In this episode of Creative Guts, co-hosts Laura Harper Lake and Sarah Wrightsman interview musicians Lindsay Garfield and Jon Nolan in front of a live audience at Exeter High School. Lindsay Garfield is a singer, songwriter, and musical educator and founding member of the San Francisco-based country-rock band Or, the Whale. Lindsay spent the last decade performing under the name Paige & The Thousand. She currently writes and performs in the band Tiny Dog Fight, and sings background vocals in Todd Hearon’s Americana outfit. Jon Nolan is the longtime frontman of New England alt-country pioneers Say ZuZu. Jon explores the dreamier, pop-infused parts of his Americana sensibility in his solo material. Lindsay and Jon jam together during Slow Cooker sessions at The Stone Church in Newmarket! In this episode, we’ll talk about their creative childhoods, how they are looking at success, and the themes that appear in their music. In the second half of today’s episode, you’ll hear a sample of Lindsay and Jon’s music. The students at Exeter High School submitted prompts ahead of time and both Lindsay and Jon will explain the process of writing a song about pencils versus pens. Find Lindsay online at www.LindsayGarfieldMusic.com and Instagram at www.Instagram.com/linzred. Find Jon online at www.JonNolan.net and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jonnolannh. This episode was recorded in front of a live audience at Exeter High School with support from the NH State Council on the Arts. Special thank you to our friends at Exeter High School! Listen to this episode wherever you listen to podcasts or on our website www.CreativeGutsPodcast.com. Be friends with us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CreativeGutsPodcast and Instagram at www.Instagram.com/CreativeGutsPodcast. If you love listening, consider making a donation to Creative Guts! Our budget is tiny, so donations of any size make a big difference. Learn more about us and make a tax deductible donation at www.CreativeGutsPodcast.com.
In this episode of Creative Guts, co-hosts Laura Harper Lake and Sarah Wrightsman interview musicians Lindsay Garfield and Jon Nolan in front of a live audience at Exeter High School.
Lindsay Garfield is a singer, songwriter, and musical educator and founding member of the San Francisco-based country-rock band Or, the Whale. Lindsay spent the last decade performing under the name Paige & The Thousand. She currently writes and performs in the band Tiny Dog Fight, and sings background vocals in Todd Hearon’s Americana outfit.
Jon Nolan is the longtime frontman of New England alt-country pioneers Say ZuZu. Jon explores the dreamier, pop-infused parts of his Americana sensibility in his solo material.
Lindsay and Jon jam together during Slow Cooker sessions at The Stone Church in Newmarket!
In this episode, we’ll talk about their creative childhoods, how they are looking at success, and the themes that appear in their music. In the second half of today’s episode, you’ll hear a sample of Lindsay and Jon’s music. The students at Exeter High School submitted prompts ahead of time and both Lindsay and Jon will explain the process of writing a song about pencils versus pens.
Find Lindsay online at www.LindsayGarfieldMusic.com and Instagram at www.Instagram.com/linzred. Find Jon online at www.JonNolan.net and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jonnolannh.
This episode was recorded in front of a live audience at Exeter High School with support from the NH State Council on the Arts. Special thank you to our friends at Exeter High School!
Listen to this episode wherever you listen to podcasts or on our website www.CreativeGutsPodcast.com. Be friends with us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CreativeGutsPodcast and Instagram at www.Instagram.com/CreativeGutsPodcast.
If you love listening, consider making a donation to Creative Guts! Our budget is tiny, so donations of any size make a big difference. Learn more about us and make a tax deductible donation at www.CreativeGutsPodcast.com.
[00:00:00] LHL: I'm Laura Harper Lake.
[00:00:01] SW: And I'm Sarah Wrightsman.
[00:00:03] LHL & SW: And you're listening to Creative Guts.
[00:00:18] SW: Hello, listeners. Thank you for tuning in to Creative Guts.
[00:00:21] LHL: On today's episode, we are live at Exeter High School talking with musicians Lindsay Garfield and Jon Nolan. Both are full-time musicians creating music solo and in collaboration with each other and others.
[00:00:34] SW: The second half of today's episode is going to be a little live sort of workshopping. Jon and Lindsay are going to be sharing with the students in the live audience about their process for writing a song and what that looks like based on some prompts that the students gave them. I will leave that as a surprise for now. We have a lot to cover with Jon and Lindsay in a really short amount of time. Let's get right into this episode of Creative Guts with Lindsay Garfield and Jon Nolan.
[00:01:04] SW: On today's episode of Creative Guts, we're talking with songwriters and musicians Lindsay Garfield and Jon Nolan. Thank you so much for joining us on Creative Guts.
[00:01:13] JN: Yeah. Glad to be here.
[00:01:14] LG: Thanks for having us.
[00:01:15] JN: Yeah.
[00:01:15] LHL: We're so excited to be diving into your creative minds. And for the folks listening to this recording, we are interviewing live at Exeter High School again like we did last year. We're very excited for these Exeter High School students to be part of the recording process. With that, we should dive right in.
