Name: Taj Weekes  
Members: Simon Armitage, Richard Walters, Patrick Pearson
Occupation: Musician, composer, producer, humanist
Nationality: Saint Lucian
Current release: Taj Weekes's new album Pause is out via Jatta.

If you enjoyed this interview with Taj Weekes and would like to find out more about this world of sonic creativity, visit his official homepage. He is also active on social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.  

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?

An impulse is a motion produced by a starting force, so the starting force is all of the above. The beautiful thing is its unpredictability and timing which I have nothing to do with most of the time, they just happen.

There are however times when the writing is purposeful whenever I want to highlight a particular subject. I however prefer when the song comes from all of the myriad of experiences and encounters that happen from day to day.

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?

There’s hardly ever a visualization of a finished work for me and I think that is the beauty of art or songwriting: its unpredictability.

I’ve always thought that the second line in a song is the most important because that for the most part dictates the third line and the direction of that song. By the third line I kinda have an idea as to where I am going. For me the balance is ever shifting and I prefer it that way.

Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?

If I am writing a purposeful song based on a particular subject or incident then yes I will do the research to make sure my facts or phrases are correct … but there has to be a certain level of artistic freedom added in because after all the song is an abridged version of whatever and all the facts cannot be laid out in a 4 minute song.

I never set out to create early versions, that only happens if the song was not completed in one sitting so it automatically becomes and early version which will be revisited.

There really isn’t a preparation process because when I least expect it, here comes a song.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

No. I am not the kind of songwriter who needs to be on a mountaintop for inspiration or needs coffee or herb or any other stimulus. Songs come whenever they come and I am happy to receive them.

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

First lines are easy, it’s the second line that requires pause.

When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?

In my case lyrics almost all of the time come first, melody is then added in and from there, the melody and the lyrics grow together. Then comes the music but there are times when the entire song happens in the opposite way, music first and melody and lyrics after.

What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?

Sincerity of the lyric. My ambition is to be as true to the art-form as I can. The challenge is in not coming across as proselytizing, pretentious or gimmicky but to carry the message across as simply and as precise as I can

Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?

… it grows and grows until it becomes the song it was intended to be.  

Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

I think the idea is not to turn your songwriting, as difficult as it may be, into an intellectual process. After all it’s a song, not a non-fiction book so I tend to let the song lead and I follow cautiously open minded and musically and melodically behind

Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?

That’s what I call spawning, out of one song many different directions can come. At times I will explore them and at times a spawn is better than the original. I tend to follow but only so far to see if it bares fruit then you save or abandon the idea or ideas. It happens at times with the overall song where after completion the entire beat gets switched from one style to another. It’s art so I tend to give it the space it requires.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?

I don’t know what I would call it but I can tell you that there are times when I am done with a song, I am aware that I was simply the vessel that brought it forward.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

Having written 7 albums you become aware of when to abandon the work. Insecurity leads to endless tampering, though a fair amount of revisits are necessary but insecurities will have you coming back. It’s always easier if you know what you know.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?

It’s important to revisit because the excitement and energy of the day of creating the song might not fit the weight or weightlessness of lyric. Not much refinement but improvement if deemed necessary to fit the vision or the version. One must be careful not to lose the vibe in search of finesse.

What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?

I get completely immersed in the process though I step back and let the professionals do what they were hired to do. I take a very active role in the process because it’s my name that’s attached to this music, the original vision was mine and I want it to represent me in a way I can live with it years later.

The most important part of the entire process however is the song, if the song is good the rest of the process is easier because all you are doing is augmenting a good thing not trying to create something from nothing.

Mastering however is a precise skill that can kill a song if not done right.

After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?

I don’t know if I agree or can relate to that sense of emptiness. I planted, nurtured and grew this project - seeing it to fruition leaves no emptiness but happiness.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Making music cannot be compared to mundane task because music isn’t mundane. There’s an excitement an unpredictability in art, there are surprises in not knowing what comes next or where the song will take you. The finale is always unknown. There is longevity in music.

I don’t know if I can say the same for making a cup of coffee. Almost anyone given precise direction (even though not needed) can completed a mundane task but the same doesn’t apply to music.