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Playlist for Before the Wind

Playlist for Before the Wind

The final draft of this novel took six wet months. Every day I’d drive into Olympia to a marina. Then I’d walk the docks in the rain to our 40-year-old sailboat. Once inside, I’d turn on the kettle, the heater and the music and begin writing. I played three CDs over and over until they began to feel like the soundtrack for the story.

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11
John Coltrane, Giant Steps

Of these, Miles was the most valuable. He kept me rolling day after day. There’s a beautiful calm to his trumpet and a brilliance to Kind of Blue that practically hypnotizes me into a good writing state.

Rodrigo y Gabriella was my triple espresso when I needed it. The high-speed dueling Spanish guitars in the opening song rarely failed to fire me back up.

Coltrane’s Giant Steps brought discipline. I’ve read how he practiced scales daily even after he was considered a sax virtuoso. Writing novels takes discipline, talent and luck. And discipline is the only one I’ve got any control over. So, when in doubt, I’d put on Coltrane and go back to work.

I usually avoid listening to lyrics while writing, but two couple singers crept into my habits.

Natalie Merchant’s Greatest Hits. I can’t really explain why this album soothes or moves me. I don’t even know what most of her songs are about but there’s something in her confident, patient voice that steadies me.

Tom Waits, Heart of Saturday Night. This album makes me feel like I’m taking a break with a wise drinking buddy. He’s got a few lines in here that dazzle me: “I admit that I ain’t no angel. I admit that I ain’t no saint. I’m selfish and I’m cruel but you’re blind. But if I exorcise my devils, well my angels may leave too. When they leave, they’re so hard to find.” Waits creates more honesty and emotion in a few sentences than many novelists generate in entire books.

One last song for this playlist: High Falls by The Allman Brothers.
It’s a somewhat obscure Allman Brothers song, a beautiful 12-minute piano-centric jam that has no lyrics. I put it on repeat for hours to write the final pages of one of my other novels. I also used it on occasion for Before the Wind.
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