We want to get to know you both. Will you introduce yourselves and share a little bit about you as creatives?
[00:01:45] LG: My name is Lindsay Garfield. I'm a singer, songwriter and musical educator from the north shore of Massachusetts. Sorry. But I've spent half my life in California, San Francisco and LA.
[00:01:58] LHL: And now we're lucky enough to have you here.
[00:02:00] LG: Yeah. I'm so excited to be here.
[00:02:02] JN: Yeah. Very lucky. My name is Jon. Just like they said. I am also a singer, songwriter and performer. I live in Newmarket where I have lived for about the last 20 years. And this is my first podcast in front of a live audience. And Lindsay and I get a chance to do a lot of creative collaborating. And so, this is a new one for us. And I think we’ll have some fun. We're really excited to be here. Thank you for having us.
[00:02:27] SW: Yeah. Absolutely. Let's start at the very beginning. We like to go back to our guest's childhood. Tell us about when did you start writing and playing music. And why? What was the impetus?
[00:02:37] LG: I wrote my first song at nine that I can remember. I don't know. It was always kind of in me. I was in little plays going back to kindergarten. I was a very serious kid. It was a song about alcoholism actually. There was no one in my family who was an alcoholic. I think I might have seen something on TV.
[00:02:57] JN: Listening to a lot of Tom Waits records or something?
[00:03:00] LG: No. I mean, I don't know where that came from. But yeah.
[00:03:04] JN: That's awesome. Yeah. I'm just curious. Did you write the plays? Or were you in other people's –
[00:03:08] LG: I was in other people's place.
[00:03:09] LHL: Okay. Because that would have been an additional layer of creativity that we would unearth.
[00:03:13] LG: Yeah.
[00:03:14] JN: Yeah. For me, my folks tell me that, when I was three or four, I would make them turn the radio off when we were driving around so that I could sing. I have no idea what I sang. It was probably awesome though whatever it was I was singing.
[00:03:25] LG: Also, Tom Waits.
[00:03:26] JN: Yeah. But like Lindsay, music was always this thing that kind of just kept my attention and sort of kept drawing me towards it. In fifth grade, I pestered my parents to buy me an acoustic guitar. I wanted to take guitar lessons. And they bought me like the cheapest piece of crap that you could purchase. And some poor UNH college student was my guitar teacher. And just like in regular school, I was a terrible guitar student. But I kept at it. And, yeah, I think it just wouldn't go away. Eventually, you just have to surrender to it or be pestered and haunted by it. And it's a lot more fun to get with pals and create stuff.
[00:04:01] LG: Yeah.
[00:04:02] LHL: I love that. And so, from back then to now, what has your musical style been and how has it maybe evolved over the years?
[00:04:11] JN: I am wholly – you won't hear it in my music online or here today. But I am wholly an 80s pop radio kid. I think a lot of what was on pop rock radio really was the stuff that on the little clock radio next to my bed that would keep me up at night. I would just listen to it. And I loved it.
But when I started playing music, a lot of that stuff was above my skill level. And so, my uncle taught me three chords. I forgot two of them. I wrote a song with one of them. I taught it to my brother and our best friend. And we were a band from 1987 until 2003. We just found some influences and somewhere along the line it just became this – we discovered some Willie Nelson, and some Neil Young and some other lesser known artists Like Uncle Tupelo. And suddenly, it became this sort of roots rock. And Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty and all the things we all know. And it sort of became this rootsy mash. How about you? What was it like?
[00:05:10] LG: I'm a little bit younger than Jon. I was a 90s kid.
[00:05:13] JN: I'm 30. How old are you? Yeah.
[00:05:16] LG: 29.
[00:05:17] JN: Okay. Yeah.
[00:05:18] SW: That kind of joke works on a podcast. Because nobody can see you.
[00:05:21] JN: Yeah. Right.
[00:05:22] LG: We're not 30 and 29. I was a 90s kid. I really liked grunge. I got into like Nirvana, and Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth. And then I also really liked Lilith Fair kind of stuff. Sinead O’Connor. I liked Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan. Female singer, songwriters. I'm Jewish. So, I grew up singing a lot of Jewish music and Hebrew music. And that kind of all sort of got in there and created this nice soup or well from which I drew my songs.
And I've done – I guess I was in a country rock band for a long time. I was in a power pop band. I've dabbled in different genres. My solo stuff is a little bit more folk-oriented. And now I'm kind of delving into 70s R&B. And 70s and 80s singer, songwriters R&B and country and stuff.
[00:06:21] JN: My mom will probably listen to this. So, I should say, too, that whether my brother and I wanted to or not, part of our musical upbringing was harmonizing to World War II era songs. My mom had us captured forced fun. You will sing this. Like, okay. That was part of it too. You won't hear that in my music either.
[00:06:41] SW: It's a pretty big range.
[00:06:42] LG: It is. It is.
[00:06:44] LHL: Are there themes that are reoccurring in your songwriting in music?
