What's your songwriting process like?
There are two approaches I generally take, from opposite ends of the spectrum. Many of my songs are narrative or character based, and so I keep a notebook of people, places, snippets of stories---particular phrases that strike me---and piece them together. Recently, I've been working my way through a fantastic book which explores the history of the world in objects, and only what can be learned from those objects directly, a great lesson in interpretation. Simultaneously, I keep a batch of musical ideas on hand, guitar riffs, melodies, rhythms, and try to fill those out or piece them together. The final step, of course, is pairing them together, or adjusting. For instance, I may have a certain melody in mind, but then when placed with a certain lyrical idea, it will shift around slights, or the instrumentation will change drastically, to better fit. Stories and sounds, sounds and scenes.
In terms of music, most of my slide work is heavily influenced by Hill Country blues---a very unique style that has its own way of sliding all around. For songwriting, artists like Randy Newman and JJ Cale always impress me with their clever turns and lyrical fills. It's always vital to depict a scene or moment specifically, and avoid generalizations---and that holds true for both lyrical content and the sounds of the instruments on the song. For instance, all of the sounds on Sheryl Crow's first album are incredible, no two songs sound the same, and the guitar sounds (or percussion sounds) used for hooks, from the opening track, are unique and ear catching. Production at its finest.
I always play a three string cigar box guitar and four string oil-can guitar during our sets, and I was invited to take part as an Artist-in-Residence at Liberty Arts Magnet in Lima, Ohio, teaching students how to play cigar box guitars that they built themselves. That whole organization is incredible, and should be copied everywhere---each year they bring in an artist (not just music---visual arts, sculpting, the rotate), to work with students a week in the fall and a week in the spring. All of the funding for the program comes from the blues festival in Lima, Pickle's Blues Extravaganza---all organized and dreamed up by the one and only Pickle himself. Working with students, the most important thing for me is always to gauge what level of playing their comfortable with, and base my instruction on that. The best moments are when they grasp a concept at a certain level, and then intuitively jump to the next thing before I even expect them to (or faster than I myself would!). Cheers to trying new things.
Low-budget necessity, what else! No, there's a funny story behind that--I was hoping to do some kind of barroom brawl scene, but that was looking a little unreasonable to pull off, I thought using some kind of stock footage would be one option. My girlfriend (much to her credit, she's usually a step ahead of me) suggested a samurai version (which would have been cool), but, it turns out there's somewhat of a shortage in public domain samurai movies. So, a western seemed like a logical branch off of that idea and then...a western featuring midgets? Suits the song perfectly. I watched "Tiny Town" a few times in its entirety and took notes on what scenes might fit where in the song, but boy, I never imagined it would work out so perfectly, once edited.