The open road has influenced singer/songwriters for ages. We talked with Beth Bombara – one of the musicians featured in our Making Tracks video series – about what the connection between traveling and songwriting means to her.
Tell us about your music background – how did you get started?
Growing up, there were always instruments in the house — an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano and eventually a drum set. Music has been something I’ve always gravitated toward ever since I can remember. Living in Michigan, then moving to Missouri, exposed me to many different types of music, from Detroit rock to Ozark folk to American roots. Ever since I was old enough to drive, I’ve been loading up the car and hitting the road with bands, but in the past few years put more focus on writing and performing my own songs.What is your songwriting process?It seems like songs have always come to me in fits and starts, but these days, I'm a lot more intentional with my songwriting. I try to write whether or not I feel particularly inspired. Usually, the start of a song will come to me when I’m not focusing on it. For example, I have a lot of song ideas come to me when I’m driving or walking. From there, it’s a more focused effort to finish writing it. Ultimately, songwriting is like getting lost — getting lost in a feeling, getting lost in an idea and following it wherever it leads.
How does travel change or influence that process?
There’s something about being out of my element and experiencing new things that is essential for songwriting. If I stay in the same place for too long, I find myself in a rut. The spontaneous element of travel is a big influence on my songwriting. You’re always meeting new people and taking in new places, which is a huge source of inspiration.How does the relationship between music and travel come to life for you?For me, playing music is synonymous with travel. I believe the best way to share songs is in a live setting, and doing that means I have to travel to new audiences all the time. You can listen to my songs on the internet, but it’s a very different thing to experience songs live.
What have been your favorite places to travel for inspiration?
This past year, it’s been all about landscapes — mountains and the desert. Drives through Montana, Northern California and the Southwest (Tucson, Arizona) are at the top of my list.Are there any cities you’ve played that surprised you?The first time I ever played in Missoula, Montana — wow, what a cool place. It’s so far away from everything, but there is a lot going on there, and it’s such a gorgeous place. There’s a reason people call it Big Sky Country.
What is one of your favorite stories from performing on the road?
We were driving from Portland, Oregon, to Sacramento, California, and we decided to stop and do a hike before our show in Sacramento. We were really excited about climbing to the top of the Castle Crags. It was a pretty intense mountain hike, and when we were almost to the top, we realized we’d lost track of time and were going to be late to our gig. So we had to turn around and run all the way down the mountain. We made it to the gig just in the nick of time!Talk to us about this project with Enterprise.
What attracted you to the concept, and what did you experience on your journey?
I’d never done anything like this before. The songwriting challenge, and the prospect of travel — well, I jumped at the opportunity. We stopped in spots I’d never been to before and learned new things. We stopped in Benton, Illinois, where George Harrison came to visit. There is a plaque in town commemorating the event and naming George the first Beatle in America. He played in a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) hall in nearby Eldorado. Only about six months later, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” rose to No. 1 on the U.S. charts, sparking “Beatlemania.”