People often ask me as a song writer- how do I find inspiration for the songs I write and how do I do it? It is a good practical question and it is quite a good one to pose to myself to extend and think more deeply into the process.
Inspiration is a funny thing- it’s the moment when we have an internal lightbulb moment and suddenly there is clarity around something and we understand, or empathise or “ get “ something. It can come at strange times- like in the shower- or when we are mentally absorbed in an intellectual way on a subject.
When it comes to writing a song I like my subject matter to be as diverse as life itself, in that way the songs can reflect the strands, colours and emotions that life offers us. Sometimes it is a personal emotion that propels a song into being, sometimes it is global events and sizemic shifts in the external world that makes a song want to be told and sometimes it can be a picture or an archetype, a story or something in nature.
Such diversity in material means people say “But why that particular theme or element?” All I can say is that like inspiration there is a moment in the kaleidoscope of looking/ feeling where I think…”ahh, that needs to be expressed in this way…it needs to be presented like this or that, in order to make a poetic heart impact.” Then, I just let the words and tunes flow.
Sometimes people have said why did you choose that word eg “ walk “ rather than “move”….and there is always a reason even if I have not analytically considered why at the time! In fact, analysis gets in the way- it’s like a boulder on the creative path. It blocks the flow. I don’t analyse when I create, I just flow and feel and listen inside to the pattern, the flow, the feel and melody that arises like a spring bubbling up! I also let the form of the song flow naturally into being rather than dictated by convention. That feels too much like a straight jacket for me. The song is a shamanic living thing that expresses itself how it wants to be.
Sometimes people ask me how I choose the melody. All I can say is that the melody chooses me! It springs into my head like a thought that tells me where to take it- it is a natural flow. I realised that there is nearly always a tune going on in my head- kind of like a background thought or like a bee humming in the middle distance. All I have to do, is sharpen my internal listening ears and let it be heard!
The song really just creates itself from a moment of inspiration and seeing. Sometimes the subject matter can be personal but it has to be expressed in such a way that it relatable to Everyman/woman. The personal element is just a springboard and has no relevance for others – it is just my internal lodestone that anchors the song in emotional experience. After all, our human journeys are not so very different from one another: we all want to be happy, we all feel loss, heartaches, uncertainty, fragility and concern for others and the world. A songwriter is just someone, like a journalist, who creates for others to take what they will from.
Perhaps my way of writing songs is very different to others, who knows (!) I never decide what key, what form or what style. I just allow it to spring into being as it wishes. When I engage in the collaborative process for instrumentation I just tell others the general feel, vibe and soundscape feel I have for the song . It is always exciting to see how they interpret this and where their inspiration takes them. Each song has it’s own organic flavour and feel as a result of working like this. It also means I slide between form and genre as the song dictates – and this allows a freshness each time around. There are however, melodic idioms that are probably rooted in my work- these being a feel from early music and English folk song. This is because they are my musical accents that are just part of me, having grown up in a world of early music. I do however, like to keep it interesting and easy by bringing in twists of other idioms, world, contemporary sounds, electronic, jazz …but just subtle twists to add emphasis and colour.
As a modern woman who has had this background and access to world music, folk and jazz it is an exciting journey to open myself up to these different sounds and colours and see how they want to be expressed in my kaleidoscope of song material. I just hope this rich tapestry of song that bubbles through me can be granted form and function in the external world. There are many to develop into full fruition!