Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon Shares Songwriting Insights
I view my songwriting like an athlete views his or her sport. I have to practice. I have to stay in shape. So I do it every day.
I can stack the odds in my favor by starting with a distraction-free space. I need to feel quiet and relaxed and able to channel things that are deeper than the inputs from my immediate surroundings. I don't want the phone to ring, or the TV buzzing away in the background. When inspiration hits I need to be able to receive it clearly. If I don't catch it, someone else will.
I almost always write on acoustic guitar, mostly because it keeps me focused on the task at hand. Sometimes when I write on electric I find myself spending more time focusing on tones and pedals and delays, and before I know it an hour has gone by, and I haven't written anything.
I find that a dreadnought will inspire me in a different way than a grand concert will. Sometimes the smaller guitars will "get out-of-the-way" a bit better, or be more comfortable against my body, like my 1946 Gibson LG-2, but sometimes I need the bigger low-end response of a dreadnought or jumbo to take me where I need to go. There are no rules other than trusting your instincts, and picking up the guitar that speaks to you.
For me the biggest lesson about songwriting is to write what you mean and sing what you feel. You're going to have to play these songs hundreds or even thousands of times, if you are so lucky as to have people out there who want to hear them, and you don't want to hate yourself down the road for having gone for the easy rhyme.
I always try to dig a bit deeper. I don't always get it, but I always try.
Vertical Horizon was founded in the early 1990s, but it was seven years before lead singer Matt Scannell’s songs became the radio hits that brought the popular grass roots band to national attention. Vertical Horizon released three albums independently (There and Back Again, Running on Ice, and Live Stages) and toured extensively before signing with RCA Records in 1998. In 1999, they released their breakout album, Everything You Want, which went on to sell more than two million copies. The second single off the CD, the title track “Everything You Want,” captured the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Adult Top 40 charts, and became Billboard’s Most Played Single of 2000. Having carved out a page in the annals of music history the band garnered further radio attention with “You’re a God” (#4 on Billboard’s Adult Chart) and “Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning).” Vertical Horizon continues to tour extensively and this fall the band released Echoes from the Underground, the second album Vertical Horizon has released on their own label. The album is available on all major digital platforms and select Brick & Mortar retailers.