INSPIRATION IS SPONTANEOUS

Every artist, from the future star to the superstar, has a story of supreme inspiration. The clearest, most powerful musical ideas can appear from out of nowhere, erupt like volcanoes from the deepest reaches of our creativity and make us feel like the greatest musicians on earth. But, there’s a flipside: behind every story of euphoric inspiration is a story of unsettling anxiety.

Many of these stories of inspiration were collected through our “Inspiration is Spontaneous” contest. Congratulations to contest winner Marshall Brence who won a BackTrack™ + Mic, a battery-powered Micro Spider™ amplifier and lots of other great prizes from Line 6!

When I was in college, I played in a rock band named Mansion. My family farmed in western Oklahoma where I spent my summers riding a tractor singing and writing songs. If I got a good melody or song in my head, I would sing it over and over until I got back around to the truck and then write it down.

One day, I had a really good song going in my head when, all of a sudden, two tornadoes dropped down within a quarter mile of me. I stopped the tractor and crawled into a ditch and watched as they split and went around me. As I was getting up, a huge hail storm hit. I got under the tractor to keep from getting beat to death. All the while I was still singing this song out loud.

When the hail stopped, I headed to the barn in a rainstorm, still singing. I didn't have any paper so I wrote the words to “The Storm” on my soaking wet T-shirt. The song turned out to be a crowd favorite for the next two years!

--Marshall B., grand-prize winner - Oklahoma


I was jamming in the high school cafeteria with my old band, the Kickstands. After about half an hour of having a good ol' jam session, it happened.

Chris, the rhythm guitarist had been fiddling with his amp when one of those rare combinations of the perfect tone and a powerful, spontaneous riff cut through our rendition of “Traveling Riverside Blues”. Stunned, we all stopped, followed by Chris who had a look of complete shock and amazement on his face. He broke the silence saying in a low voice, "We need to record this."

The problem was that we were in a high school cafeteria, an hour after school had ended, and the nearest tape recorder was at my house, a 30-minute drive away. We pondered for a bit about how we'd get it done when I had an idea which seems more and more ludicrous to me as time goes by.

"Why don't we record in the library?" I asked. I was greeted by puzzled looking faces, so I quickly set forth my logic. "There're computers up there, so we hook up the soundboard to the line-in jack, download and install Audacity®, and record?"  No one seemed to have any better ideas, so we quickly took all of our equipment upstairs to the library, logged onto the yearbook user account, and set up.

We had a bunch of mics but no mic stands. This seemed to be a problem until we noticed the chandeliers, one of which was hanging directly above the drum kit. We tied some of the mics to the stands of the snare, hi hat, and the leg of the floor tom, and hung one from the chandelier.

After a frenzied five minute set up we were all plugged in, Audacity was running, the drummer set the tempo by clicking his sticks, and the rest is history. Nearly four years later, that's still the best un-dubbed take I've ever done, and is one of the best spontaneously written pieces I've ever had the honor of collaborating on.

--Dylan N., first runner-up - Virginia


I was staying at a friend’s house for the night. There had been quite a few people over and there was a lot of drinking and smoking cigarettes going on. As I sat there laughing and having fun, inspiration made itself known to me.

I searched around and gathered as many cigarette butts and beer bottle caps as I could. I also nabbed some candy from my friend’s candy dish. I used the cigarette butts to make a sort of step sequencer: 4 butts per measure with 4 measures. Then I used the bottle caps to represent the kick and the candies for the various other drum sounds, removing a cigarette butt as I placed each item. I must have sat there for hours while everyone else had passed out. Needless to say, I memorized the beat and once I was home it was easily transferred into my machines and a happy day was had by all. :D

--Joe G. - Kentucky


I always get struck with song ideas while driving and I always forget them by the time I get home. Once, when I came up with a great song, the only thing I could think to do was to call my house phone and sing and hum into the answering machine. It took about three calls because it kept timing out on me, but it worked. Recently, inspiration struck while on the New Jersey beach with my family. I didn't have a phone so I had to borrow a stranger’s phone and pretend it was an emergency. Well, to me, it was an emergency.