[00:06:48] LG: I tend to write about a lot of universal themes. Love, death. A lot of breakup songs. And I've written a couple of love songs but that's more recently, I think. And then I also take from literature, from film, from other songs. Yeah, it kind of runs the gamut. But I try to stay universal. I try not to get too navel-gazy. And I want people to relate to what I'm saying.
[00:07:19] SW: Yeah.
[00:07:20] JN: I navel gaze. No. I mean, I do sometimes, for sure. It relates to some of the things that we'll talk about. It's one of the exciting things about our collaboration too. And I know we're going to talk about some of the ways that we collaborate is sort of being exposed to different friends, processes and stuff.
But in terms of the kinds of songs that I write, I mean, I've written love songs and story songs. This idea of a character just shows up and I just wrote that song. Songs exploring my feelings around every conceivable subject. And sometimes listening to the song you'll know it's about that subject. And other times I'll just put another framework on top so it's not so clear what I'm personally mining emotionally and intellectually. All kinds of songs.
[00:08:08] LG: Yeah. I just recently wrote a love song about fascism. It's really about fascism but it sounds like a breakup song. I'm trying to get layers going.
[00:08:18] SW: Is it easier or harder to write a love song or a breakup song?
[00:08:23] LG: Oh, good question. Breakup song. Oh, 100%.
[00:08:27] SW: Is easier?
[00:08:28] LG: Oh, so much easier.
[00:08:30] JN: Yeah, it is. It is. Right. It's true.
[00:08:31] LG: Because you're like – emotions. You know?
[00:08:34] LHL: And you have more free time because you're not –
[00:08:37] LG: It's true.
[00:08:37] LG: Yeah, that's right. I don't think it's cleared out.
[00:08:42] LHL: In my mid, early 20s, I was single and I'd had a breakup and I could write a bunch. And then I met my partner. And, nope. Not much. I think I wrote one happy song and that was sort of it.
[00:08:52] SW: Yeah. Happy songs, it's harder to make them sound not cheesy. I remember, that was something that they always said about Phil Collins. That his music was good when he was getting a divorce and bad when he was happily married.
[00:09:01] LG: So good. Yeah. I have a friend, Melvern Taylor, who writes the most beautiful and joyous-sounding poppy songs. But when you listen to the lyrics you're like, "Oh, my goodness. Is he all right?"
[00:09:14] LG: Those are the best.
[00:09:14] JN: Yeah. I kind of write those too.
[00:09:17] LG: Deceptively dark songs.
[00:09:19] JN: Yeah. Poppy misery.
[00:09:20] LG: Yeah. Poppy misery. Yeah.
[00:09:24] LHL: You both are solo musicians. And then you also work with other musicians, other bands and then with each other. Can you walk us through all the projects that you're sort of involved with and how you guys work together?
[00:09:37] JN: Sure. Yeah. The group that I alluded to earlier and came up with was a group called Say Zuzu. Sorry about the name. Pretty good band. Hard name to understand. And it was my brother and our best friend. And that was the band that I was in for a long time. And now we've reunited. That was a band that we recorded a whole mess of records and toured all over the United States and even got over to Europe. Made tens upon 20s of dollars doing it. It was awesome.
We also played in a country, straight-up honky-tonk band called Hog Mawl. And I played pedal steel and I wrote some of the songs. But I was a side man in that. And then I've played a lot regionally as me in addition to playing guitar and my friend Kate Redgate's band. And played pedal steel in another indie band. All sorts of things.
And I don't know if you guys have any slow cooker questions. But Lindsay and I do a – we'll talk about that in a little bit. Sort of an ensemble thing that we do once a month at the Stone Church which you guys are all invited to. But we'll talk about that. How about you?
[00:10:32] LG: I think my main project was – it's called Or, The Whale. Also a really strange band name. It's the subtitle for the book Moby Dick. Moby Dick or the Whale. I've never read the book. It was a seven-piece country rock band based out of San Francisco. And we toured for about six years. And we went overseas as well. And most – I think we played in most states. And we made a couple records.
And then I had a solo project called Paige and The Thousand for many years. And I made a couple of EPs under that name. I've been a backup singer in various projects throughout the past two decades. And I currently have a project called Tiny Dog Fight with my partner, music and life partner, Andrew Blowen, who is a local musician formerly of the band One Hand Free.
And Andrew and I also play in Todd Hearon's band. He's a local Americana artist. And I have a project that I just started called Salem Unsung, which is a musical walking tour of Salem, Massachusetts. I used to live there. And we are making a record now. And we do it live in the fall. There'll be more to come in 2024 with Salem Unsung.
[00:11:55] LHL: That's awesome.
[00:11:56] LG: And then I'm part of the band The Slow Cooker Band with Jon here.
[00:11:59] SW: I love all the band names so much. Will you give us the story behind just one of them? Whichever one has the best story of choosing a band name?
[00:12:07] JN: Yeah. Sigh. I don't have any stories that are best. I'll just give you Say Zuzu. Everybody's like, "What is that? Are those English words?" And the answer is yeah. Sort of. There's a Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life.
