taller you can build your craft. So set the bar high. Read about those greats and look back while you push forward. But remember, the best is yet to come. Will it be you?! Yes.
Keep jamming and keep it down and dirty.
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.