--Kevin S. - Pennsylvania


Line 6 Artist Story...

The Smiths had recorded "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby" as a single and the next day we needed to record the B-sides. We had already written one, which was to be called "London," and the other was a mystery to both Morrissey and myself so we had to come up with something immediately. We told the other guys we needed to talk about something and made our way outside the room.

There was a little stairway in the hallway and the first thing I played was the intro from what was to become "Half A Person". I have no idea where that riff came from—it was pulled from out of nowhere. The next thing I know, I'm playing the chords for the verse straight-off and Morrissey is humming the melody like it was always there. When we got to the end of the verse, we went straight into the chorus without stopping and the entire song unfolded without me having to stop to think. It was just amazing that the vocal melody unfolded along with the music totally spontaneously and completely. That's how in synch we were—we were both pulling separate things out of the air at the same time.

--Johnny Marr (Modest Mouse, The Smiths)


One day I was in the shower, singing to myself as usual, and inspiration struck. I am a fairly forgetful person so I knew that if I got out, dried up, ran to the PC and started setting up to record something, I would've lost my ideas. So I used a bit of my music knowledge to write out the notes I was humming in the condensation on the tub wall. When I was done, I left the water running to keep the wall nice and condensed. I got out, grabbed a camera and took a picture of my score. Then I finished showering, dried up, went to my computer, set up to record, and popped in my memory stick to view my score. It was very hard to see but I managed to see enough to get the idea back and record it.

--Justin M - New York


Line 6 Artist Story...

I had a girlfriend that I always knew was going to leave me. I always told her I would be “the greatest fan of her life”. That’s how it happened.

--Edwin McCain describes the inspiration behind the lyrics of his song, “I’ll Be.”


One time, in the middle of a college final exam for my second year of Physics, I started humming a melody in my head. It was simple enough, so I didn't let it distract me. Then, my brain started adding a rhythm track to it. I started hearing drum intros and fills. The melody started morphing a little bit and then I found a perfect transition into a bridge and chorus. I realized I was on to something. Now, having just that week come up with and lost a brilliant idea (why are all lost ideas brilliant?) I didn't want to let this one go. 

I took out a pen and scratched a sort of relative-position diagram of the melody on my hand with some production notes concerning when and how the rhythm guitars come in, drum patterns and some chicken-scratch about the bridge. (I didn't have any paper as all scratch paper was included with the exam.)

I then set about finishing the exam. It was then that I realized if the professor happened to look at my hand, he would think I had some cheat notes. I can't even begin to imagine how he would interpret the cryptic hieroglyphics scrawled across my palm and fingers. I spent the rest of the hour simultaneously finishing the test and keeping my hand hidden from everyone's view. After the exam, I ran back to the dorm and set about interpreting the scribbles on my hand.

I did manage to get a B in the class but the song went nowhere, so make of that what you will. I guess the moral is, “Kids, stay in school!”

--Derek S. - South Carolina


I work at a music store, so naturally I am surrounded by the sounds of guitars, drums and keyboards all day. Sometimes this leads me to spontaneous moments of creativity.

I was ringing up customers and humming to myself when I got a GREAT riff idea in my head. I tried desperately to keep it in my mind and away from the mixing sounds of my music store. I hummed and hummed until I was through ringing up customers and I could escape to the sales floor where I found a customer that was looking to get some recording gear. "Perfect" I thought to myself.

I hooked up to a Line 6 TonePort® in our store’s demo computer. I walked through how to use the gear all the while still humming the song to myself. I was able to get the riff down on the computer and save it before it was lost to the mix and madness of the store. Now the riff belongs to one of my favorite songs. Thanks to my TonePort, it was saved!!!

--Michael R. - Washington


I was in the middle of a fight with my ex-wife and was struck with the idea for a song about her. It came so quick and strong that I couldn't wait. I told her to stop for a minute and I would be back to fight some more as soon as I did something.

