on storytelling in songs

I’ve been working my ass off lately in the songwriting department, trying to “find my own voice”, as they say. It’s an odd feeling, sitting down to try and lose yourself in music. My goal as a writer is usually to create a story or an emotion that’s so real you can cradle it in your arms when you need to, or walk down the street with it like an old friend. Is this a peculiar way of looking at something as intangible as a song? Maybe. But if you look at an intangible thing and believe in it as something concrete and palpable, I think it adds a kind of dreamy weight to what you’re doing.

Songwriting tends to be the most cruel of mistresses. On good days, inspiration hits me like a bullet train, and I can work for hours, writing and re imagining and playing and writing some more and you feel on top of the world. Like no work has ever been more important.
On bad days, nothing is good enough. Everyone who’s ever liked anything I do is either lying or has no taste. My lyrics feel cheap, like recycled trash. Everything’s been said and done in a better, more refined way.

I can’t think of anything else that has higher highs, or lower lows. Performing, maybe.

I’ve analyzed other people’s writing to an obsessive degree, and I’m really fascinated by both abstract and realistic songs. Polar opposites, but both, I think, with important things to say. What can I say, I’m a Ben Folds and a Bjork fan. Both sides of that coin interest me. The simplistic stories of everyday life, spoken in a way everyone can connect to, versus the poetry of motion and language and emotion and nature. The former pulls me down to earth; the latter sends me into a heightened sense of what life can be and mean.

I don’t know how to do either.

I’ve tried writing with everyone else in the world’s voice; I suspect that is what one calls doing it wrong. So these days, I take what there is to learn about structure and song building, and listen to what feels right in a lyric, but at the end of the day, I remember that the song has to come from me. If it’s not genuine, it’s not worth doing. So I’ll learn, and I’ll grow, and I’ll strive to connect the ephemeral pieces of the puzzle.

And I will choose to let that be good enough.




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