This is not a professional music studio. Four guitars, a violin, a red bass guitar, a used drum set, a beat up trumpet, a black saxophone, various Latin percussion instruments, two amps, microphones, and numerous cords decorate what once was a family room. Spencer Healey sits, playing a red Epiphone Humingbird acoustic guitar, iPad opened to a songwriter’s app. His wife comes in, kisses his neck and leaves the room. She knows he writes best when he’s alone. It’s not that he doesn’t welcome the company, in fact she’s the inspiration for the song he’s writing, but the creative process of song writing is not a public affair.
Spencer’s been writing songs for his band Shades of Brown for six months now, but he’s been writing songs in his head and in his heart for years. Music is a constant fixture in his brain, making it so silence is never really silence at all for him. His wife Katie learned months before that he doesn’t like to share his music before it’s completely ready for performance. “He’s kind of anal about it actually.” she says. Spencer relates it to cake baking.
“Nobody can hear unfinished elements of my work. It needs to be heard all together as a complete piece, otherwise it won’t make sense. Think of it like this: what if I walked into the kitchen while Katie was baking a cake and started tasting all the separate ingredients? I eat a handful of flour here, a bit of raw egg and some baking powder. That would taste nasty! But the end result, once all the ingredients are mixed together and baked, can be delicious. It’s the same with song writing.”
In the studio, Spencer creates what he feels. His band is rehearsing their set for an upcoming show. They are playing a song called “Black Strokes”, a song about friends who get lost along the way because of bad life choices. Spencer’s younger sister Chase is the lead singer for the band and is belting out an emotional vocal cadenza. The power of the song is conveyed and as the last note plays the band members all nod in approval. When the band is in the studio, the rest of the world gets shut out to avoid distractions. The interesting thing though, is that when the songs are performed well, elements of Spencer’s world are brought into the room.
Spencer draws his inspiration from his life. He’s a husband, the oldest of five children, a son, an uncle, a teacher, a student, and a friend. Each role is important to him and his music reflects those individual roles. Songs like “Run the Risk” and “Break my Fall” are inspired by the love of his life, his wife Katie. Other songs such as “At the Edge of Identity” are about his sisters. Each song is a piece of his life. Every word is full of meaning, at least for him.
Inspiration for songs have come from everywhere. He says that the song “Crash Landing” came from hearing the word crash several times in the same day. On the way to his classes at Utah Valley University there was a crash on the freeway. A Kanye West song on his playlist mentioned the word crash. Later in the day someone talking about a young couple who were breaking up said that the relationship had “…crashed and burned.”
“I’ve read that music is a direct route to the heart. What better way for me to express myself than through that medium?” Spencer recalls the first song he ever wrote. Written for his wife’s brother Andy, who died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 25, the song was a result of Spencer’s need to show Katie’s family how he felt. It wasn’t until almost a year later that he actually played the song for the family. The song titled “Last Night” tells the story of Andy’s last night with the family. “It’s my tribute to him. He’s been sorely missed, Katie still misses him so much. I hope they feel what I felt when I wrote it. I hope Andy would like it.”
From the mundane to the traumatic, Spencer’s life experiences write his songs for him. At 24 years old he still has a lot of life to live and more music to share.
*Author’s note: Spencer’s first name is used on second reference to make the piece feel more intimate. Sorry AP Style.