In any creative endeavor, there are stages leading up to the creation of the actual thing. I’ve heard of different methods when it comes to songwriting, but it always starts with sitting down and playing an instrument for myself. Time seems irrelevant when I’m just enjoying playing and letting the music carry me away. During these times, melodies come to my head and become the basis for a song.
CAPTURE THE FLYING PIG (AKA THE SONG IDEA)
I quickly realized that if I don’t record the ideas, they will be lost forever. It doesn’t matter if I’m at home, on a plane, in a restaurant, or driving; if I think of it, I record it. This is the capturing of the flying pig. It flies overhead, and you start freaking out. “Was that a flying PIG!?” Yes, it was. You need to snap a photo of that majestic winged creature before it vanishes into thin air. That goes for lyrics as well as chord progressions. As soon as I like the sound of something, I hit the record button on my voice memos app and catalog it. If it is lyrics, I write it down on whatever is available. With the number of ideas floating around in my head, it has been essential for me to do so I can remember! My phone has thousands and thousands of such voice memos.
Think about paintings or sculptures, or poems. It takes practice, and it takes discipline. You’ve got to love it and keep a long-term mindset. Masterpieces don’t happen overnight. It feels funny to put the word creative and discipline together, but the two are inseparable. When it comes to finishing something you have started, there is a point where you are tired, discouraged, or distracted, and you have to focus to see it through. I can’t say I always succeed at being disciplined, but there is solace in taking small steps to traverse a great distance. In other words, baby steps. It takes dedication to become good at something. There are numerous low moments along the journey, but the joy of playing music and sharing art with others keeps me moving in times when I’m discouraged.
INSPIRATION AT 8AM
I remember reading about one of my favorite authors. Someone asked him about inspiration and his writing process. He responded by saying that inspiration comes every morning at 8am. He would wake up daily, no matter how he felt, and start writing. Some days he would write great things, and some days, not so much. Regardless, he would wake up and start writing. I am inspired by that in my songwriting process. I try to write daily, in the morning. I’ve written many bad songs in the process, but it takes the bad ones to get to the good ones.
Tom Morello says, “Making music is like a sausage; you don’t want to see how it’s made, but you like the end product.” Making a song can be a messy process, but somehow beautiful things come from that. Hmmm. Kind of like being human? Kind of like embracing imperfections and re-phrasing that to I’M PERFECT. Embracing that has been huge. Being okay with failing or writing bad songs is the key to writing good songs.
WHERE IS IT FROM, WHERE DOES IT GO
As far as where songs come from, it’s not something I can fully explain. A lot of the initial inspirations seem to come from subconscious thoughts. I start singing, and the blueprint for the tune is there. Sometimes the song comes fast, and it’s done in a day; sometimes, it takes months or even years. I’m currently finishing up a record that has taken me 4 years to make; good things take time. Don’t let the process get you down. Once a song is finished, you have to let it find its own identity in the world. Comically, I think it’s like having a child. Let it find its way; they do take on a life of their own.