Michael Hedges hasn't been spending much time in the recording studio in the last year or two. The Northern California guitarist-singer, who created a series of strikingly inventive acoustic guitar albums on Windham Hill in the '80s, has been concentrating lately on other matters.
"I can't get into that whole process of making a record, touring, writing music, making another record, touring, and so forth," says Hedges, who performs tonight at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
"I have to stick 'live' into the mix," he continues. "After I finish a record, I usually have to have a period of breathing time. I'm not into this music thing just because I want to make music. It's because I'm living, and I try to write music that tells about what I've been living."
What he has been living in the past year, for the most part, has been the traveling life. A good portion of last summer was spent touring as an opening act for Crosby, Stills & Nash. At the moment, he's playing a few gigs as a soloist, then will take six months off to work on a new album.
Hedges' last recording, "Taproot," released in 1990, was generated by a fascination with Joseph Campbell's views on mythology. The result was a kind of original legend, conceived by Hedges as a "myth that would help me . . . understand certain things that were happening in my life."
His current interests are focused on a compression of the mythological overview into a personalized inner search. Hedges has been studying a Chinese martial art called chi kung , or "energy exercise," and striving to integrate his music into the other aspects of his life.
"I've been working on a book of my tunes with a friend of mine," he says. "Just for fun, I took a chapter from Bruce Lee's book, and, whenever he said 'martial arts,' I substituted 'music' or 'guitar style,' and wherever he said 'fight,' I said 'concert. ' It was amazing how much good sense it made.
"So that's what I'm interested in, right now, finding out how things are related to one another. It's like people always ask me what guitar player I listen to, and I like to respond that my hobby of sewing has as much to do with my music as listening to other guitar players. Everything's connected. The integration of all these ideas and thoughts is what interests me the most. And I feel that becoming more flexible in my body--which is what I'm doing through yoga and chi kung --is a way to become more flexible in your mind."
Many of these beliefs will underscore the new Hedges album, still in its early stages of formulation, tentatively titled "The Road to Return," and scheduled for release next fall.
Hedges will perform one or two songs from the upcoming album at the Coach House. A few lines from the title track provide a particularly illuminating illustration of the thoughtful creative process which motivates this gifted artist.
Throwing colors to the air, I follow the breeze
Painting a mural of dreams, I'm on the road, the road to return
The more reflection, the more I see
I'll paint my future from memory.
"It doesn't tell a story, like 'Taproot,' " he explains, "but it's related to what I've been doing lately, which is remembering and reflecting. I think of it as an exploration inward. I'm 38, and I see that as the start of my midlife. So, looking backward becomes important, not as a means of living in the past, but as a way of forming my future from all the input I've had so far."
* Michael Hedges plays tonight at 8 at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. $16.50. (714) 496-8930.