Friday, May 9, 2008

Songs Are Funny Things

I was opening up a new word document last night, and I happened to notice an old title that I never finished, called, "I Hate Everybody". Ha ha! Must have been a bad day at work!

Sort of like yesterday was. Funny how you come across those types of things just at the opportune time.

Everybody has bad days at work, as far as I know. But it got me to thinking about how I come up with ideas for songs. A lot of times, it's just a mood thing. But I try to go the opposite way, generally. If I've had a really bad day, I actually try to write something that's more upbeat, or at least up-tempo, to drive those demons away. I don't like dwelling on the negative. Cuz it puts me in an even worse mood, and why put myself through that? Life's too short.

I was also thinking about how I sometimes spend way too much time working on a song that will probably go nowhere in the end. Sort of like tonight. There's something about this certain song that I can't let go, but I sort of doubt that anyone else will like it. So, I'm devoting a lot of energy to something that may never see the light of day. And yet, knowing that, I still can't let it go. Weird.

I think sometimes I'm too enthralled with my own words. If I like the words, then the song must be good, right? Wrong. Maybe I'd be better off just writing poetry. But, face it, the market is ZERO for that. And the thought of that kind of brings to mind some wispy hippie chick, lying on a hillside with her poetry book, gleaning great meaning from some words that somebody wrote, and using her ribbon bookmark to crease the page that holds her new cosmic truth. I HATE stuff like that.

At least songs have a melody.

Except that, in my case, calling them "melodies" is a bit of a stretch.

Nevertheless, I've been on a productive streak lately. With me, it's either feast or famine. Either I can't write a song to save my soul, or I'm working on three at a time.

Advice I would give songwriters - just write. Of course, I don't take my own advice, but it's still worthwhile!

The more I write, the more ideas I have. On the flip side, if I'm sitting, staring at a blank Word document, I can't come up with anything.

I figure, just write it down (or type it, as in my case). Save it. It could be just a verse, or even half of a verse. Or just a chorus. I've got a bunch of those saved. Sometimes I go back to them, after six months, or a year, or a couple of years, and think, hey! I could make something out of this!

Or, if it's just a melody, get it recorded (Audacity is free). Save it. Or use a hand-held digital recorder. Although I tend to tape over things, and then they're gone forever.

If you're really stuck, listen to the radio. Just don't listen to Today's Country! (sorry, I let a bit of my bias slip in there.) I was driving home yesterday, after doing an errand, and I had the oldies station on. You know that song, "Under The Boardwalk"? I thought, that's a good rhythm. Kind of a calypso thing. It got me to record a basic melody last night - no words yet really, but something that may go somewhere eventually.

Another benefit of listening to the radio is that you can make fun of bad lyrics. Take, for example, today, when I heard that song, "Walk Away Renee". You know, we've heard these songs so many times that we don't even really pay attention to what they're singing. But I had to laugh at the line, "Now as the rain beats down upon my weary eyes". I thought, why not just close your eyes? Then you won't get rain in them. Pop songs can get away with stuff like that, because it's the melody that's important. You can just write some nonsense lines and string 'em together, and people don't care. I'm not making fun of "Walk Away Renee", because I happen to like that song. It's just an observation.

Anyway, I'm working on these songs right now:

"Heartview" - the one that no one will like, but I did try to say something in it.

"Hello Dear Heartache" - it was a welcome respite from the above heavy song. It's just a throwaway, really. I didn't want to call it "Hello Dear Heartache", but there's that Dixie Chicks song called "Hello Mister Heartache", so I couldn't call it that.

"Leaving Rockford" - I started writing that as an exercise. There was a song challenge on line, where you were supposed to write about a town. It's sort of funny, but most likely only to me. That seems to be how those things go.

"Down To The River" (working title) - that's the one with the semi-calypso beat.

"The High Cost Of Living" - this is still in its infancy stage.

I'm still hammering away at "The Late Great Me". That's an oldie. I dreamed that title, so I've been laboring to come up with a song to match it.

So, that's six songs! Wow, I didn't even realize that!

My prediction is that, at the most, two of them will ever get recorded. And I bet they'll be the "throwaway" ones.

But that's show biz. Even a song that never gets recorded is still worthwhile. It teaches you something about writing.

I've stopped being so possessive about my songs anyway. I'm well aware that most of them aren't good, so I don't get my feelings hurt if my producer doesn't want to record them.

So, that's my songwriting advice for today. And if anyone would like to reciprocate, I could definitely use some melody-writing advice! But keep it simple! I'm kind of a moron in that regard.

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