She stayed in the living room dumbfounded while I went to my music room only to discover that my best friend had borrowed my 4 track recorder. Plus, he had taken my only microphone, as well. All I had was the VCR that I used to watch movies in my music room when my wife was watching her soaps.

I was desperate, so I plugged my acoustic guitar's magnetic soundhole pickup into the VCR’s red RCA plug and rigged my headphones as a microphone into the white RCA plug. Then I took a tape of old General Hospital episodes and recorded my new song over it while monitoring the whole debacle through my 12" mini TV, writing lyrics and music as I went along. The whole fiasco took about 15 minutes to accomplish. I wrote the song and recorded a (very rough) demo at the same time.

I went out to the living room to finish the fight and my wife asked what I had been doing. I told her I had just written a song about what a b@%&h she was and she didn't want to fight anymore. She just wanted to hear the song, which to this day is her favorite song I ever wrote.

--Daron K. - Kansas


Line 6 Artist Story...

In the past, I’ve had to resort to many inventive ways of capturing those ideas that come at times when you’re least expecting it. I literally have a drawer full of hand-held cassette tape recorders that I’ve picked up from Walgreens and Wal-Marts across America just for that purpose. My current method is to use my cell phone, my BlackBerry, which has a function that allows you to record and send voice notes. When inspiration strikes, I click Record on the voice-note icon, capture a riff, and then instead of sending it to anyone, I keep it saved in my Outbox to listen to later on.

--Tom Gabel (Against Me!)


After playing an exceptionally good set, a young lady caught my eye and one thing led to another, if you know what I mean. While getting to know her better, the melody line came to me. But what could I do? Kick this beautiful girl out of my bed so I could run over to the small studio I have in a spare room? That would be rude, not to mention foolish, given the quality of the "conversation" we were having.

So I did what any other musician would do in this situation. I told her my wife was due home any second and as she ran out the door carrying more clothing then she was wearing, I picked up my cell phone and called myself and sang the verses into my voicemail.

--Bobby S. - California


There was a girl I'd met through some mutual friends. We'd emailed a few times but never met in person until one morning on a ski slope. My first thought was, "Out of my league!" The rest of the day sort of confirmed that as I hardly got a chance to talk to her and, when I did, I thought I picked up an uncomfortable vibe from her. I went home a little dejected.

The next morning I was driving in my car, reflecting on everything, when some lyrics and a little melody got in my head. Panicked that I would forget it, I grabbed the closest thing at hand, a little digital recorder that I just happened to have with me that morning. Well, three years later, I've had the opportunity to share the song with her more than once. Did I mention we were married about a year after that morning on the ski slope?

--David M. - California


Well, I was at a family reunion at a local park. I was pushing the kids on swings that squeaked. The swings squeaking in different rhythms started putting guitar ideas in my head. I had nothing to write with and nothing to record ideas with so I grabbed a stick and started jotting down music notes in the dirt. Kept pushing the kids to feed the inspiration. Even passing traffic gave me ideas for changes in the song.

After I had jotted down what I needed, I grabbed my wife’s cell phone and took pictures of it. As soon as I got home, I uploaded the pics and started recording my ideas. Turned out to be a fairly decent song and I’m glad I was able to capture and record it because, in the past, I have had ideas that got lost before I got home.

--Josh L. - Indiana


Line 6 Artist Story...

When I wrote “The Patience Bossa” for Perry Farrell and Deborah Harry, it was based on this image in my head of Perry as a kid. I figured he was the type who could never sit still. Turns out I was right. Then, putting Deborah in it was a no-brainer since she had to be the type of girl who was always calming everyone else down. Again, the vision was correct. That’s why the song starts out with Deborah saying “Hey, settle down…” Before I knew it, Gary Oldman was directing the music video for the song, with Perry riding around on a tricycle in a white satin suit.

--Tor Hyams (producer)