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Anything for a Weird Life

How to Write A Song

Recently, I have been compiling my old song lyrics for a forthcoming reissue of the music of my band The Unheard Ones (full live set from the show advertised above here plus more, courtesy of Handstand Records). At the same time, I am writing lyrics for new songs in a new band. Here are some reflections on that process.

Music is a Universal Language

In studies, there has yet to be a culture found that did not have its own music. To sing and write songs and create song lyrics is to be part of a great chain of human tradition with no clear beginning and no clear end (folks starting messing around with rhyming in songs around the 10th Century). You kind of can’t mess it up since whatever you do is a part of that eternal human thing.

Have Something to Say

Your voice is an instrument. Using it with music (self-created or with others) creates a sort of conversation. I tend to let the vocal patterns come first, the figure out what I was saying” in reaction to the other instruments. When it comes to song lyrics, some have a point they need to make, others a feeling they need to express. Those are two avenues to lyrics of many. You can write a jaunty Neo-Beatles tune about wanting to destroy someone.

You Can’t Predict the Audiences’ Reaction

There are the senders of the message in song and the receiver. Songs can be made with craft and care and then scud along, falling eventually into the forgotten cave of a thousand rock and roll dreams. Other songs can be listened to a billion times and still be going strong. The best thing I have found to do is to set your barometer of a solid song by your own internal iron string. To you… does it slap? Cool. You’re done. Put it out there and find out what will be made of it.

Keep It Blurry

Songs for me come from a place in my head and heart I keep intentionally blurry.” I want that at first especially, as this allows my subconscious to work before my conscious mind sharpens things up later. Songs that have endured (like since 1666 or so) tend to have details in them you remember but also tend to smear” things around a bit. You might have started off writing a song about Debra, and you call the song Debra”, but allow room for things to get bigger than Debra.

You Will Get Blocked

As things flow, sometimes in torrents, there will also be times of trickle. The Cocteau Twin’s Liz Frasier once noted that the group tended to write happy songs when they were sad and sad songs when they were happy. This internal engine can sometimes make no sense. When you do get stuck, try your best not to dwell on it or force it. If you can allow yourself to relax (and have the luxury of time and money in order to do so), things will flow again.

You Can Do It!

You have a right to be heard, to express yourself, to be on that mic. Some of us have the inclination and desire to be in that spotlight. A wonderful thing happening in the scene that I call home is that a more diverse group of folks than ever before is standing in that spotlight. This is a great thing.

So, if you are currently puzzling over how to make this whole song lyric thing” happen for the first time or the hundredth time, I salute you. You join a great tradition of folks with something to say and finding a way to sat it. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

Tim Kabara

IG: @kim_tabara

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