I suppose there are a lot of ways to write a song. Some say you should start with the words, and find a melody that expresses those words, or the meaning underneath those words. Others say you should start with a melody and find words that capture its spirit. Of course, there is also everything in between. I definitely do a little bit of both, and sometimes the words and the melody come out at the same time. These bursts of creativity usually occur during or immediately after a shower.
The melody, once created, suggests a handful of chords (or harmonies) that I can choose from. Often one progression (a sequence of chords) can enhance the mood that the melody implies, creating a bold statement of either joy or sorrow, and another can mask it somewhat, making a more subtle statement. Since I can’t take my guitar or cello into the shower to experiment with various chords, I usually make these decisions shortly after dressing.
With a verse, or chorus, as well as a few chords in hand, the remaining parts of the song form a puzzle. If I have time, I’ll work on this puzzle as much as I can at that moment, but usually I try to solve it as I bike the work. Often, upon arriving at work, you can spot me in the furthest, most isolated corner in the lobby recording any additional ideas I came up with.
At the end of the day, I try to remember the song I started in the morning. If so, that is usually a good sign that I should record it, or at least dedicate the time to completing it by filling in the missing pieces . If not, I’ll wait a few days and see if it comes back to me. Again, if it does, then it goes into the pile of tunes worth serious consideration. If not, I usually let it slip away. Sometimes songs sit in the “pile of songs worth serious consideration” for years before being finished. Some puzzles are harder to solve than others.
This particular song, “Nasty Weather”, came to me in the form of a chorus, both words and melody at the same time. After singing it a few times, I realized that the line “we’re in for nasty weather” was a quote from an old Talking Heads song called “Burning Down the House”. Although I have no idea what that Talking Heads song is actually about, the reference reminded me that friend I once played in a band with was getting divorced. The news struck me pretty hard because the couple, at the time, were inseparable. It seemed like it was just a few years ago that I played my cello during their wedding ceremony. And from this memory, the backbone for the verses was formed. The rest of the song came together in the two days that followed.
Folks! I hope you had a great month. Mine was wonderful. I spent the first half of it in Iceland admiring the waterfalls (featured in the video) and enjoying the nature. If you’d like to sing or play along with my song, here’s the song sheet!