I write very quickly. Not by design. It just generally happens that way. When I first began trying to write professionally, I realized that I wrote slowly and methodically. In fact, sometimes I was so slow that I would have to book another day with a writer to finish the song. It took a while to realize that this frustrated some of my co-writers and cost me some co-writing relationships.
While this statement applies beautifully to any and all court proceedings, when it comes to songwriting, things get a little more complicated. This week’s blog is philosophical as well as task driven. As you rewrite and refine your songs, it’s important to consider the different ways in which you can tell your story. And that sometimes means going a bit deep to find what is the “truth” for you for that particular song.
When I began writing, I gave myself two years to make it happen. I was thinking to myself that if I couldn't succeed in two years, I needed to try something else. Two years came and went like lightning. And, no success. None. Not one independent cut, even. I don't think I even had one HOLD after having written for two years full time.
There are not many guarantees in life, but I'm willing to make this guarantee. The day you don't write is a day you WILL NOT write a hit. There have been countless days when I didn't feel like writing. I had too much going on, I was distracted, worried about the kids, going through a divorce, not feeling well, you get the idea. On most days I did it anyway.
Most of our Songtown citizens are actively trying to "get in the game." They (you) want to get songs recorded, hear them on the radio, see your name in the writer’s credits on a CD, etc. The trick is figuring out HOW to get in the game.
One of the most wonderful and useful concepts we teach at Berklee is a technique called “recoloring.” Recoloring is when you structure your verses so that your chorus “gains weight” in meaning every time you hear it. Effective recoloring requires thought and deliberation, so it’s something that very rarely happens in the first draft of a song.
This is it! You’re inspired to write a song! In a frenzy of creativity, you work out a fabulous verse and an equally fabulous chorus! And then it happens….nothing. You run completely out of steam and don’t know why. You start telling yourself, “Maybe a song that’s only 1 minute and 23 seconds is long enough? It’s “minimalistic” music, right?” Welcome to SECOND VERSE HELL!
I think a lot about why I write. Is it all a big vanity project? Am I capable of having a new, independent thought? Is anyone? Does anyone really care about this? Will what I write make a dent in the social consciousness? Will I actually be able to touch someone’s life? Would my efforts be better spent rolling up my sleeves and serving lunch at a soup kitchen? I think a lot about that one.
This five part series is dedicated to what happens beyond the first draft of your song. Sometimes, songs are born to you like the Goddess, Athena. They spring out of your noggin’ fully formed and perfect. Don’t you love songs like that? They’re gifts from whatever higher power or inner power you believe in. Accept them and be grateful.