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Muses and Familiars

Some local musicians to ponder the nature of inspiration, and what conditions help them to meet up with—or stumble upon—their muse

Brian Patneaude

Solo artist, Adrien Cohen Quartet

“I have several saxophones—a soprano, an alto, a tenor, a bari—and while I really love my alto and tenor, I wouldn’t say I’m sentimentally attached to either. Of course as I write this I realize that if anything ever happened to those horns I’d be devastated, so I suppose there is some sort of attachment there. If anything happened to my soprano and bari however, I’d be elated, cash in on my insurance money, and buy some horns that aren’t one step above scrap metal.”

Eric Halder

Charmboy, Guiltless Cult, the Sense Offenders

“It was at Parkway that I came across a gorgeous Gibson SG. I’d played a few of them but something about this one was different. Compared to the other SG’s and Les Pauls I tried out, it played a little nicer, the pickups sounded a bit hotter, the finish was gorgeous and everything was, well, perfect. Money being a little tight at the time, I waited, hoping I could come up with a plan before somebody else discovered this gem. About a week later, I stopped in the store and it was gone! I sulked and continued to make do with my Strat for the time being. No offense to the iconic Stratocaster of course. Fast forward about a month and a half. I woke up Christmas morning to find the firebreathing SG in my living room. My wife Sarah had decided to surprise me by buying it the day after I initially tried it out. I plugged in at home and instantly started playing all these sounds that I’d never produced on a guitar, like the thing was possessed, or I was possessed by it. Call me hokey, but this guitar changed everything!”

Jonathan Cohen

Erftones, Hick Engine Ears

“I usually save major writing campaigns for the winter, the dark and cold usually stir up my creative angst pretty well, and the snow days often provide long stretches of uninterrupted time to work with. You can’t force creativity out of yourself, but can assemble the necessary conditions and hope you get into the right headspace, stay focused and patiently wait for it to start happening. That’s when you are leaping out of bed in the middle of the night with ideas going, things coming quickly and clearly.”

Rich Baldes

The Day Jobs

“If I’m given a small measure of mental space my brain usually finds ways to drift off, and inevitably I begin to work through creative ideas or projects. This happens when I’m out for a walk, mowing the lawn, and when I’m driving. It’s at those times when ideas for songs seem to come to me finished. The chords and lyrics (when they come) seem to coalesce with little or no effort. I have little or no idea why my songwriting is more productive when I’m engaged in activities that have nothing to do with music. I’ll be waiting for the grass to get high, or a long car trip. Then I’ll write my next pop tune.”

Nicole Peyrafitte

Artist, performer

“Inspiration is immersion, total immersion into everyday life here in Albany or back in my native Pyrenees, or wherever I find myself. Life as an instrument to generate songs, paintings, texts, videos, cooking, relationships or dailyness. With harmony—“vertical” aspect—and melody—“horizontal” aspect (it is interesting to note that both words belong to the feminine gender in French) as main tools to interweave a dream catcher activated by the deep resonances of our collective unconscious.”

Matt Durfee

Singer-songwriter, Palatypus

“When I head out for the night, I’m usually a rolling ball of awkward. When I get home and kick myself in the ass for things said or left undone, I pick up my guitar and try to make sense of it. Sometimes this works well. I’ve written a few of my favorite songs on nights that I’ve bombed at a show or blown my chances with the blue-eyed brunette who kept flirting with me. Other nights, I end up with one more bad idea before I go to bed. When I wake up, I’ll take a revisionist look at the inspired.

I’ve discovered that I find my inspiration in almost everything, the mundane and extraordinary, the grin and the grimace. Perhaps the only universal truth of inspiration is that those who answer its call feel strongly enough to create a physical response, a representation of emotion. Or maybe it’s just the strength to keep plowing past obstacles, walking towards your dream, and bumping into your muse.”


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