Jackson Browne Makes A Lot Of Tea

Jackson Browne, Los Angeles, CA, 1971 | Henry Diltz

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
-Jackson Browne, “For A Dancer”

Former NBA player, now turned writer Paul Shirley, just wrote a fantastic book called “The Process Is The Product.” Readers of this blog know how obsessed I am with process–I believe it’s everything–and Shirley’s book does not disappoint. I highly recommend you reading. In it he recounts the story–also told in the phenomenal documentary, “The History Of The Eagles” where Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey reveals how he finally learned to write songs. In those days, Frey liked to sleep in. He was busy living the “rock star life.” One early morning a teapot– belonging to eventual Eagles collaborator Jackson Browne–whistled in the apartment underneath Frey’s, waking him up. Here’s the excerpt from the book…

Jackson would get up and play the first verse and the first chorus. He’d play it 20 times until he had it just the way he wanted. There’d be silence. I’d hear the teapot go off. It would be quiet for 10 or 20 minutes. I’d hear him play again—second verse. He’d work on that second verse and play it 20 times. Then he’d go back to the top of the song until he was really comfortable with it. And I’m up there going, ‘So that’s how you do it.’

Jackson Browne was already something of a songwriting genius—a precocious one, at that. At 16, he’d written a song made famous by Nico of Velvet Underground fame. At 18, Browne was writing songs for—and playing with—the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Glenn Frey realized that this songwriting success wasn’t happening for Jackson Browne because of luck or by coincidence or thanks to a muse he’d dragged back from the Troubadour. It happened because Jackson Browne had a system that allowed him to access regular periods of focus.

Choose systems over goals.

And love doing the work. For nothing more than the work itself.

Process. Process. Process.

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