On Songwriting


 ‘A song is not so hard to write, I had a dream my hands could do no wrong…’ 
  
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in my life sitting staring into space while listening to songs. Listening hard.  Studying I guess. I’ve always wanted to be the best songwriter I can.  I’ve set myself weird songwriting challenges, I’ve closed my eyes and free formed lyrics and sometimes I’ve tried to write a song in the style of someone else. Mainly I just write what comes naturally, I do as I’m told. I’ve always believed songs are the boss. 
Songs can land in your lap all at once, like a drunk girl at a party, or sometimes they drift past in a breeze and if you’re lucky you might catch a phrase a year. I have recently found myself remembering songs that I wrote at 18 and dismissed by 20 and now I’m thinking, hmm, that’s actually pretty good.  The first songwriters whose bodies of work I really consumed were Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. I listened to so much Loretta that it was her voice I starting talking to myself to in my head and I started writing through her eyes… I was listening to her songs of kids and family and trouble makin’ husbands and imagining her further down the road. Tears used to stream down my face when I was writing this one: 
  
Now that I have given you the best years of my life 
And I have always been a good and loyal wife 
Now its time to find out just what its all about 
And live my life, all the way, without a single doubt 
Cos I want to see the lights I never got to see 
Cos I was always busy 
Raising a family 
I want to do them things I never got to do 
Cos I was always looking after you 
Now the kids are all grown up 
They don’t need me no more 
And all I seem to do round here is cook and wash the floor 
I’ve got my ticket out of here, I’m leaving you behind 
But I won’t be kissing you goodbye 
Or I might change my mind…. 

  
Then I decided it was pretty silly, that was not my voice, it was embarrassing, basic and naked and I forgot all about it and I guess I started to try to write more sophisticated, mysterious songs, with cleverer turns of phrase.  Now, more than 20 years later I’m finding myself humming that tune and remembering the words perfectly, and what’s more, kinda relating to them.  I find it interesting that a song I’d thrown away could actually be a song I’ve grown into. It’s a little bit like that thing where you can speak another language perfectly in a dream, and you’re actually speaking it, and you wake up thinking ‘was I just speaking in goobledegook or somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind do I actually know Italian?.’. Or you read a beautiful poem in your dream and when you wake up you realize you must have written whatever it was you were reading…. Sometimes I feel like songs are like that, already lurking in your mind, and you just have to catch them like an elusive butterfly.

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