[00:12:20] LHL: That's what I thought of when I heard the name.
[00:12:22] JN: And the original name was Zuzu's Petals, which was in reference to the rose petals that fall off of Jimmy Stewart's daughter's rose. His daughter is Zuzu.
[00:12:30] LHL [said in Jimmy Stewart impression]: Zuzu's Petals .
[00:12:31] JN: Exactly. Zuzu's Petals. It's a pretty good – man, that's a pretty good imitation. The reason he called her Zuzu in the movie is because Nabisco made ginger snaps that were called Zuzu ginger snaps. And the ad slogan was Say Zuzu to the grocer man. Because you used to call up and you'd have to say what you wanted. And so, their slogan was “make sure to say Zuzu to the grocery man”, which was the name of our first cassette tape. Because I'm old. And I'm not 30. And that was the first thing we put out. Zuzu’s Petals. Say Zuzu to the grocery man. And then here it is. I know it's a long story. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
[00:13:04] SW: It's okay. It's a great story.
[00:13:06] JN: There were five other bands named Zuzu's Petals. And one of them had some college radio success. And the local record store said we are not selling your stuff anymore unless you change your name. It's sort of like a horror movie. Don't go in that room moment of our band's history. We decided to name it Say Zuzu instead of something much easier to explain.
[00:13:26] SW: No. I like Say Zuzu. And I like it better than Zuzu's Petals.
[00:13:29] JN: Thank you. Appreciate it.
[00:13:30] SW: Serendipitous.
[00:13:31] JN: Go on. Go on. You want to say more about how you like it? Yeah? Sorry.
[00:13:36] LG: No. That's great. That's all right. We have a brevity issue.
[00:13:40] JN: That's right.
[00:13:41] LG: Well, I think you should talk about Slow Cooker now. Because that would be a nice lead into that.
[00:13:45] SW: Yeah, let's talk about Slow Cooker.
[00:13:45] LHL: Because you can talk about the name and –
[00:13:48] JN: Absolutely. I think the pandemic was weird. I think we can all agree. And I also think that those sort of common community experiences, whether we think of them that way or not, were so absent. And talking on the phone with lots of friends, especially musical friends, we were all agreeing to never take it for granted when we had the opportunity to be in space together. And growing up, there are a bunch of things that really supported and influenced me in my bandmates' own musical journey including the former Loaf and Ladle here in Exeter used to have folk there all the time. And we would go there. And it was so lovely. And they had such delicious soup and bread. And we'd get soup and bread and we'd listen to these folk artists coming through.
A couple of local folk artists, David Surette and Susie Burke had a wintertime concert series. Anyway, there were these really great associations that I had. And so, Slow Cooker is sort of combining those two things and a few other things. It's centered around soup, bread, music and fun. And that's really the gist.
And so, we're an ensemble. It's me and Lindsay. Her aforementioned partner, Andrew. An amazing keyboard player and very soulful vocalist. My friend, Zach. Trembly on guitar. Jeff Taylor on bass. Rick Habib on drums. And Roland Nicole on pedal steel. We sit in a circle upstairs at the Stone Church.
There's one essential norm. Fun. We need to have fun. And so, everything we do together. We play original and cover music. We sit in a circle so we can enjoy one another and listen to one another. And everybody is welcome to come and hang out while we try and have as much fun as possible. There's no cover. You're welcome to throw some money in the hat. We'd rather have you than your money. Although, money's welcome. And soup bread is there if you'd like to have some of that too. We just wanted to – it's the first Sunday of the month in the wintertime. October through March.
[00:15:29] LG: It's my favorite thing. It's like summer camp. I love it.
[00:15:33] JN: Winter camp.
[00:15:34] LG: Winter camp.
[00:15:35] LHL: And it sounds so cozy and intimate. You see the process of the collaboration between all the musicians. Can you talk more about the collaborative process and maybe what are some of the highlights and some of the challenges of collaborating with others maybe when you have different visions?
[00:15:51] LG: Yeah. You have to let go of – sometimes you have to let go of your vision for something and make space to serve the song. Am I serving the song by taking this 10-minute guitar solo? Probably not. Unless it's like prog rock.
[00:16:09] LHL: Who's to say?
[00:16:10] LG: And I certainly am not serving the song by taking a 10-minute guitar solo. Because I can barely play guitar. Yeah, I think that if you want to collaborate with other people, you can't be precious about what you've made. And you have to let it be what it's going to be. And really, it should be about making connections with your collaborators. Yeah. And serving whatever you're making.
[00:16:35] JN: Yeah. I think what I've come to sort of feel, like check with me again next year, is that it's important for, in collaboration, all the things that Lindsay just said. Yes. High five. I agree. Except for when I realize that it's a bad fit. Sometimes you want different things. It's really important to know who you are. What's important to you? Where to be precious?
