Inspiration and art always go hand in hand. We all know artists who seem endlessly inventive, always creating something new, always exploring new artistic outlets. Some seem to just effortlessly come up with amazing new ideas, even in their sleep. But everything has to have a source, even something as seemingly innate as artistic creativity. So the question is, how does it happen? Where do the creative among us discover their inspirational sources?
For a professional musician like Griff Washburn, aka Goth Babe, he finds inspiration through his own non-musical life. That is to say, the things he does and the life he leads away from music are what sparks his ideas and creative drive. Griff makes a huge effort to live energetically and joyously as much as he possibly can, and those experiences, in turn, allow him to create new music. Without the non-musical activities, there ironically would be no music.
In Roam Media’s short film, Boundless Episode 4 – Making Music and Climbing with Goth Babe in Oregon, we catch good looks at some of his favorite outdoor pastimes and see how they shape him both as a person and as a musician. Griff describes himself as Musician, Surfer, and Climber. His friends and fans all seem to assume that he’s a musician first, who just does wacky outdoor adventures on the side whenever time allows. But Griff himself does not put music on a stand-alone pedestal – each of his passions has equal billing because none could exist without the others. “I enjoy ALL these things – these are ALL me!” In fact at the moment, he’s trying extra hard to not concentrate too much on his successful music career. As he explains, he’s “trying not to take the music thing too terribly seriously, ’cause I feel that once I do that, I’ll expect too much out of my music career. Stuff is not gonna play out how you want, so trying to just enjoy the ride,” and it’s working out for now at least.
This video finds him heading out toward Mt. Hood for the weekend, with his so-called “crew,” comprising his partner, Cate McCoy, and their dog Sadie. They are a tight-knit group, this crew of three, and he pretty much wouldn’t go anywhere without them. The itinerary for this trip is maybe to do some swimming, then climbing, and hopefully play some music – basically, they will do whatever it takes to have a good time! When you are enjoying your life, then good music can flow naturally from it. He is not out exploring around Mt. Hood for any particular reason or specific goal – it’s just that experience has taught him the importance of simply enjoying life. The music will inevitably follow.
First up, rock climbing! Cate tells us that the “thing I like about rock climbing is how it consumes your entire mind while you’re doing it.” For Griff, a key part of rock climbing is how much mutual trust is involved. You put your life into your partner’s hands, and vice versa. It is a good way to really connect with someone, depending on each other to survive through some intense shared situations. With rock climbing, both partners have something to fully concentrate upon. You get the idea that the more intense the focus on the physical activity, the more the mind is freed up afterward so that creativity can start to happen. In Making Music and Climbing With Goth Babe in Oregon, we see them on a night climb up a nearby precipice, the top of which offers clear views of Mt. Hood, rising serenely in the distance and towering over the dark forest canopy. They climb up one side, enjoy the well-earned views, and then rappel back down the other side, where Sadie is waiting.
Both surfing and climbing are completely immersive and constantly demanding of one’s full attention. It is the sheer intensity of the activities that allows the creative process to switch on later. Without such an all-encompassing and lengthy experience first, the brain would not get that complete break from normal life, which the creative process demands.
Griff and Cate (and Sadie, of course) are out in the forest in their van, which Griff has turned into a complete mobile recording studio. He has guitars and keyboards, alongside some small mixers, monitors, and speakers. There are even different EDM-style lighting options with some lasers and tone-changing ambient light effects. These all help with getting in the mood to switch his concentration to musical composition.
His creative process begins mostly with exploring around on a keyboard or guitar for maybe an hour or so. When he comes across something that sounds catchy or interesting, he hangs on it and puts that line of notes through its paces for a while to see how it holds up. Then, he might embellish it with chords and electronic effects, maybe add some bass and drum lines underneath, and then loop it for a while and see what riffs he can pull off on top of all of it. Contrasting the recent rock climbing with musical creation, Griff explains, “The physical stuff is more like a direct distraction – the musical stuff is such a creative max-out point. You’re totally sucked in.”
As he submerges into a track, ideas occur to him of pulling in additional parts and pieces from other on-going projects and sources, whatever is handy that seems right for the new music. “You find yourself in a different zone, you’ve lost track of the time, there are fireworks going off. I’m like a mad scientist when I’m making music.” Compare this picture with the calm planned control of the climb, and you start to see how the different parts all mesh together.
These creative moments are when the thoughts and inspirations from the previous few days become so valuable. Griff reminds the viewers that he is not a musician first and a person second. He’s the combination of all his activities and interests. “Your full life, from everything you’ve done that week, funnels into your music.” You cannot live a compartmentalized life and expect much in the way of inspiration to naturally flow when there are so many boundaries keeping ideas separated. After all, it would be “really hard to try to write a song about life when you’re not living your own life.”
By keeping music in its proper place alongside his other passions, Griff can be free to experience all the amazing things around him in the world. He has his surfing, biking, climbing, all of which allow him to constantly meet new people, who engage and inspire him in all sorts of ways. And his mobile recording van helps a great deal, too. His imaginative, creative output would be impossible if he had to go into the same recording studio all the time because he would not have a complete life to inspire him. “I think, for me, I just get insanely stoked about endless possibilities. Everything around us is inspirational.” And through experiencing everything around him, Griff can truly be understood as a musician and a surfer and a climber, in any order.
- ROAM asked Griff Washburn Aka Goth Babe to share his top Road Trip songs for your weekend! Check out the ROAM + Goth Babe Road Trip Playlist.
- Watch Goth Babe’s official music video, Imaginationcy.
- Don’t forget to head over to the ROAM Podcast to hear more from Goth Babe.
- IG – @gothbabemusic
- Web – gothbabemusic.com
About ROAM Academy
ROAM exists to inspire, educate, and activate your life of Adventure + Purpose. Founded by the world’s best adventure athletes, photographers, and filmmakers, ROAM brings a new voice, straight from the icons themselves, to the world. Through educational videos, original shows, mini-documentaries, audio experiments, and community events like the annual ROAM Awards, we strive to energize and encourage our audience and members. ROAM’s mission of providing quality storytelling and education is designed to spark something within, creating a simplicity of motion that draws people toward living in the now. Their ultimate goal? To encourage and support everyone in our community to ROAM toward a life of Adventure + Purpose.