It is quite common these days to hear people talking about the creative process. Anyone from graphic designers to app designers legitimately use the phrase to describe what it takes to be successful at what they do. But a long-time area of fascination for me has been the creative process that goes into making timeless music. And when that process is done in the context of a group of people – a band – it’s nothing short of amazing.


I’m immensely honored to be able to present you with this conversation I recorded with Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. formerly of the bands Jellyfish and Imperial Drag. He’s been one of the songwriters I’ve respected the most and I was thrilled to have this chat with him. You’ll hear Roger describe what’s going on under the surface of the creative process for most artists as well as his description of the path he’s walked to become an in-demand musician who’s requested to play on albums for well-known artists and unknown hopefuls alike.


Topics Featured In This Episode:


  • [2:31] The first instrument Roger learned to play – from pots and pans to today
  • [5:18] Hearing all kinds of music and expanding his musical horizons
  • [9:10] Roger’s first jazz lessons and instruction
  • [11:51] Trying to write a song and the drive to become a better songwriter
  • [16:35] Roger’s self-education in experimenting with musical palettes (arranging)
  • [24:40] Did Roger know he was creating something special on past albums?
  • [36:40] The pain behind the creative process for many artists, including him
  • [46:55] Artists Roger would love to play with


Writing songs that endure: The goal of every songwriter


When Roger speaks about songwriting, his eyes instantly light up. You can tell that it’s a topic that still captivates him 30 years after the formation of his first band, Jellyfish. As he recounts the first time he tried to write an original song of his own, he admits that it was amateur and awful. He was embarrassed even to ask for constructive criticism. But that didn’t deter him from trying again. Something inside told him that he’d have to fail a lot to find success, and he was willing to put in his reps.


Fast forward to today and the music he created with his Jellyfish bandmates are some of the most timeless songs I know. The heart and soul of the music and the way it connects with the human condition are testaments to the benefit of all those years of hard work. In this conversation, Roger shares openly about his journey into music across the years, and to a deeper knowledge of himself as an artist and a human being. I hope you take the time to listen.


What do AC/DC and the Beatles have in common? Outstanding musical arrangements


One of the most fascinating parts of the conversation I had with Roger about his creative process had to do with the issue of arranging. You’ll hear me bring up AC/DC as an example of straightforward rock and roll, and the comment set Roger up to educate me on the intricacies and nuances of arranging songs in ways that connect with listeners on a deep level. We walk through the styles of the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and more as Roger uncovers the details behind what makes a song truly good. It was a delightful journey I’d go on again anytime.


At the time, did Roger realize he was making timeless music?


Roger is quick to say that during the creative process you never know if what you’re after is even going to materialize, much less whether or not it’s going to become one of those timeless melodies that connect with people across generations (Think, “Yesterday” by the Beatles). It’s a process of discovery, one that takes the songwriter and artists as much by surprise as it does anyone else.


But he also says that sometimes, after you’ve finished a song project, you just know it’s right, it’s the way it’s supposed to be. There’s a sense of finality and confidence that flow out of the process and into the way you feel about it after it’s done. Listen to hear Roger explain it as only a skilled and experienced songwriter can.


Timeless songs connect with people on a deeper level


The songs that endure are the ones that connect with us deeply. They speak to our experience, providing us an opportunity to hear an expression that represents what we would have said – or written – if we could have. If you’ve ever heard a song that made you feel that way, you know what I mean.


I find Roger’s music to be those kinds of songs for me. They guide me along my journey, helping me to express my own thoughts and feelings about the pains and joys I’ve experienced along the way. He’s one of the musical greats I have long looked up to and this conversation was something I’ll never forget. I hope you listen.


Connect with Roger Joseph Manning


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