Jazz maestro Jeremy Monteiro’s new book, a collection of 80 essays, has a distinctly musical rhythm. He returns to a few main themes: his passion for music, the joys and challenges of pursuing a creative profession, and musings on life. Linking these topics is a style that’s freewheeling and improvisational, as if he’s following his thoughts wherever they want to lead him.
Spontaneity, it appears, is pretty important to him—he even declined advance questions for this interview because he didn’t want to sound scripted. We speak to Jeremy on the phone while he’s in Shanghai for a gig, and begin our wholly unscripted conversation by asking if he used music to help set the mood when he was writing the book. “No, I always wrote in complete quiet,” he replies. Since he’s a professional musician, he explains, “it’d be hard for me to have music in the background. I’d pay too much attention to it”.
Music did influence his writing in one way though. When he was younger, “I used to have all these excuses when I was trying to write music”, Jeremy says. “I needed to go to the beach, see the sunset, or have a nice room—all these external things. But I realised eventually that inspiration doesn’t come just because you have these things. You have to go into the room and start the work. Creativity comes out of stillness.”
He applied the same discipline to this writing project, which stemmed from friends encouraging him to turn his Facebook musings into a book. When he wasn’t writing in the deep stillness of the wee hours, he would often steal a few minutes of time in the midst of busy days to tap away on his smartphone.