Internationally renowned fingerstyle guitarist Chris Proctor, who lives in Sugar House, said there was a point where he thought touring was getting in the way of his creativity.
"I felt like I was distracted from working on my major epic piece," said Proctor during an interview from home a day before embarking on another tour last month. "I felt like I should be holed up in a cabin in the woods writing and being productive.
"But I found I need the deadlines. They keep me going. They keep me working."
Proctor, a former U.S. National Fingerstyle champion, said he's got notebooks and cassettes filled with bits and pieces of music that pop into his head.
"Unfortunately I am still in the cassette age," he said with a laugh. "But when I get an idea, I turn on the recorder and either speak, sing or play the bit of music that's in my head. I have 10 or 11 cassettes with raw recordings.
"I've got 200 notebooks dating back nearly 20 years with ideas and outlines of songs."
These days, Proctor is using his touring time to help with his creative process.
"Before, I used to fly to locations during tours," he said. "I've cut down on that for a number of reasons and began to drive to (performance) dates. So when I drive, I pop a tape in and listen to it.
"Those tapes are like an ultimate resource for me," he said. "There are some things on them that I have put down years and years ago and don't stand out until I hear them again when I'm driving. They sometimes tickle ideas of beginnings and middles of songs. And then I nudge them along until they become record-ready."
For five years, Proctor has been holding annual concerts in the Salt Lake area. This year he will be performing at Alta's Our Lady of the Snows Chapel.
"I was worried about inclement weather," he said. "But I figured in March, it will be OK. And the chapel is nestled in the mountainside so any avalanche won't get to it."
With nine CDs in his back catalog, Proctor said he does a lot of research when preparing for a tour.
"If I'm playing a place that I haven't been to in a while or before, I usually play some newer songs, not because I need to promote the new album, but because they're fresh. And I do play songs from my 'Under the Influence' CD, because they are cover songs and people are familiar with them.
"But if I'm playing places like Salt Lake, I do try to mix it up a bit. I have requests from people who want to hear early stuff. I've found that I couldn't play them right off. So I go back to them and, in some cases, relearn them again. I have a list that I'm working on to refresh my memory on how they go."
When Proctor goes back to songs he hasn't played in years, there are two different things that go through his mind.
"I find myself either approaching the music as a composer and arranger and change the tempo or count, or I find myself remembering exactly which room I was in when I started writing the song and what emotions I was feeling that made me write the music in the first place. And I remember which guitar I was using."
When Proctor embarks on his tour, he takes two six-string and one 12-string Taylor acoustic guitars."I can tune the two six-strings differently, which makes it easier to switch during a performance and gives me more options concerning which pieces I can play. And since I'm not flying so much, I don't have to worry about the guitar cases being magnets to abuse and theft."
If you go ...
What: Chris Proctor
Where: Our Lady of the Snows Chapel, Alta
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
How much: $5
E-mail: [email protected]