• Was it technology or biology that made me a better songwriter?
These past few years, I have always credited my brain injury with transforming my abilities as a songwriter, but maybe the truth is more prosaic. Maybe instead of a mystical, magical rewiring of my neural circuits I simply got my hands on better gear. Possibly.
I smooshed my cerebellum in early 2006, the same year Apple introduced the first Intel-based Macs. I bought one and overnight working with Pro Tools changed. Before Intel, whenever I added a track I felt like a bomb disposal expert snipping a wire. Would the computer crash? Would I lose what I had been working on? Would I live? But after Intel, I could work without the fear of constant problems and it was so freeing. For the first time in memory I could simply pop open the computer and get to work on a song. No more futzing with buffers and bit depth and sample rate and track count and plug-ins to unfreeze my computer. Nirvana.
As a result, I started to really use Pro Tools, to cut and paste whole sections of a tune as easily as if I were moving text around in word processor, to experiment with multiple guitar parts and tones, to layer up a few more vocal harmonies, to start over if I had to. Most important, I could punch in and out easily, so if a messed up while playing a part, I just backed up, set the marker, set the pre-roll and tried again. If you’ve ever worked with tape, you know that punching in and out was a High Art. The only way to do it very reliably on your own was to invest in a foot pedal, which I never did, but even then, it was an unpredictable adventure. Pro Tools made it mundane and that simple fact, plus cut and paste editing, made all the difference, at least for me. Because I like to get a song down fast, just rough and tough, listen to it, maybe play it in the car for a few days, note the changes I want to make, then do it again. And again. And again until I’m happy, and knowing I could work this way, being freed of the limits of tape, meant that as I worked on songs I no longer had to compete with my gear, cajole it into functioning properly, overcome its quirks not only to finish a song, but also to simply experiment with ideas.
Do I still believe my brain injury played a role in my growth as a songwriter? Absolutely, the biggest. But, contrary to an assertion I made in an earlier
, the gear helped, too.
Which reminds me, I’ve always wanted a...