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Songwriting Tips

Lucinda Williams talks Songwriting on PBS NewsHour

One of the faces of Americana music describes songwriting as the “life force that drives [her].”  You should take the time to watch/read this wonderful interview of Lucinda Williams by Phil Hirschkorn of PBS NewsHour.  Just one highlight in response to a query regarding whether she wrote everyday and was disciplined about her songwriting:

My brain is always going, and I’m always jotting down things. I might be sitting at a bar or anywhere I might be and hear something somebody says or something we’ll pop in my head, and I’ll jot it down on a lot of times on a cocktail napkin. I have a lot of cocktail napkins with lines on them. And I save everything. I put it all in a folder. And then when the muse strikes, I pull all that stuff out, bits and pieces. I’ve got 10 or a dozen songs or something right now that are almost finished. So I’ve always got kind of works in progress. But I don’t apply myself every day and get up at and say I’ve got to write between noon and whatever time. I don’t do that. I’m not disciplined about it necessarily. I had a therapist once describe it as “work,” because I was concerned, in the early years that I was going through a dry spell. And she said, “No, no, no. You just work on a J curve,” which means I might not write for a couple of months, and then, once I get into that mode, I might write ten new songs or something over a period of a few weeks.

And here’s the piece:

May the Muse stay with Lucinda and us all…

“You Never Stop Growing in Music…”

Patty Larkin, a folk rock singer-songwriter and songwriting professor at Berklee School of Music, discusses some of the elements of songwriting in a recent news article for the Providence Journal by Susan McDonald:

As inspiring as her music may be to her fans, Larkin says writing is something she has to force herself to work at daily.

“If I wait for the urge to hit, there are so many other things I can do, like laundry, walking the dog,” she says with a laugh. “When I started teaching songwriting at Berkelee, I told them they had to show up for the process and exercise that arm. That’s what I have to do. I spend three hours a day. I start with my guitar. Sometimes I sit with it in a café at a set time and I don’t get up until I get something.”

That “something” might be a fragment of a lyric or melody that she can then return to the next day. Life being the way it is, she admits that she cycles through themes in her writing.

Simple, straight-forward, common sense – what songwriters hear all the time… but always a good lesson to bear in mind – you have to write to be a songwriter…

Thank you for the reminder Ms. Larkin and may the Muse be with you (and all of us)…

Willie Nelson – Songwriter Extraodinaire

Willie Nelson

Just enjoyed listening to an interview of Willie Nelson on NPR.  Mr. Nelson is promoting his new album, Band of Brothers, which is to be released today.  Here’s a little snippet of the interview:

ARUN RATH: Now you are such a great songwriter but it’s been more than a few years since you released an album and one with so much new material on it. I’m curious have you been writing songs the whole time or are all these very recently written?

WILLIE NELSON: I’m sort of a spasmodic writer I guess. Roger Miller said it pretty well. He said when a writer has to sometimes stop and let the well refill because you run out of things to write about or good things to say. So I think he’s right. Also you have to have some kind of challenge or goal. And there was this new album that we wanted to do. And I needed some new songs. And I said well you know why don’t I write something?

And when you’re Willie Nelson, you can do just that…

Listen to the interview now:

May the Muse stay with Willie and be with you (and that’s even funnier with the reference to Willie as the Yoda of songwriters)…

Yoda Willie!

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