Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci recently visited the Raleigh Music Academy for an interview with Paul Warren about songwriting, musicality and more. You can now watch the discussion below.
Speaking about finding inspiration on the road and trying to write music while on tour, Petrucci said: “There’s a couple of different things. As far as playing the show and performing, whether the show is the same or changing slightly, I never lose the excitement of that experience — I’m always so looking forward to that moment; it’s the best part of the day. And the challenge of being able to try to play better than you did the night before and looking out and seeing new people — they’re there for the first time and it’s a new experience for them, so you wanna make it special. So that feeling of performing never gets old — it’s always inspiring.
“But as far as being creative while travelling, while being on the road, a couple of different things happen,” he continued. “Oftentimes at soundchecks, we will just start jamming on an idea — maybe somebody had something that they wanted to share — ‘Hey, guys, check this out’ — or something happens organically and we just start to play, and we always have it recorded; we’re always recoding and we archive that stuff. And then we’ll go back when we go in to write a record, we’ll look at that library of ideas and say, ‘Remember, we were jamming on this in Seoul, Korea. What was that idea?’ and we’ll look back [and say], ‘That’s really cool.’ So we’ll have these ideas that we collect. That’s as a group, we do that. As far as writing individually, it depends on when it hits you. A lot of times I’ll be backstage warming up and I’ll start to play something, and [I’ll think], ‘Hey, that’s a pretty cool idea,’ and immediately, I have my iPhone there and I just put it down right away. So I have my own collection of ideas.“
Petrucci added: “I’ve done this out of necessity where I had to get some sort of project done and I’m in my hotel room on days off with headphones and a computer and trying to get something demoed, but it’s less of that and more of just capturing these little snippets, little moments of inspiration. Like, ‘That was a really cool riff. That’ll be awesome.’ You don’t wanna forget it. And a lot of that stuff ends up being the inspiration for a song or a part, and so that’s how a lot of the creativity happens. So it’s less recording actual usable tracks and more of just getting ideas down. I find the travel and the daily schedules a little bit too hectic. I know there are guys that are really comfortable doing that and have their laptop and an interface and they can do a whole solo album [on the road]. I wish I was one of those guys. [Laughs] But, yeah, it’s more just like laying down little seeds.“