Reminds me of the feeling I get when I put the baby to bed and think he’s asleep only to hear him start crying a few minutes later
Open City (by Tracey Sims)
One of my songs, “Between the Shutters,” was featured in this powerful short film, a love letter of sorts to the city of Detroit. It’s a very powerful piece of art, and I’m extremely proud to be a small part of it.
Recently, my friend Sean Lamborne aka t.mule from the band The Longest Day of the Year asked some of his talented musician friends (and me) to give him their songwriting tips for a class he was teaching to young aspiring musicians. The tips follow (and I’ve included links to all of the contributors’ music). I found it interesting how similar some of the themes were:
Lindsay Lou Rilko of Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys
- Make sure you have a way to record or write down your ideas. Ideas are fleeting and you have to grab them when they come to you
- Learning other’s songs and reading other’s writings (songs &/or books) is one of the best ways to get inspired. Learn from others who you think are doing it well, and they will give you the tools you need to put your own creation together
- Don’t let the judgment of others impact your writing, but do try to be open to other’s input. I’ve had songs become completely new beings just by the implementation of a simple adjustment or addendum that came from a peer’s perspective
Paul Hoffman from Greensky Bluegrass
- Short statement of advice for a songwriter.
- Remember everyone’s creative process is different and that’s what makes it special. So embrace your voice.
- Simple is good. Simple is bad. There’s no real rules or answer, don’t force it. Go where the melody sounds right to you. If you’re behind it, it will work.
Ben Hanna of The Ben Hanna Band
- Give yourself permission to make a mess
- Take the editor out during the songwriting process
- Just write the song… Not every song needs to be a “hit”
Mark Lavengood of Lindsay Lou & the Flatbelly’s
- Write about things that have made an impact on your life…when it’s something from the core of your being, you feel passionate about it, and it writes itself
- Do not put too much value other people’s judgment. Let your creativity run wild. feed it
- Pour your heart and soul into every note you play, every word you sing, every step you take
Jiffer Harriman of The Hop Pickers
- Let your mind wander, and do things that allow that, but with the intention in mind of coming up with some part of a song. I come up with a lot of song ideas and lyrics when I’m on a run, sometimes I’ll get two verses written and immediately go and write them down when I get back
- There is no wrong way, sometimes words come first, sometimes the music, and don’t be afraid to go back and change something, just get it out as fast as possible and then you can always go back and refine
- Create a container of support - no wrong ideas, just freedom in brainstorming. And wait until after the ideas have been flowing to bring in the “critic” mind. The editor
- Break songwriting down into rhythm, melody and storytelling. We need to make clear choices or maybe let the muse lead us into clear pastures in these three realms to have a song that is strong. A good song should be able to stand up and walk on its own. And then after those three elements, we can look at harmony, arrangement and DYNAMICS!
- Let the song lead you. What does it need? It’s like we are coaxing it out of the unseen world into our world… it’s more important for it to exist and make the passage than it is for it to be “perfect.” Don’t give up on the song, once you are in the creative process, you are close to the muse, if you stop and pick it up again later, you are likely to be a ways away from the muse, and the initial inspiration. Finish it and move on to the next song.
- No single song is going to capture your entire being, your whole philosophy, your essence, so let each one come out and be itself and then move on to the next one!
- ALWAYS have something with you to write with/on. Could be a pen and pad, a cell phone with a note function, or even a stone and chisel.
- Keep a list of images that are meaningful/interesting to you. Concrete images help others relate to your songs
- Try not to evaluate whether you are good or not. At first, you won’t be good, just like when you’re learning to do anything new
- Don’t worry too much about making sense and try not to over-explain yourself. Some of the best songs don’t make any sense at all
- Write even when you don’t feel like it
- Learn an instrument and how to read music
- Push through any feelings of “I’m not good” or “I don’t know how” because before you know it, you’ll be married with kids and a mortgage payment and you’ll have no time and you’ll be mad at yourself for not doing more when you did have time
- Learn as much as you can from people who you think are good at what you want to do. Usually they are happy to share their knowledge
Mike Merenda from Mike + Ruthy
- Find yourself a private place where no one can hear you and just start singing
- Write the song as its being sung then scribble as much down as you can remember of what you just sang (the back of your guitar can be a quick, handy surface)
- Write down way more than you need
- Be fearless and tell the truth
- Learn your favorite songs and copy your heroes
26 years ago today, Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill became the first rap album to top the U.S. Chart. It stayed at Number One for 7 weeks. Take a look back at our original 1986 review of the album.
@ILLingsworth thanks the people who bought #TrainRunner (by Doctor Illingsworth)
here’s a video “thank you” for the folks who bought Train Runner.
shouts out to @SeanUppercut for letting me borrow his jesus-camera.
in this video, you get a little bit of a taste on how much of a worrier I really am. i was mad worried about long(er) distance bus travel lol.
This video is thanks enough good sir