Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What to write about

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?


Jannie Funster said...

GREAT question!

The topics choose me but where I'm at RIGHT NOW in my songwriting is making sure the final two tunes have a burning immediacy to them. Ya know what I mean? What's so important on my mind at that very minute I need to put it in song?

I had 3 songs bugging me but I got one, now 2 more. Sometimes I spend almost a whole day singing thoughts out loud to see if they fit my goal.

Like the songs on that first CD, (the one you so very graciously bought, thank you,) were I to come up with those tunes today, I would probably let about half them slip away without ever following up. But I guess I had to start somewhere, eh?

Songwriting is not the easiest thing in the world, I am finding, but I likes it a lot when things come together.

Now please, Higher powers, send me burning questions and / or something great to say and let them fit the waiting melodies exquisitely. And have my guitar work fit like a glove for the songs. Thank you.

Blue Bunny said...

i hops my jannie gits her song ideas soon, i need more karrits. and new bootes for the wintre.