The Creative Process: Does My Writing Fill a Purpose?
I started writing songs before I could play the guitar.
I've been trying to catch up to what I hear ever since.
The process, since day one, has been like waiting for the arrival of friend. Never a literal attempt at creating. It has been going on at a steady clip for a long time now.
There is muscle memory at work in there somewhere now and I now search for a way to stretch that muscle. The work in songwriting comes from applying a toolbox of musical ideas and techniques to that arrival that you’ve picked up along your journey.
I find writing the song the easy part. The hard part is making sure I should write the song.
We can all make something and love doing it. There’s a supply of kindergarten macaroni necklaces out there that could feed the world. The real work in the process for me is discovering if the song is needed or not.
Does it fill some purpose other than the euphoria of playing and singing? Could this song exist without me? Just like meeting that new friend; Is this just another person at a bar? Are we really drunk and just enjoying the conversation for the evening or is this the beginning of a real relationship? Might we end up being better people if we invest in this friendship?
I am always writing and it can’t all be good. There are corpses of songs piled underneath each good one. I don’t write in that wake-up-and-finish-a-song-a-day kinda way.There are voice notes on a daily basis and notes written in my phone and random pieces of paper. That is my way of always writing.
I’ve written songs in 5 minutes and songs in 5 years. Sometimes they emerge from all those notes, sometimes not at all and with some songs I am going to those notes to find the missing link. I am open to anyway it happens. I just don’t force it if we haven’t already made eye contact from across the room.
I've worked hard writing but mostly I aim to forget how I've gotten where I am by the time I arrive. The mechanics from walking the path will become technique. We can find songs in every instrument.
There have been many songs in my acoustics. I may have maxed out my Gibson AJ and my Baxendale Silverton, but I always find a little something in my Baxendale Kay. Each time I pick it up it feels brand new yet still a relic from a past I’ll never understand.
I was given a banjo as a gift years ago and immediately wrote “Higher Education.” Currently that song is the extent of my banjo playing and song writing on a banjo.
I found the riff for “World Go Round” waiting in one of those little G-29 strumstick guitars that was sitting around in a studio. I can’t imagine the riff existing if I hadn’t pick up that instrument sitting there.
When I am co-writing with others for their material I always hope/encourage the artist to bring a seed in. Even if it is just a riff, melody or a phrase. It has to come from them. Otherwise we won’t be able to answer that question: Does it fill a purpose? At least I won’t be able to.
When I’ve co-written my own songs with guys like Dave Brophy (“How Good It Feels”), Bleu (“Come On”), Mike Viola (“Best Friend”), Tom Polce (“Big Bright Sun”), Kay Hanley (“Not Fiction”) and Dave Bassett (“Counting On Karma”), every time it came from me. If it doesn’t then it would just be an exercise and working on that toolbox of knowledge. Not a bad thing to do at all but it never yields a song I want to sing 1000+ times before I die.
National Throat feels like every drop I have dumped out onto the album. I know the songs have purpose. I wouldn’t even share them when I was stuck on a major label. They were too important to me.
I am compiling writing lyrics and musical notes all the time still but not engaging. National Throat feels new. It is a new best friend that I am still sad that it has then so long for us to meet. So every show, every vinyl record I had to someone is a celebration of that relationship.
National Throat Comes out on 8/26
Check out "Sunken Ship"
Will Dailey is an independent, Boston-based recording and performing artist. He is the 3 time winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Male Singer-Songwriter in 2006 and again on December 2, 2009 and December 2, 2012. He has released albums with Universal, CBS Records, Wheelkick Records and JS Music Group. Dailey is releasing his new album National Throat in 2014 on Wheelkick Records. The first single, "Sunken Ship," is a finalist in the 2013 International Songwriting Competition. On June 9, the album was released exclusively on vinyl for three months prior to official release date. Find out more at www.willdailey.com