Like, "Ah, yeah. Maybe this is for something else." And you can take an idea that has a particular meaning to you and put it on the shelf. Maybe not use it in the particular collaboration that you're engaging in. I've played a lot of gigs where it was a bad fit. That's a different kind of collaboration than the one you're thinking about. It took a lot of getting my backside beat to realize like this is not the gig for me. And so, I don't play those gigs. I play the gigs where it's a good fit.
[00:17:22] LG: Yeah. Right. Where does my skill set meet with yours? And where's that – the Venn diagram. Where's the overlap? Does it make sense for us to collaborate together? Maybe we're too similar.
[00:17:36] JN: Broadly, too, there is no development. Would you agree? I wonder. I'd be surprised if you didn't. There is no acquiring skill and competence without discomfort. You've got to be willing to put yourself out there into situations in order to find out if they're good. Staying on the sidelines until the perfect opportunity appears, it's not a thing in my experience.
[00:17:57] LG: Yeah. Just make stuff. We'll talk about that later. We have a little mini, mini workshop later on. But just start. Just be bad at it. It's okay to be bad when you start. A lot of times, an idea that starts out as a bad idea can turn into a really good idea. Just be open and don't hide what you're doing. It doesn't serve anybody that way.
[00:18:24] SW: Beautiful. Right. There were some good quotable quotes in there. What are the things that you struggle with as a musician?
[00:18:34] LG: Guitar and vocals. Thank you. If you guys could join in and laugh too on these terrible jokes. No.
[00:18:42] LG: Thank you.
[00:18:42] JN: Yeah.
[00:18:45] LG: Pity laughter.
[00:18:45] JN: What do you struggle with?
[00:18:47] LG: Showing up on time on time.
[00:18:48] JN: Showing up on time. Yeah.
[00:18:49] LHL: Live audiences.
[00:18:49] JN: I mean, all the things that I have done to offer you today, friends, are not born of comfort to sort of like echo that line. It is gold ain't lying around. You got to dig for it. A lot of the slides that we'll show you, they're just like little basic, little one-liner ideas. And I think I'll speak for myself. My hope is to expand upon those and have some of those lessons. The ones that are useful to you, they stick around.
The thing I struggle with are ideas get in the way. I'm not good enough. Or it needs to be like this. I have this preconceived idea. The barriers to my own creative process, be it songwriting, or even interpersonally, or even professionally have less to do with music and more to do with just being a person in the world.
It is ideas, beliefs that are impediments to my progress of being like who I am. And in this creative realm, and I'll toss it to you, Lindsay, hear your thoughts on this, there's only one Lindsay Garfield and I am lucky to be her friend. And I am here to support her in being the best Lindsay Garfield.
Slow Cooker, by the way, another thing that we do is risk on purpose. We're never as practiced as we want to be. We all agreed that we're cool with that. And we're just going to let it fly. We're practicing risk in front of people. And I think between that and the circle of us looking at each other, it's not music at you. It's music. And you're welcome to be with us. The barriers for me to the process are really usually in my noggin. And it usually is just get my feet moving and the rest will come.
[00:20:31] LG: Yeah. I tell myself before I go on stage, I'm going to have fun and make mistakes. That has served me. I am a perfectionist but only about music. I've gotten in my own way so much. Now I say I'm going to have fun and make mistakes. And it doesn't make me make more mistakes. It just makes me be okay with the mistakes I do make. And also, what is a mistake when you're singing a song? I mean, is it a mistake if nobody knows it's a mistake, right? A tree falls in the woods.
[00:21:03] JN: We could do a whole podcast on that, right? What is a mistake exactly? I mean, there are mistakes. Don't get me wrong. Like, oatmeal, raisin, cookies instead of chocolate chip is a giant wasted –
[00:21:12] LG: What?
[00:21:14] JN: Anyway –
[00:21:14] SW: No. I second that. Yeah. That was beautiful. It's all about the stories that we tell ourselves. Whether that story is that it's cool to make mistakes or that story is I'm not good enough. It's about those stories that we tell ourselves.
[00:21:26] LHL: And I think one of the things that gets in the way a lot that's sort of wrapped around that is the thought of success, and wanting to succeed and whatever that means, which is different for everybody. For you two, what would you define success as creatives?
[00:21:40] SW: Laura, that was perfect. Because I was also going to skip the next question and go straight to that one.
[00:21:45] LHL: We're in sync.
[00:21:46] SW: Oh, my gosh.
[00:21:48] LG: Success is a lot of things. I used to be, "Oh, I must be a full-time musician." But then I had a taste of that and realized, "Wow, I don't feel good doing that." And my body hurts. My mental health is not okay. It's really hard to pay my rent even if the money did come in the way that we probably wanted it to in the beginning.
[00:22:13] JN: Still do.
[00:22:13] LG: Still do. It wasn't for me. I didn't want to be on the road 200 dates out of the year. I don't like flying anymore. It's not fun. I don't want to be in hotels all the time. Now I think success is having balance in my life. Having enough time for my relationships, self-care and the art that I want to make. And, yeah, I have a job. And that's okay. I like my job. And I get to practice my other skills, other things that I'm good at so that music feels fun. It feels like a refuge. It feels like something I want to do. It doesn't feel like a job. And so, to me, I feel successful.
