Challenge of digital songwriting

Oops I did it again – B.Spears

I could have just as easily called this confessions of a songwriter in 2020 or oh to be young in the nineties again but there you go.

I had this song about helping people with universal basic income (dont @ at me please, I think ubi could work, especially for our lot who have lost gigs, street performing, and some have even lost teaching gigs).

So, this…I’ll call it a song…was literally written and improvised in two takes after it “happened”. The germ of a song is that moment when you (or I, anyways) suddenly realize there might be something before me.

This song I titled “Give People a Chance”.

I hadn’t planned that Lennon connection…maybe it was playing a song like this on the black and whites…

Then after I recorded a phone video of me singing and playing it on my Yamaha keyboard, I loaded the second take into an app called Powerdirector. I had done editing a long time ago when I worked on my first film Bass Line so for me this app is a easy simple version of using something like Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro.

Even with having a very simple idea (I used Canva for the final image) the process of that took about 45 minutes which is a sizable chunk of a morning’s practice routine. I don’t do this full time and I have from nine to about 1pm to practice keys, guitar, bass and drums.

But, I suppose you can absorb that. One easy rationalization is that being creative with music that you make is surely the point of what you are doing, especially if you start bringing those other instruments in. I play bass in a band, but my other instruments are all about making music at home.

So that should be perfect, right? I mean, that is what all the practice is for. It’s applying the craft.

Well, there is a problem and yet again I got excited and swept up in all that excitement.

It was way…way to soon to launch into the public consciousness.

Glen Hansard (Once, The Frames) said it in this absolutely amazing YouTube broadcast that you have got to watch…

click here !

…songs shouldn’t be put out there until they’re ready.

You’ve got to be able to let them grow and develop. The best songs resonate with you on a personal level. They are an organic thing that grows from the first moment you conceive them.

The challenge which I swear I am trying to push towards is not so easily falling victim to just launching it out for that immediate fix. We have this same, almost flipside problem with studying music with YouTube and Instagram lessons.

Scott Devine of Scott’s Bass Lessons has said this repeatedly, that it is so easy to bounce from YouTube video to YouTube video and think that you’re practicing. You’re not, you’re watching videos.

Even if you went to a traditional music lesson I wouldn’t call that practicing. Practicing involving YouTube would be to watch a video, get the information down, and then put the device aside and actually work on what you just learned. In a way it is an extension of how we all learned back in the day, playing along to music. Only thing is, we didn’t just stop playing and stare at the radio.

One of the coolest, coolest examples of switching to lo fi (not that they switched per se but…) songwriting has to be the story of two men who, along with there wives, lived in two cabins in the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden.

They would go to one cabin where they would write for eight hours a day with just a guitar and a piano. They didnt record anything. They didnt even bring a pen. They’re attitude was “If I can’t remember it, well…it probably wasn’t any good!” Now we dont all have that kind of time but even still it did work for them.

It gave them songs like Dancing Queen, Fernando and Eagle.

This was the writing process of Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and the foundation of ABBA.

The world of online is a powerful tool and it is exciting, but allow yourself that offline time. It is in the moments of quiet where you can make magic.

Cheers,

Tom

Ok, I can’t resist…here is the guys of ABBA talking about it themselves…

https://youtu.be/FHDRRiX1now

“…it takes time to get through all the rubbish…to make something special…to hear it…that takes time” Bjorn Ulvaeus

Creators, Welcome to Why.

I for one dont have a problem with Bill Maher. I’m also a big fan of Ricky Gervais as my friends have been known to bemoan that I do him. Now what joke am I setting up here?

Anyway, he still never calls.

If a joke is offensive or a song upsets you or someone’s writing made you frustrated, that’s fine. I still believe in a higher power is my point about Bill and Ricky. Just because I dont agree doesn’t mean I can’t laugh. Like one priest my mom knows, he said he like Davinci Code, saying it was fun.

Our job as entertainers, content creators and artists is to get people away from themselves.

People are freaked out as hell right now. Even if you think of yourself as the most level headed there is nothing like seeing those empty shelves for that first time. This is crowd effect. Our species thinks as a unit when the chips are down. Sometimes this can be good and of course it can be bad, but it still is there. I mean, empathy is how we work. As musicians and writers I can tell you we work people’s expectations and things for the most dramatic results.

“People hate this in real life but love it in fiction” Sol Stein on Writing.

Here’s a piece of music I did on the experience of seeing those shelves for the first time. I wrote the lyrics literally on the walk home on a notepad app. It was a bitterly cold day with high wind here in Victoria on the Canadian west coast and my hands were actually cracking from how much I’ve been washing my hands more than usual coupled with work and with performance in my Celtic band during the blur that is St Patrick’s month.

I knew I wanted to keep it simple with two chords back and forth like a heartbeat. I’ve also been glued to the late Mark Hollis’s debut album which probably influenced my choices.

Did the song work? No idea but it takes the viewer away from themselves for a moment.

With my band Cookeilidh I have certainly experienced this. We will play a seniors home and there will be a person singing and tapping her feet, or clapping her hands. Afterwards we will find out that is the first time that person has even spoken in months.

No matter what art form you do this is true. No matter what form of entertainment. We are all these gentlemen…

Or as you may know them…

Interesting being a bassist and seeing the bassist’s “White Star” tie. It immediately makes me think of the prep I’ve done before shows. Instagram girls and adult entertainers I’m bringing you in here too. Now some might say I’ve gone too far or revealed something but screw that. Actors, singers, musicians, painters, dancers, writers, poets, adult performers, filmmakers, artisans, songwriters, producers we are all doing the same thing in our way. We put on the best show we can. Sure, we have our hopes thrown into the ring as well, but without what I’m saying we’re not doing the job.

“There’s a job, there’s a gig here” Billy Joel

“Sometimes a fantasy is all you need…” Just a Fantasy – Billy Joel

“Be the sweetest five minutes you ever had…” Tomorrow We’ll See – Sting

Ariana Grande isn’t so into me our most of us out there but when she sings that against Max Martin’s brilliant production you could almost close you eyes and swear you are in some cool hip club and she is actually hitting on you.

Not that I’ve thought of that.

But especially now when there’s self-quarantining on the horizon or in effect for many of us, the need for escapism is stronger than ever. We need you.

I think of how Sting just about cried when he heard some window cleaner whistling one of his songs. He mentioned this in an interview and I think it was about the Police song “Walking on the Moon”

My music was getting him through the day. It became part of his life that helped him even in a small way

And of course this is just one example. One of the reasons I emulate Ricky Gervais so much is because of my day job which is as a cleaner. While I love music of course it can get a bit background-on-background so years ago I added the complete radio shows and podcasts plus Adam and Joe, a comedy team also from the same XFM radio in London between 2000-2006

And now I’m listening to the Adam and Joe sample… Haven’t heard this specific video so…yeah, I’m wrapping this up and checking my spelling.

Might take a while.

Kind of the point.

Get out there and do your thing.

😉

Cheers,

Tom