I drove to the mountains west of Denver yesterday and went for an afternoon hike. One of the advantages of living in Denver is that I can go from being in the middle of the city to a mountain trail in 45 minutes. I took a cd I had made of musical ideas and listened to it on the car stereo while driving into the mountains. Sometimes I'll sit with a guitar--electric or acoustic--and noodle around. I always record those noodlings--or I do now--I've lost so many good ideas because I didn't record them. When I collect about 20 of them, I'll burn them to a cd. Nothing fancy; in fact, very crude. Then I'll listen to them later, and see if any of them might be a good match for some lyrical ideas I've written.
Anyway... I was listening to some of those while driving to the mountain. One I had come up with 2 years ago, I started singing a melody--la-la's and nonsense, and started getting some lyrical ideas. The stuff started flowing out, and reminded me of a lyrical concept I had a couple years ago. It's weird; if I'm sitting at a desk with a pen and paper, this doesn't happen. I have to be moving. Even though I'm sitting while driving a car, for some reason, I get ideas while driving that I would never get sitting at home. It's not very efficient; I have to sing these ideas into a mini-cassette recorder, and then transcribe them to paper when I get home. I wish I could get the same ideas sitting at my desk at home, but unfortunately, it doesn't work that way for me, I have to be moving.
Once I got to the trailhead and parked my car, I started hiking. I get a lot of ideas hiking. I bring my notebooks and song folders with me in my backpack. If I don't want to stop hiking I use the mini-cassette recorder (that's old technology, I know; if I wanted to be modern I'd use a microphone with an ipod).
I jog 4-5 days a week to try and keep the fat off. I get ideas jogging. That's the worst--can't bring a notebook and pen while jogging, and can't really bring the mini-cassette recorder either. I have to hope I remember the ideas when I get home.
I wrote the chorus to "Invisible Prison" while hiking, and the verses while jogging. The chorus to "When They Go" came to me while walking around the neighborhood on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon. The melody to "The Screwup Song" came while jogging. The lyrical concept behind "Let it Go" came while driving (no surprise, given the second verse). A considerable part of the lyrical development of "A Special Request" came while hiking. Guess that explains why I don't get as much songwriting done in the winter...