[00:23:03] JN: It sounds like I relate a lot to the sort of changing definition of success. And I'll start by answering with a question. If success came for you, anyone, how would you know it? What are the things that would let you know that you've succeeded? What then, by the way? And how fleeting is this feeling of success?
A lot of my early sort of aspirations and sort of idea of success was related to how many gigs we were playing. And are we touring? And stuff like that.
[00:23:33] LG: Yeah, stats.
[00:23:33] JN: Right. And, by the way, when you go to Spotify, Or, The Whale has a heck of a lot more monthly listeners than Say Zuzu does. Or even me, Jon Nolan. I have a lowly 40 or something. If that was the metric of success, I would definitely be like curled up in a ball watching Netflix.
I think success for me is unfolding in real-time. And I think, for me, I think the thing that usually feels the best is some version of am I accessing my own joy? Do I feel joyful? I feel – not to get too woo-woo, but I feel myself relaxed and I feel the energy just flows when I take the pressure off back to beliefs and ideas. Success is a real dangerous one. I know Lindsay in her workshop is going to talk about a different dangerous idea. Yeah, we are succeeding. We have succeeded. We will succeed again.
[00:24:24] SW: It's beautiful. We have a question that we like to close out every interview with, which is, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
[00:24:33] JN: This one I'll keep simple. And I'll give it to you. Treat yourself kindly. That's it.
[00:24:40] LG: I wish I knew this in advance. I would have thought of something. Focus on the work. Don't wait for the magic to happen. Create the magic.
[00:24:51] LHL: Well said.
[00:24:52] SW: Be kind to yourself and create the magic. I love it. It's beautiful.
[00:25:00] JN: Speaking of focusing on my joy, one of the things clearly you know by now is I like to just joke around in all places everywhere and sometimes at the expense of the event. But you already know me. I should say I spent a lot of time – I'm going to share some thoughts here. They won't get you rich. But you already know me by looking at this slide, it's a joke. Obviously, it's not "hahaha". But it gave me joy. And I was like I thought about if that joke would get over on you. And then I was like, "It doesn't matter. It kind of made me chuckle last night."
Some of what I'm about to share today is finished and some of it is unfinished, so I can tell you where I would go from here. Let's get into the first slide. And the thoughts that I have are these. Write for effect. Write for effect. Write the songs that come. And whatever you practice, you get good at. Let's talk about the first one.
The first one. I guess, really, if I had one thing to sort of talk to you about, whether it's songwriting, if you aspire to play music, or you want to write a novel, or you want to be a poet, is to write. Start. Right? Get in there. Writing for effect. If I had one thing to give you, actually, it would be this. You're already doing a lot of this. You already are writing for effect.
When you text each other, those texts look and feel different than when your parents text you. Don't they? You relate to one another. Even sharing memes, right? My kids give me, my wife a hard time all the time for using punctuation or using the emojis wrong, et cetera. There's a whole, rich, beautiful, robust way of communicating in text that you're already using.
And so, writing, whether it's at school, or a job that you have now, or some future job, or for something else, writing for effect and choosing your words to put your best shot forward at eliciting the thought that you want is already something that you're doing. That's what I want to tell you. You're already doing a lot of these things. And I think, at least for my part, certainly, or Lindsay's part, we just want to encourage you to do that more.
My influences are like Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. And those guys are a lot of like rich imagery and story songs. And songs are small canvases. You guys are probably writing for word counts, right? Your teacher says give us one page, or two pages, or three pages. And maybe some of that I've always thought is to sort of just get you to write to get the muscle going. But the songs are small. Words count more for those of you writing songs. But, again, just to echo the point I made earlier. Texts. Texts are small. And you can say a lot. You can say a lot with a one-word text. Don't sleep on simple.
All right. This goes back to some of the things I was saying, too. Write the songs that come. I realized that I have started to write a lot of songs. I should say here at this point, too, that I write songs instead of poems, or books, or something because of the way that the music informs the words in the same way that like an Instagram filter changes the colors of an image. It's the same image. And the colors aren't separate from the image. They're all one thing. And I like the way that music does that to words.
But I would start, I would have an idea. Maybe it was a musical idea. Maybe it was a written idea. And I would start to write them and then I would think, "I don't write those kinds of songs." And I would stop. I did that for decades, frankly. A long time. A lot of songs that, if I was lucky, I recorded the base of the idea. Because some of those songs, it turns out, were a lot cooler and a lot better. A lot more interesting.
And actually, the thing that made me stop writing them in retrospect was fear. Fear of growing. Now I have decided as sort of a self-acceptance practice if nothing else to write the songs that come. If there's a song idea, a melody, words, et cetera, that start to come, I'm just going to finish it. Because you know what? I don't have to do anything with it. I don't have to do anything with it. Because whatever you practice, you get good at, is the next one. We'll talk about drafts. Can stay drafts. Let's move to the third point. Or whatever you practice to get good at.
