by Kathy Sands-Boehmer
If Marblehead, Massachusetts had a mayor, Jim Trick would win that election hands-down. It’s clearly evident that he knows everyone and I mean everyone in town. It’s impossible to walk down the street or eat a meal at any restaurant without people walking up to Jim to shake his hand and say hello. Now that Jim’s been playing more shows and has released his latest CD, Further from the Tree, people are more aware of his music and how special his songs are. Jim’s songs touch the heart, his engaging sense of humor tickles your funny bones, and being around him is an antidote for anything that may be ailing you. Jim’s songs capture the essence of the human condition—there’s something very pure and clear about them. Take a listen. Check out Jim at www.jimtrickmusic.com
Jim took some time to answer these questions recently.
Noise: From what I know about you, you’re quite a guitar aficionado. Maybe there’s another word for it… but you know what sound you like and what you don’t like. Can you tell us about the guitars in your life? You can detail what you started with and what you’ve grown into over time.
Jim: I have a bit of a guitar issue. Kind of an addiction but I do use them for work so I’m okay with it. You won’t see me at any Guitarist Anonymous meetings anytime soon.
My brothers had guitars but I wasn’t really allowed to touch them. I asked my parents for one and my timing was right. My sister had scoliosis and her back brace prohibited her from playing her clarinet. My parents traded her clarinet for a Hondo II, nylon string guitar. I loved it but hated lessons. My father kinda forced me to continue. A fact of which I am now grateful.
My main guitar these days is a guitar built for me by Bill Tippin. He calls it “The Bravado” and describes it as a “medium jumbo.” It has a mahogany back and sides and an adirondack spruce top. When I met the guitar it was literally a raw, mahogany plank. Tippin held it next to my head, tapping it, saying “can you hear that?” I pretended like I heard what he heard thinking if Bill Tippin is that excited then I’m not going to question it. I was terrified to bring it to shows for the longest time and still won’t bring it to fly in dates.
My arsenal includes:
A 1968 Gretsch: Chet Atkins, Country Gentleman
A 1958 Gibson 7-48: Retroed with two p-90’s
A 1962 Gibson Classical
A Fender Stratocaste: It’s a Mexican fat Strat that plays like butter and sounds perfect right out of the box.
Two, matching, first generation Tacoma C1C Chiefs: One of which was completely restored by the great Peter Meyer after it accidentally got smashed.
A Carbon Acoustic, Cargo, which is made completely out of carbon fiber: It’s a great guitar for winter gigs.
A Fender, Gemni acoustic: The first good acoustic I had. My parents got it for me when I was in high school. It will be restored this fall but I most likely won’t tour it.
And then a bunch of assorted ukuleles and miscellaneous other guitars.
Noise: When you compose a song, is any particular guitar the most natural instrument for you to go to for inspiration?
Jim: It totally depends on the season. Right now I’m writing on the Tippin but that Gibson classical has a million songs inside it. I rarely have more than one guitar on stage with me for shows. Sometimes two but not typically.
Having a ton of guitars is really about inspiration for writing. My friend, producer and musical mentor Michael Pritzl, of The Violet Burning, has a very right and wrong approach to instrument choices. A vintage Gibson, for example, is rarely going to get it wrong. An original Gretsch is always going to know more than me. My guitars are my friends and a real friend tells you their secrets. I in turn tell them mine.
Noise: You are one of the most prolific songwriters I know. Lyrics seem to flow out of you. I’ve seen you tapping away on your phone and you come up with a profound set of lyrics. Sometimes it’s just a phrase that gets your imagination going and then you’re off. You must realize that not many people are born with this gift. Have you always been like this or did you cultivate your songwriting aptitude?
Jim: Wow, thanks for that. I have always loved words and have always been more of lyricist than a melody writer though I’m working on it.
One of my favorite films is A River Runs Through It. In it a boy is home schooled by his father who happens to be a Presbyterian minister. Every day his father gives him a writing assignment. As the boy submits drafts throughout the day his father says “Okay, again, half as long.” This cycle continues until the boy has his two pages condensed down to two paragraphs, at which point his father says, “Good! Now throw it away.”
The idea of keeping the work tight is important to me, as is making sure to write for the trash barrel. When I was younger I was very “precious” about my work. Not anymore. Writing with people like Rachel Taylor and Christopher Williams has caused me to take the time to refine and dig more than I used to. Just because singing something feels good, doesn’t mean it is good.
Years ago a group of us started doing a thing we called Song A Day In May. The task of having to write a full song in one day proved that waiting for inspiration is dangerous. The songs are out there whether we are looking for them or not. I choose to look for them.
Noise: In addition to being a performing singer-songwriter, you’re also a life coach. What made you realize that you could offer assistance to others by guiding them on their life journey?
