It’s like any other meditative practice. Sometimes you have better days than others. Sometimes you can clear your mind. Or like yoga, you know? Sometimes the body is working for you, you can get your breathing right, and sometimes not. It depends upon what’s happening in your life, but it’s your job to be consistent with the practice.
I remember at some point, I thought, “Well, can I at least write one song that’s not really just drawn out of a collaboration?” I just felt like I was taking so much energy from others into my songwriting. I know that’s also me thinking, “Am I exploiting a project if I keep thinking about a subject or a way of composing music and I bring that into my own work from a collaboration? Is that then not mine? Am I not allowed to do that?” Conversation works. It’s sort of boundless in that way and seamless. You can never just decide to stop thinking about something you’re really interested in. I can’t. Many times I’ve taken so much from my collaborators that I’ve written a bunch of my own new stuff because I couldn’t stop thinking about the collaboration, so I just had to keep going with it on my own. I think that’s what collaborations should do. They should bring forth something that you didn’t see in yourself and something you can’t stop thinking about, something that changes you, something that opens you up to something. I haven’t really done much beyond my own work the last few years, so I’ve chosen to sort of focus on collaborating on the performances instead. It’s shifted a bit into being part of my solo work, the collaboration, from being kind of different projects. That’s been really interesting, too. The nature of what it is to collaborate.
I always try to leave the expectations at the door and go for the immediate experience together and be open to see what happens. The only expectation I would have, or try to have, is that I don’t know what’s going to happen.
With collaborators sometimes you continue to work together, and it’s in parallel. Then, there’s always a point of differentiation where you come apart and you stop working together. Sometimes that happens quickly. Sometimes the collaboration lasts a long time, which is a real gift. Like any relationship, you develop over time and form nuance and complexity and history together with those ideas… and on the personal side, too.
But I don’t go out of my way to try and keep things going with people. If it’s naturally working and all of the mundane stuff around it is agreeable, then just follow that flow. There are plenty of collaborations that I thought would be great, but were boring or didn’t work, or we might have a great connection, conversation, and then when we play music together we just can’t synchronize.