I have always admired the songwriter who can sit down at any given time and write a brilliant tune. Paul McCartney is that way, as is Carole King. They head to the office, plop down at their desk, and see how many hits they can write that day. A pretty amazing skill, and one that I unfortunately do not possess. In fact, almost every time I sit down with the intention of writing a new song, I draw a complete blank. On the other hand, I’m the type of writer that channels songs from some unknown world or collective unconscious; melodies tend to just appear in my head from time to time, and then I run with them and see where they take me. Unfortunately, my life as an independent musician includes too many an hour spent in front of a computer sending emails and invites to Facebook events, and if there was ever a way to block a channel to some creative unconscious, Facebook is it.
That said, I generally find a few weeks of each year to escape to a place where I have no Internet, no distractions, and the creative floodgates can consistently remain open. This past year that place was Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. While I took a huge amount of inspiration from just being in a new place and having no computer or smart phone access, I knew I needed to really explore this place if I was going to unlock the good stuff.
One day I decided to hop on a local bus and just ride it for a couple hours to see where it took me. About halfway into the adventure I noticed a restaurant we were passing called Rosalita’s. Instantly the name triggered a melody and line in my head: “I will wait here, for you my dear Rosalita. And here I’ll stand, before you a man, Rosalita.” Unfortunately I didn’t have my guitar or my portable recorder with me, and I began to fear that I would lose something great by the time I got back to where I was staying. I quickly realized, however, that while I didn’t have any data access on my smart phone, I still had it with me, and it came outfitted with a digital recorder. So quickly I began singing into my phone on the bus, attempting to capture what had just come into my head.
Apparently I was also singing rather boisterously (hey, buses are loud, right?), for when I finished and looked up, almost everyone on the bus had stopped talking and were staring at me. I never did figure out if it was a “is this guy famous?” stare, or a “is this guy insane?” stare.
I would be lying if I said that the song didn’t end up being about an old love, but the inspiration for it certainly came from a place that I never would have expected. I personally think that’s what can really make a song unique, and why I’ll never be able to head to the office, sit down at my desk, and write my next hit. For the purpose of this story, let’s pretend that I already have a few hits.