Jim: For most of my life I was morbidly obese. 430 lbs with a size 64 waist at my largest. Engaging in my own transformation caused me to become interested in personal transformation in general.
I did my training with the Coach Training Institute. They’ve been going for decades and only train in person which was important to me. I went on to get certified with the International Coaching Federation. Intense to say the least.
There is still a lot of confusion over what life coaching is. People often think it’s therapy and others think it’s about one person giving advice or telling a client what to do. In reality it’s neither of those things.
Coaching is an exploration of a person’s values. Coaching is about determining where a person wants to grow/ expand and finding the path to that expansion. I have yet to find an area where it isn’t helpful. My training is in what’s known as co-active coaching. In it people are not seen as broken in need of fixing. They are viewed as whole and in countless instances are a handful of honest questions away from what they need in order to shift.
Noise: Do you have any interesting examples of clients who have made major changes in their lives due to having a life coach like you help them?
Jim: It’s incredible, Kathy. In the last three years I’ve been party to people completely transforming their careers, bodies, relationships and perceptions of self. I feel like it’s some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done.
Noise: You’re part of an organization called Banding People Together and you work with executives from many top businesses in the world to help them learn how to work with their employees and you do this by teaching them to write songs. Can you explain a typical session with executives and give us some examples of the outcome?
Jim: Our work is about helping leaders to understand the importance of giving people a voice. When people don’t have a voice, they don’t engage. Disengaged people make poor collaborators. Most companies see collaboration as a team building activity. It not only isn’t, but as long as a company sees collaboration as a team building activity they will never be able to create a truly collaborative environment. Music connects and humanizes people like nothing else. The songwriting piece is about giving them a chance to live out the collaborative methodology we espouse.
To watch a person who has never written a song dive in is truly beautiful. We hold the process as one to be respected and we take it very seriously. What is more beautiful is how our methodology shapes the way leaders interact with the world.
Noise: Who are some of your major songwriting influences? And what is it about their songs that resonate with you?
Jim: When I was about 16 years old I became aware of Bruce Cockburn. He has been a major influence. His virtuosity on the guitar does not get in the way of his lyrics and he covers some very complicated themes without weighing down his listeners.
Neil Finn, of Crowded House, is also someone that I really look up to. His work always feels timeless to me.
I’m inspired by artists like Ellis Paul, Antje Duvekot and John Gorka as well. Not only have their songs become like friends but the careers they have built have been built on their own terms.
Noise: How do you approach your own career? Do you have any career goals set for yourself for the next five or ten years?
Jim: I stopped wrestling for things a long time ago. Insecurity and desperation make artists do unsatisfying things that they ultimately regret. Nothing good has ever happened for me that was not first born out of genuine relationships with people that I actually connect with.
Five years ago I went through a bit of an identity crisis. I had been playing mostly churches and “christian” events even though the majority of my work was not overtly religious. I started to wonder if people liked my songs because they were good or if they really liked them because they fit into a subculture. I spent three years as a street musician in Harvard Square. There were countless times that I would play an event for over a thousand audience members and the next day be set up on the street. One of the first times out a group of Muslim women sat and listened for over an hour. They clapped and bought CDs. I choked up as they walked away.
When it comes to my career a couple of thoughts are ever present. First is that I have to do my work and then surrender the outcome. If I am more concerned with where I want to be than where I currently am, I’m not only going to miss this moment but I’m not going to know it when I get “there.”
Secondly I’m always checking in with why I want what I want. Similar to the coaching thing, an honest check of my motive is always helpful. It’s amazing what happens when your values and motivation start to drive. If my reason for doing music is that I value creativity, attention, influence and travel then my next move is figure out the best way to manifest and engage those values. This way of thinking has expanded and enhanced my perception of what is actually available.
Noise: How do you measure your success?
Jim: I define success as making and keeping commitments. There is no grand finish line we arrive at where we tell ourselves how amazing we are. Sure I set goals but reaching the goal is not the only thing that matters. It’s how I tarry on the road towards the goal that matters. How have I conducted myself? How have I served others on my way there? Have I taken the high road? If I reach my goal but have done it in a way that compromised all that I hold as important, what good is that?
Noise: How do you deal with the ups and downs of the music business? (As Todd Rundgren once said in a song, you lay yourself down in those grooves… Okay, that was back when LPs were the main way to spread your music).
Jim: My downs usually happen when I haven’t really done my best. Didn’t warm up, practice, promote and so on. I suppose like many people I beat myself up a bit when those things happen but not for long.
Grateful people are rarely unhappy. In the end my work is about cultivating gratitude, killing my entitlement and getting out of the way so that the songs get to do their thing.