Songwriting 101: Tricks Of The Trade

A few things I have learned, am continuing to learn, and always try to remind myself about songwriting and producing:

(Cop voice) “Step away from the instruments and recording equipment.” We all need a break sometimes, to recharge the batteries and get re-inspired, to do and find things which we can’t wait to write about. As a creative person, even when you’re not working, you’re…still working. Cuz our job is to filter our experiences through some kind of artistic prism, and without the experiences, there’s nothing to filter. So go, enjoy your families, see a new place or revisit an old one, eat and drink too much, catch up on some great books and movies. And come back re-energized and ready to rock in 2013.

It’s the forest….  Such a cliche, but so easy to forget:  it’s the big picture.  No one examines every inch of every tree in the forest.  And no one but you and possibly your cowriters or your mom will ever listen to every single breath on the vocal on your demo, or read – much less try to interpret – every single word and comma in your lyric.  Stay focused on whether the song as written and produced is working – and therefore will move people – on an “overall vibe” level.  This is NOT to suggest that you blow off the details in your songwriting or production.  But it IS to suggest that at a certain point when you are remixing your song for the 17th time, rewriting that one line for the 4th consecutive session or spending two hours re-singing that one phrase everyone else already thought sounded great – you may have left the realm of “striving for greatness” and entered that of wasting valuable time that could be better spent…writing another song.

Get a small way. All great songs – like all great creative work – start with inspiration. But it is almost always a small moment or idea, not a “Eureka!!!” explosion. Blink and you can miss it. So keep your eyes and ears and senses open. Actively seek out all different types of things that inspire you: not just music, but also films, television, theater, books – and family, friends, sports. “Play around” and wander with your music and lyrics once in a while, without any definite goal….like pool balls, one seemingly small and unimportant little idea can lead to something big. And remember there is really no “down” time for a creative person. If you feel “uninspired”, it may well be that your batteries are just recharging and although your antennae are up, the “inspiration” frequency hasn’t found you…yet.