With no further ado…
1. Do you write words or music first?
My answer is always, YES. Usually it’s newbie writers or interested musical civilians who ask this. I personally favor writing music and words simultaneously, but it does take me longer doing that. I get lost in the creative flow, just me and my guitar out for a casual night’s writing. I can’t have a deadline with a casual approach. I do write with a guitar to a deadline as well, but I need to focus more.
I also do both music and lyrics first. Many co-written tunes have been putting music and melody to established or morphing lyrics. For me, if I want to put the screws to it, with less time to scrutinize my own work I the moment, I’ll do lyrics first and then get out my guitar.
There isn’t a right or wrong way.
2. Where do you write your songs?
This one’s kind of embarrassing actually. But, since I don’t blush easily, and I’ve done some great writing there, here goes…
I tell them in my studio. The one poor in electricity but rich in plumbing. A smile grows on their face when they realize I’m talking about the bathroom.
I’ll dig deeper saying it’s actually the bathtub where I really do a lot of writing.
I’ll let them off the hook and say, “No, not in it. I pull back the shower curtain, set me up a beverage of choice on the rim, set my bum down on the edge of the tub facing outward, and I’ve got a perfect little amphitheater.”
I do write a lot in my office at the computer too, sometimes reaching over the guitar.
I’m not the type who needs a favorite chair, and all the settings to foster creativity. Hell, I’m writing, not taking it out on a date. Co-writes can be anywhere really. It all depends.
3. When do you know a song is done?
Usually I just say, “You can just tell when it’s met its mark and it dead ends.” Honestly, it’s intuitive for me. But, I’ve also gone back and changed something I’d written a long time ago. So who knows? It’s not like we can stick a toothpick in it to see if words stick to it, and it needs more baking time. But, there are ways to tell when you’ve rung it for all it’s worth for the most part.
3.5. Did you write anything I know?
I put this as a half-question, because it’s only half of what they’re asking.
My answer is, “Well? I don’t know WHAT you know.” Odd question when you think of it. What they are really asking is, “Oh, how good are you? Or are you just a schmuck writer? A Dylan wannabe?”
They’re looking for social proof. Here’s something in case you get this question. You or I could have a potential hit in our catalog right now. I believe I do, or so I’ve been told. Let’s assume you do too. If someone asked you this question today, then next week you see this person again after getting a Carrie Underwood single, are you any less of a talent today than a week from right now?
No. Of course not.
Funny. Nobody ever asks a pilot whether they flew with the Blue Angels before climbing aboard a plane and risking their lives.
Shoot these folks stuff their pie holes with McGrub they aren’t even sure is meat. But, they see the golden arches on TV so it’s got to be good, right?
So unless you’ve written something they recognize, they wrongly assume you’re not worth listening to.
The other answer I sometimes give is…
“Well, I wrote a tune for Tim McGraw actually.”
They get all excited until I say…
“He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Until next time… keep writing from the heart.