Some songs seem to come all at once while others are hammered out over years. I’m excited to be present when inspiration strikes, but more often it’s a slow, labored process. A few times I have been able to offer an outsider’s view asking what the artist is trying to say or otherwise getting them out of their head to move the process forward.
Here are some things artist have told me works for them.
As songs are usually stories set to music, the methods an author uses to move forward work equally well for songwriters. One of the best is to write from the end, or write with the finish in mind.
Another is to stop thinking about the song, what rhymes and such, and just start fleshing out the characters in the story. Change gears and start writing the back story. What is their past? Why are they here? What is going to happen next? What does it mean? The best actors do this instinctively.
That reminds me… your brain does that all the time. If a song or a photograph represents a moment in time, your brain writes a “before and after story” to put it into context. A shadow intruding on a picture can change the whole narrative. Think about that with a song. A line out of context could change everything. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s subtle.
Have you heard a song years later and realized it meant something completely different than what you remembered? With the intervening years of life experience, what was subtle is not anymore.
When you give the story or characters a life of their own, the rest of the song (or story) may write itself.
Some songs are like cotton candy; sweet and fun, but disappear fast.
Make your songs go deeper and they may become a part of the soundtrack of a generation.