An Insight into Inspiration
Talking Songwriting and Creativity with Timothy J
Inspiration’s a funny thing. Sometimes, it can feel almost unavoidable – as if a thought, idea, or notion chooses you, chases you down, and doesn’t let up until it’s been given shape as a story, a song, or some other tangible form of labour or expression.
Other times, though, it can feel like the exact opposite is true: that you’re the one doing the chasing, doggedly pursuing something, anything that you can pin down and wrestle into some coherent expression of creativity.
When it comes to experience with inspiration, nobody is more well-versed in the subject than singer-songwriters. Just ask Tim Cambridge – lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter behind the alt-rock / Americana music project Timothy J. Together with Daron Schofield (guitar and vocals), Jaret Hunchak (drums and vocals), and Jamie Warren (bass and vocals), Cambridge plays some of the most heartfelt, emotive rock music you’re likely to come across – and with a new, full-length album slated for release on October 15, you can bet he’s more familiar than most with the heady notions of inspiration and creativity. After all, he’s certainly no stranger to the process of writing music – he’s spent more than his fair share of time in the business.
“I’ve been a professional musician for many, many years,” Cambridge related to me lightheartedly as I caught up with him in the weeks leading up to his CD release. “I’ve played in a lot of bands and toured all over Canada. Recently, in the last couple of years, I found that I really gotten back into songwriting. I started writing some songs and was just really enjoying it, with no real expectations of putting out a record or anything like that – I just sort of started doing it. I put together a few songs and did some rough demos and things progressed from there. Before long, we found ourselves in the studio. We recorded a couple of songs and I got a really good response out of it all and so I just carried on. I kept working on tunes and that got me to where I am now, with four singles out now on all the major streaming services and a ten-song record coming out on October 15 – which is honestly sort of hard to believe,” he ends off with a chuckle.
Learning a bit more about Cambridge’s background, though, it isn’t that difficult to believe that he’s got a brand-new ten-song album in the can at all. In fact, it almost starts to feel like an inevitability that he’d find his way toward success within the industry, given how much work he’s done to establish himself in it.
“I started playing music very young,” Cambridge told me when I asked how he’d gotten his start. “I picked up a guitar as a teenager and almost immediately jumped into a band with some of my buddies. We released our first EP when I was 15 years old. We even had a manager back then, and he had this huge vision about what we could do – he actually even got one of our singles played on BBC One! Nothing ever really came of it, but I did get to hear one of my songs on the radio, and I mean, at that point I was hooked. We travelled all around northern Alberta playing at high school dances and things like that, and then as I got older I was able to do the bar thing and sort of had no fixed address for a long while. Back then you’d play somewhere for a few nights, live in the hotel attached to the bar, and then move on to the next venue or town.”
That’s a long time to be playing music – and a long time to be writing songs, too. It was at this point that my conversation with Cambridge found itself steering toward those same topics of creativity and inspiration that this article opened up on. As a singer-songwriter, Cambridge trades in narratives and storytelling, after all – creative endeavours that require no small amount of inspo to breathe life into. Coming up with even a single original piece of music, a compelling story to build a song around – that’s no easy feat. Doing it more than once is even more difficult. And crafting an entire full-length album of songs? Now that’s a truly herculean effort.
I picked Cambridge’s brain about what his songwriting methodology looked like as he built out ten album-worthy tracks for the first Timothy J LP – and as it turns out, the process and story behind each song is as varied and unique as each track itself.
“For me, at least, songwriting is a very difficult process,” Cambridge reflected. “When I think of artists who have like, fifteen, twenty albums out…that just feels crazy,” he laughed. “I find the narrative part of it – being able to tell a story in three minutes – to be very difficult. What it comes down to is that it’s work, and you have to apply yourself accordingly. I have a song called ‘Rescues’ that really came to me out of the blue, just very naturally – but then I’ll go for days and feel like I will literally never write a song again. And then something happens, and you experience a moment in life that inspires you, and there it is! And then you’ve got a song written and you go, ‘How am I ever going to do that again?’ and then it happens again! I never feel like I know exactly where it comes from, except in a very small number of circumstances.
“The song ‘Olive (Don’t Lose Faith)’ is exactly one of those instances,” Cambridge confided with a marked contemplativeness. He warned me that it was a bit of a long story, but I wanted to capture it here in its entirety, because it goes a long way to illuminate just how personal and introspective Cambridge’s songwriting really is.
Timothy J’s new full-length album is now available for listening on your favourite streaming platform. Enjoy it now!