Apparently, I was practicing at stopping writing songs. That's what I was practicing. By accident, I was practicing criticizing myself before I was finished. And now I'm practicing, if I write a crap song, it's not the end of the world. The world will survive. There are plenty, right? I may play one for you in a moment. Let's find out together.
I mean, for real, it's okay. Nobody's really thinking about me all that much. Again, for me, that process is I'm going to write the songs that come to me. Let them exist. Record them. Put them on a shelf. Do nothing with them. Small wins are huge wins. Don't sleep on small wins. Don't. Don't do it.
There's all sorts of nerdy science I can talk to you about. I'm an addictions counselor by day. Washed up rock star by night, I guess. But that has real powerful implications for your life. Small wins are huge wins. Whatever you practice, you get good at. Start and do something. Commit to the smallest thing that you're willing to do. And that's really the last point, is start.
I think I'm already rambling a little too long with apologies. The prompts we were given were plentiful and awesome. And thank you for that. Who came up with pencils versus pens? Are you here?
[00:30:27] LG: Oh, they're not here.
[00:30:28] JN: Hummus was one of them. And I was already trying to figure out how to do like hummus a tune and stuff like that with apologies. I'm glad we didn't pick that one. Somebody's like, "Hey, not like Bob Dylan." You might want to zone out in a minute. And then somebody else was like, "Hey, maybe like Taylor Swift." I'd probably eaten up the time to joke about that. But pencils versus pens.
What we decided we would do is this, that we would each take the same prompt and we would write and then we would show and talk about our process so you could have a sense of how two writers came to the same prompt and did that.
[00:31:00] LG: And we haven't heard each other's songs yet.
[00:31:01] JN: Yeah. That's right. I'll just talk to you about what you're looking at here. You're looking at, obviously, notes from my iPhone. That is the capturing device of choice for most songwriters that I know is their phone. On the left, what you have is the thing that I'm going to sing for you. I gestated on the idea – I just kind of let it simmer. And I came up with my thoughts about it a lot. Every time I drive, I'm thinking. I'm thinking.
And what I wrote on the left was a first pass. And is it amazing? I don't think so. But I liked it. I was like, "All right. Me? Not bad." I just started. I just wanted to riff on imagery around just associations related to pencils and pens in my mind is where I went. And I just started. And I just quickly found a rhyme scheme. I saw it through and then I let it sit. And I put my phone away and I went about my day.
And then I thought, "Okay. Well, that's one way." Right? Sort of coming at it sideways. Coming at it sort of as a brainstorm. And then I decided, "Well, what if I was just going to be real black and white about it and actually write a song about my preference?" And so, I started. I wrote that. That's what you see on the right here is like a little capture of just an idea.
Clearly, I'll take a pen. I thought maybe I would write a straight-ahead song about how people that like pens or pencils are lame. That's my way. If I'm going to come at you straight, it's probably going to be a little jokey, a little sarcastic. And then I sort of was like, "Well, what else?" Pencils are old. Pens are newer. Is it sort of a Red Sox Yankees? Black, white? And so, what you came there was just the start of another song. Sort of I'm a pencil. You're a pen. I'm a novel. You're a – and what I crossed out was I decided to make that rhyme scheme work.
How about I play you some song? Let's do that. All right. Again, I'll tell you what. It might not seem like it but I, just to sort of illuminate the process for you a little bit, this is the part that I was freaked out about. This was not the part that I was freaked out about. I do this a lot. This I do not do a lot. Just so you know, again, I've been like, "Oh, man. Are these slides lame? They might be lame. They're probably lame."
That stuff that I talked to you about, that's what I'm doing. But I'm like, "You know what? Got to get in there. Got to come up with some slides." And so, that's where we're at. Anyway, here's my take on Pencils Versus Pens in the style of me.
"I could sharpen my ideas. Scribble out my thoughts. Use all of the paper, the envelopes I bought. And tell you everything, I think. Smudge all our memories like cake. Just push me right up to the brink. The truth is I've been texting you all along. Pencils versus pens, I can't wait that long in the end. Baby, I've been pushing words right through the air to hit your phone. I wish I was there."
[00:34:37] LG: I could listen to you sing the dictionary and be very happy. My God.
[00:34:39] JN: Oh, thank you. In closing, and I'm going to give it to you, is just to say we were going to write a verse, a pre-chorus and a chorus. And that's what I got. Thanks for having me – let me do that. What you got?
[00:34:51] LG: All right. Talent is a loaded word. Songwriting is a skill, like anything else. It's like I said in the podcast, challenge yourself to just be bad to start. Just be bad at it. It's fine. It doesn't matter. And 10 minutes a day is like the thing for anything. You put in 10 minutes a day, it's about consistency, you're going to get better at it. A bad idea can quickly turn into a good idea. Change or two. Approach the song like an experiment, curiosity, wonder. Don't put pressure on it. It doesn't need to be great. And then see what happens. What could happen if I sit and I try to write a song? Why not?
