Hello everybody! Today I’m not going to be rambling about an artist, or a song or a playlist that I’m especially enthusiastic about. I don’t even have any current favourites to share with you, on behalf of someone else. No. As the title may allude to, today I’m going to be rambling about songwriting, my approach and in turn, how it sometimes, sucks.
To begin, let’s start, with when I did.
At the tender age of 7 years old, ya girl Priya wrote her first love song. Not only was it one of the last love songs I ever wrote to date, but it was a shit song, for obvious reasons. But nonetheless it was a song. From there, I realised that the poetry I was being made to write in primary school could very easily be turned into songs. So that’s how I started.
I’ve been writing since then, but not without my breaks. I’ve had a whole year where I didn’t write a single song, and up until last month, I experienced a three month dry spell that frustrated me to no end. However, within those times, I’ve written down hundreds of single lines, a verse, a chorus that I think sounds catchy, and if you were to listen to all my voice memos on my phone, it would be filled with hushed whispers when I’ve had to note down a line or chorus out in public, the same verse at least four times over, and completely different each time, and even sometimes me singing a bass or guitar line that I can’t get out of my head. Complete shambles.
And then we have these bad boys.
So as we can all tell, I’ve levelled up my Canva game to bring this to you all. These are my current notebooks, but by no means are they my only books. Recently they’re the ones I’ve found myself going and back and forth between.
The two moleskins were gifts from my mum and the green leafy one a gift from my younger sister. So what are they for? It’s a system, that works for me, that I’ve used throughout different notebooks, for several years. The lighter blue moleskin, the one on the right, is where everything begins. Technically, everything begins up in my head, but if I can sift through all the crap (there’s a lot) enough to formulate a rough idea, then I transfer it that book. This is the messiest of the lot. It’s where I draw up rough verses, change verses into choruses and decide I’m too lazy to write bridges so throw in guitar solos. It’s where I plan set lists, write out possible songs to cover and generally make a mess. It’s the foundation of everything.
I’ll skip the green notebook for now, and move to the navy moleskin. This is the final destination for all the songs I’m currently writing. When they’re perfected, lyrics, formation, structure, chords and all, they find their way there. It’s here that I also label them in terms of what I plan to do with each song, whether that be to perform it live, record it, send it to someone else to sing, or leave it to rot.
However, the one that I general find myself using the most, is the green notebook in the middle. I by no means, get a song in my head and go into a frenzy to write it all down, creating a masterpiece in the process. No. That happens maybe six times a year. I do however, come up with killer lines and hooks (if I do say so myself), analogies, metaphors or sayings, that I could eventually turn into a song. A lot of the time, I can’t figure out what I’ll do with the line straight away, so it goes into this notebook, and when I actually sit down with the intention to write a song, I have a flick through and see if there’s anything in there that I could develop.
Now for the nuisances. At the risk of sounding like a total whinge and whiney brat, I want to share the downs in the ‘ups and downs’ of songwriting. There are a few.
A lot of the time, I don’t generally make the conscious decision to write a song. However there are times when I do, like for a university assessment, or when I place an invisible deadline upon myself and decide to write and finish three songs in a certain period of time. I can guarantee you. If I sit myself down at the piano or pull out my guitar, and say to myself “I’m going to write a song”, I will come away with nothing. Whenever I set myself out to write a song is when I find it the hardest to get my words onto paper. Sometimes I don’t get any words into my head either. It’s frustrating and it makes my head hurt.
I’m no Eminem. I can’t rhyme words that aren’t made to be rhymed, and I definitely struggling with putting together verses that sound pretty or make sense syllable-wise. Other times, and oddly any time someone is watching me or writing with me, I can reel off a whole verse, pre-chorus and riff in one go and hope to remember it to write down, other times I can sit down for a solid hour and come away with a verse because I’m being pedantic and finicky.
Music and Words
Theoretically this should be the easiest part. It’s my song so I should be able to do anything musically to make the words fit and sound good. Sometimes I’m lucky to get the tune and the lyrics in my head together, at the same time like a lovely package. Other times I’m not as lucky. If it sounds even a fraction off I’m prone to scraping the whole thing, slamming my books shut and re-watching an episode of The Office instead. My friend at university had a front row seat to a particularly bad melt down and I’m sure she’s scarred for life.
Not Knowing What I’m Actually Saying
One of my most hated questions, but simultaneously one of my favourite questions to answer is; “So what does this song mean, what is it about?” It’s one of my favourite questions to answer because a lot of the time I’m affirming myself, as to what I’m trying to say. It’s one of my hated questions because sometimes, I don’t know. I’ve written entire songs not knowing what the hell I’m trying to say. I’ve changed story lines halfway through a song, and when asked about the meaning, my A+ bullshit-ing skills have found a way to wrap it up into one wholesome meaning.
Am I Done Or Just Lazy?
I’ve been on both sides of this. Sometimes I’ll get to the end of a song and not have any more juice left to come up with a bridge, so I’ll sing the pre chorus again, maybe a little softer for some expression, and then chuck the chorus back in ‘x 2’. Other times, a song genuinely sounds finished without a bridge and I have to really assure myself that the guitar solo is perfect and I’m not just taking the cheat way out.
Before I lost all my shame, it would be a damn pain when song lyrics came to my in public. If I was in the safety of my own home, I could drop what I was doing, run to the piano and figure something out, or record myself belting it. If an idea struck me outside, I’d have to note it down on my phone and hope I’d remember what the hell I was on about when I got back home. Now I don’t really care and if I can, I’ll write it down on my phone, run to the toilets and quickly get a voice memo in. I’ve done it at work, at a friends house, at family dinners, I’ve recorded voice memos at full blown house parties. I have a notebook on me during university because most of the time I can write something down and actually have some time to work on it later that day. Also, the shower. The amount of times I’ve had to leave my phone voice recording outside the shower as I’ve crafted entire songs in a moment of genius is ridiculous.
So Much Started and Nothing Finished
I find myself in this situation a lot. I’ll have a ton of new stuff, but nothing concrete and complete. So I can say that I had a burst of inspiration, but I have nothing solid to show for it because I can’t finish anything properly. It happens far more often than I wished it did, and it does my head in.
So. . . yeah. Hopefully you guys enjoyed this post! I wanted to give you all a little insight into my experiences with song writing, the process I tend to take and everything I love/hate about writing. Because I do genuinely love it. As a person who struggles to verbally emote myself in a meaningful way, I love the fact that I can say everything I want to say in a song, in a way that hundreds of other people can relate to. Again, hope you all enjoyed reading!