An Interview on Creative Process with Jefferson Ross
Welcome to the newest installment of the Creative Spotlight Series – a series of interviews with inspiring and creative people who share insights into their creative process and work.
I am thrilled to introduce Jefferson Ross, a Southern folk artist who is a songwriter, singer, guitar slinger and painter weaving stories for the ears and the eyes. Based in The Peach State, Jefferson travels throughout the U.S. and Europe performing his original music and displays his art at festivals and galleries across the South.
For years, Jefferson lived in Nashville playing for a number of recording artists including Canada’s Entertainer of the Decade, Terri Clark, and shared the stage with Country Music greats such as George Strait, Toby Keith, Reba and Vince Gill. He worked as a staff writer for a number of publishers on Music Row including Curb Music, one of the top music publishers in the world.
In 2010 he returned to live in Georgia with his wife and daughter and maintains a home and office in Nashville as well. You can find our more about Jefferson at his website www.jeffersonross.com.
Q: When and how did you discover you were creative?
A: I drew ALL the time when I was a kid and people would praise these little scribblings so I continued along with that then started to write stories and later songs. It was always easy to be creative. I was encouraged.
Q: What are your creative outlets/projects?
A: I write a lot of songs and, every couple of years, make them into recorded projects. I actually released two last year; one was a Christmas album that Thomm Jutz and I made as a duo. Also, I paint a lot of folk art depicting old blues and country singers.
Q: Can you describe your creative process for us?
A: Composting. Reading, traveling, mowing the lawn, thinking, piddling, loafing..then letting all of that rest….compost Then, I decide to go to work. Make some art.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: I don't know. How do I make my heart beat? How I make my lungs work? Ideas are just flashes in one's brain. The trick isn't getting an idea. The trick is to write down the ideas and to form them into something that is interesting and moving. Something that is personal and won't bore an audience to tears. I wouldn't worry about trying to get ideas. Just write, write, write, paint, paint, paint, play, play, play…whatever. Working will produce the ideas…not the other way around.
Q: How do you get inspired?
A: By not trying to “get inspired”. That whole idea of getting inspired suggests that you require something outside of yourself to make art. Turn on the faucet. The water can't flow until you do. Activity breeds on activity and not waiting on some outside force to sweep you along to greatness. Humble opinion.
Q: What do you do when you’re not feeling creative?
A: Make art anyway.
Q: Do you have a schedule or routine for creating?
A: I used to be much more structured. I once wrote for publishing companies in Nashville and therefore co-wrote a great deal which, if nothing else, is a good thing because it forces you to create schedules. It's pretty amazing the body of work one can amass if two or three hours of scheduled creative time can be set aside each day.
Q: Do you consider yourself to be a night person, morning person, or something else?
A: I'm sort of a lunch person.
Q: Do you have any creative tips for others?
A: Give yourself permission to suck. Write wildly. Paint sloppily. Then, come back in and edit with a detached perspective. Kill your darlings, as Stephen King has advised.
Q: What artists/creative people inspire you?
A: The ones who seem to be entertaining themselves. Who aren't afraid to appear foolish. A few would be John Prine, Shel Silverstein, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Wolfe…the list goes on and on.
Q: What is your next creative project?
A: Working on a book of southern haiku and photographs.
Q: How do you juggle multiple creative projects?
A: By dropping the ball a lot.
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention – about you, your work, or on the topic of creativity?
A: “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”- Wolfgang Mozart. Love what you do!
“Jefferson Ross music is flannel-warm in the chilled autumn. It is a calling to decency, to chuckling open-mindedness. It is an invitation to art and sound, to words and ideas. It is the world’s greatest dinner party, set somewhere in the dusk of soft Georgia summer, with bootleg preacher Will D. Campbell, impressionist painter Paul Cezanne, and prophet of kindness Martin Luther King, Jr. in smiling attendance. It’s a little bluegrass-y, but it’s not bluegrass. I just like it, that’s all.” – Peter Cooper, Nashville, TN
“Jefferson Ross stands in a small elite circle of songwriters who can take you in and make you a part of the song. Some of his subjects are simple truths, some complex, but all are amazingly insightful and entertaining.“- Ernie Hopseker, Ocean Beach Radio
4 1/2 stars ”Lyrically, Jefferson Ross is a genius but ultimately I think the best quality of his records is that as a singer-songwriter he never forgets about the importance of a decent tune and there are plenty of them on this quality release.“-Duncan Warwick, Country Music People Magazine, UK