Yes, this is another post about collaboration. I know, I know, many of you like to fly solo and your creative juices seem to flow only when you’re alone. But even those of you who write novels on a mountaintop must have an editor, an agent, a publisher, a place to sell your book and someone to set up a reading for you. No author is an island, no matter how much a loner they may be when writing the original script.
Even Leigh and I, two of the most independent minds I know, will often collaborate when it comes to songwriting. I believe we should probably give the Atlanta “alterna-grass” band, Roxie Watson, the credit for inspiring Leigh Wilkerson to take time out from gardening to write a song now and then. She loves music; especially old time, blue grass, blues, and the original country that is difficult to find anywhere. So writing with a member of the Roxie band proved natural for both of us. We just love the kind of music they love to play.
When my good and gifted friend, Lenny Lasater, one of the founders of Roxie Watson, comes to call a couple of times a year, we sit around with her bass guitar, pens and paper and lots of laughter and scrawl some lines until we have a song we hope the rest of the band will like. Sometimes we write lyrics here at home and send them along to Lenny and see what she does with them.
Here is how our process usually works: Leigh is walking around her garden or driving in the car and is struck by a line that she thinks would be good in a song. This is called a “hook.” This is the most important line of the song, of course. She pretty much thinks her work is done, then, and I am left writing verses and choruses that suit the hook. Well, someone has to do the rest, and I don’t mind. We send the lyrics to Lenny, who usually adds or subtracts a little, finds a tune and tries it out on the band. Then the band adds their magic through the strings of their many musical instruments and talented voices, and voila, a song is born!
The sheer wonder of making a song with folks when you live over 600 miles distant is part of the joy of collaboration. Their success is our success. When they celebrate a good song, we celebrate, too. Every concert they play is music to our ears. This is the main reason I believe in collaborating with our creativity. It brings us together over the miles. It unites our world into something joyful and has naught to do with war or politics. Collaboration is one of the reasons I say creativity can save us.
Following this post, you’ll see the lyrics we wrote for Lenny for her birthday one year. It is now the second song on their new CD, Of Milestones and Moonpies. We love the driving beat Lenny invented with her bass guitar. That dirty harmonica playing in the background takes you to an old roadhouse off a dirt road in the deep South back when the music just happened spontaneously and, yes, in collaboration with whoever showed up to play. Go to their site and purchase their CD or download some of the music. It leaves you feeling alive deep down in your roots. No kidding.
And later, after you’ve listened to what collaboration can do, get together with a few of your friends and make something happen: a play, a song, a documentary. The fun is in the process. Working out the knots and tangles teaches us how to get along with each other in a world that seems intent on ruling out compromise as a way of accomplishing a common goal. Collaboration teaches us that the outcome is more important than the individual ego and, believe me, that is a lesson we can all use.
—Mendy Knott is a writer, poet and author of the poetry collection A Little Lazarus (Half Acre Press, 2010). To order your copy of A Little Lazarus directly from the author, please click here. Or, if cookbooks are more your style, get a copy of Mendy’s family cookbook Across the Arklatex at www.twopoets.us.