“We’re conditioned to think that we have to write something either accessible or brilliant. The people who didn’t fall into that trap just wrote music that came naturally to them; they were in touch with their inspiration. And it’s inside of everybody, but it can be covered up by fear. My advice to anybody would be this: Take a moment and think that it doesn’t matter what you write, because it’s going to fail anyway. Write what you want as long as it feels natural to you. Surrender to the fact that you don’t know what’s gonna happen, and that’s OK.
“It’s very freeing, actually. It can take this whole load off. For some people, they might discover that they have no desire to do this if it doesn’t make them famous. And guess what? They’re not songwriters. They’ve been chasing a fantasy that their ego constructed. But if you go to people like Bob Dylan or Tom Waits, people you and I have talked about a great deal, they didn’t have a choice and they didn’t think about it.
“I’ve been listening to Bob and to his inspirations. On his first record he wrote the song about Woody Guthrie [Song To Woody]. He probably didn’t care if it was gonna work or not, but that’s the proof that true inspiration comes from a space of non-expectation. It’s just enthusiasm for the idea.”
And isn’t it interesting how he went from emulating, to a large degree, Woody Guthrie on that first album to Masters Of War a year later – or Blonde On Blonde just a few years later. Talk about discovery!
“Absolutely. And even when he was writing the older stuff, there was this beautiful, youthful angst to it. There was anger about the system, there was heartbreak – all the things that people are attracted to. It’s a cathartic process that people go through if they’re really committed to something. Listen to Tom Waits –The Heart Of Saturday Night to Bone Machine? It’s like, ‘What the fuck, man?’ [Laughs] Or Steve Vai – the guy who wrote Flex-Able and his next record is Passion And Warfare. Where did that come from?”
What happened to that guy?
“Yeah, I don’t know! Poor guy.” [Laughs]
We should, of course, talk about some of the great guitarists who are participating in the camp.
“That part of it’s going to be great. First off, we’ve got Vernon Reid. He’s been a friend of mine for years. I toured with him on the Experience Hendrix tour. He’s such a visceral, very inspired musician, totally fearless. Vernon's amazing.
“And then we have Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, whom I’ve known for a while. It’s funny: Everybody knows that he’s got various arms in the government and does all these things [laughs], but he’s always had a deep love and passion for the guitar. He’s like a pioneer of guitar goodwill.
“Finally, we have Guthrie Govan, who these days is a sensation as far as technique on the instrument. I watch this guy and I’m fascinated. He’s very intelligent, very sweet, very kind and soft and just naturally inspired. It’s so great that all these guys are doing this. They’ll be teaching during the day, and at night we’ll have a jam. I’ll be playing with whoever is the designated teacher that day – along with campers, and I’ll have my band there. As far as throwing your pick in and having a blast with the guitar, there’ll be a lot of stuff going on.”