Sharon Goldman of Songwriting Scene posed a question to her real-life and online songwriting buddies: what's your take on political songwriting?
I wrote my first ever protest song not too long ago, so I read the responses with some interest. My favorite was this, from Fred Gillen Jr.
"I have learned, just for myself as an artist and songwriter, that it is not my job to decide what I am going to write about."
Huh. So it's not just me then?
My lyrics generally begin with one good line, some new way of expressing an idea. Both the idea and the expression of it tend to come more or less spontaneously. When it's interesting, I feel compelled to pursue it. Out of the 59 songs I've written so far, I can only think of one where I chose the topic before any words found me. Only one where I decided, "I want to write on the subject of X."
For some reason, I've always kind of assumed that my method of discovering topics by tripping over them (if you can call that a method) was mostly unique to me. I figured that at least some of the time, other songwriters sat down and thought about what they wanted to create before any actual creating happened.
What's your experience? When no one else is dictating what you're going to create, do you choose the topic, or does the topic choose you?