Where to begin? Active listening. Listen to your favorite artists actively. What does that mean? It means think about patterns. What's the rhyme scheme? What are they repeating and why? And how many times are they repeating it? Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. That makes a great song.
Is the chorus simple and the verse complicated? Or vice versa? Think about the melody structure. Just actively listen to it. And then go back and listen to their influences. The influences of your favorite artists. And listen to those people and go back again and do the same thing for those artists.
Consume other artistic mediums. I always write a song when I go to an art gallery, for example. Dance, poetry, novels, film. Just consume as much art as you can. That will fuel your music. That's it. That's my little mini-presentation for you. I'm going to sing my song now.
[00:36:24] JN: We hadn't heard each other's songs either, by the way. I'm looking forward to this.
[00:36:28] LG: Thank you. I've been working on this song for a month. Because I am a perfectionist to a fault when it comes to this stuff. I actually wrote a love song using pencils versus pens. All right. Here we go.
"Not long ago, the path was just a sketch. Hit a wall, then your course correct. People trying to make me think. Write it confidently in ink. But I was too young for permanent. Although, I can't fully erase all of the bad choices and all of my mistakes. The scribbled page, a holy mess, the pain I caused I must confess. The evidence and grace of different shades. But one thing I know is true, that it all led me to you. So, if I had to choose, I choose to do it all again. So, I'm going to throw away my pencils and write your name in pen. It's looking real good next to mine in a midnight blue fountain. Can't promise you perfection. Just some good love and affection. Going to throw away my pencils and write your name and Pen. I'm going to throw away my pencils and write your name in pen. Write your name in pen. Write your name pen."
Thank you. That's it.
[00:38:25] JN: Yeah. It was our pleasure, you guys. Hopefully, you got something useful out of it.
[00:38:28] LG: Thank you.
[00:38:28] JN: Appreciate you. Thanks for the prompts.
[00:38:31] LG: Yeah. Thank you.
[00:38:35] SW: Thank you both so much.
[00:38:37] JN: Thank you for having us.
[00:38:37] LG: Thank you so much.
[00:38:37] LHL: It's been wonderful speaking with you both. And with that –
[00:38:41] ALL: Show us your creative guts.
[00:38:49] SW: Another huge thank you to Lindsay and Jon for joining us in Creative Guts. Right? Full disclosure for our listeners. We're recording our outro about 2 weeks after we interviewed them. We don't remember everything we talked about.
[00:39:02] LHL: But we remember the fuzzy warm feeling after seeing the interaction and seeing especially their live performances. That was pretty amazing.
[00:39:11] SW: Yes. It was so cool.
[00:39:14] LHL: I really liked how they both took a subject that is just sort of – it sounds very silly and whimsical and they made it about beautiful, really heart-wrenching things.
[00:39:26] SW: Yeah. We didn't have that much time to talk with them. But they did such a good job giving us nice, concise, punchy answers. It was really good. And we managed to fit a lot in. We covered topics. We definitely talked about impostor syndrome, which was fantastic and amazing to hear from two people who are full-time musicians. We talked about the slow low cooker session in New Market at Stone Church, which is super cool. But there were also a bunch of things we didn't get to talk about.
[00:39:51] LHL: I know. It would be lovely to have them both on again in the future, which I think could definitely happen. Because we would love to talk to Jon more about the RPM challenge and his history in being a co-founder of that.
[00:40:05] SW: Yep. Absolutely. Yeah, it was a really fantastic interview.
[00:40:09] LHL: Yeah. Thank you, Lindsay and Jon, for being so vulnerable, especially in front of a live audience, especially in front of high schoolers. It can be a bit of a different audience. And they're wonderful. But it can be intimidating. We appreciate your vulnerability and sharing your craft with us in front of them.
[00:40:27] SW: Yep. Absolutely. High schoolers. You know? I'm going to give you just a couple of links here. If you want to check out Lindsay Garfield's music, it's lindsaygarfieldmusic.com. She's also on Instagram. Her username is Linzred. And then if you want to listen to her former band Paige & The Thousand, it's paigeandthethousand.bandcamp.com/music.
[00:40:53] SW: And if you want to learn more about Jon Nolan, go to jonnolan.net. And you can follow him on Instagram @Jonolannh. And that's Jon. And check out Say Zuzu at sayzuzu.com, the band that Jon is in.
As always, you can find those links and more in the episode description and on our website, creativegutspodcast.com. You will find us on Facebook and Instagram where our handle is Creative Guts Podcast.
A big thank you to Exeter High School, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the Racial Unity Team for making this episode possible.
[00:41:31] SW: If you love listening and want to support Creative Guts, you can make a donation, leave us a review, interact with our content on social media, purchase a merch, whatever you're able to do, we appreciate you.
[00:41:42] LHL: Thank you so much for tuning in. We'll be back next Wednesday with another episode of Creative Guts.