The Songwriting Process

I sometimes get asked about how I write songs. Where does the initial impulse come from ? It can include a photo, or a fragment of text that keeps going round and round until it lands on the right rhythm, which then has to be transcribed quickly, as it can be fleeting. Or a short musical phrase  or chord progression. It can even be my impression of a person I have seen in real life, who becomes the inspiration for the story. 

I recently finished and recorded a song called Love is a Restless Heart, where one of the characters is a " lonely jazz boy" who plays guitar and sings, then falls in love with the wrong girl. But the inspiration for this character came from seeing a bass player at the Paris Cat Jazz Club. He is  a very fine musician, and didn't even play guitar ! But he had a kind of energy that spoke to something in my imagination. 

When people say " I feel a song coming on" -- that isn't just a cliche. It's a visceral, emotional and intellectual response that drives the creative impulse, and won't rest  ( or let me rest ) until it is given musical form, with notes, chords, words, imagery, etc. This process can take days, or weeks, or even months, until the creative impulse is finally satisfied. 

Or is it ever really finished ? 

1 comment

  • Elena
    Elena Sydney
    I think it can be really hard to say, that's it! This is finished, I could keep tinkering with it, but it's time to send it out into the world. The perceived danger is that someone will spot imperfections that could have been smoothed out. The world is full of critics. Anyone who is ever brave enough to send their work out feels protective of it: "No-one can criticise my baby, because my baby is PERFECT!" But I try to remind myself, the critics don't actually produce anything of any use or originality themselves. So it's better to say, that's it, out into the world you go, than to tinker with it forever as a perpetual, pointless work in progress. Keep on being brave!

    I think it can be really hard to say, that's it! This is finished, I could keep tinkering with it, but it's time to send it out into the world. The perceived danger is that someone will spot imperfections that could have been smoothed out. The world is full of critics.
    Anyone who is ever brave enough to send their work out feels protective of it: "No-one can criticise my baby, because my baby is PERFECT!"
    But I try to remind myself, the critics don't actually produce anything of any use or originality themselves.
    So it's better to say, that's it, out into the world you go, than to tinker with it forever as a perpetual, pointless work in progress.
    Keep on being brave!

Add comment