One of the things
that Timmy Riordan
does to inspire you is give you a "prompt" each
morning. A word or phrase to get you started.
Day one's prompt was "full plate." I took that
as meaning a very busy day. I know that feeling
well so that was no problem. Song one, titled
"Learn To Fly," down.
The next days prompt
was "the real thing." I'm a Coca-Cola addict and
since I was drinking a Coke for breakfast that's
what went into the song. Why not use what's
around you for inspiration? "Monday Morning,"
written on a Monday morning completed. I spent
that afternoon buying a used van from it's
original owner (for a great deal I might add)
and had a recording session that evening until
late and went to bed right after.
For day three the
inspirational prompt was "off the grid." I
thought and thought but had nothing. Played some
chords over and over, still nothing. So I
reached for my songwriting notebooks. I opened
one to a random page, saw the phrase "Let's talk
about the dreams you had." I sketched out the
chord pattern, roughed out some lyrics and went
to work. All day long I was running ideas
through my head, jotting down lyric ideas. When
I got home I threw it together. "Think About"
The day four
prompt was "keep it going" which I assume was
meant to be inspirational to the participants.
"Keep it going! You're doing great!" Tried but
couldn't figure out how to use "keep it going"
in a song. Instead of the notebooks I decided to
start from scratch. Worked on it in the morning
for a short while then went to work. "The Good
News" was finished the next morning.
I had gotten some
encouraging feedback on the Facebook page that
was set up for participants to post their songs
so that felt good. Listening to a few of the
other participant's songs was also encouraging.
There was some good stuff being done, everyone
who was participating was taking it seriously
and trying really hard. Good to know.
"How about a song
written on a different instrument than you
usually play?" was the prompt for day five.
Well, since I used to write songs on bass, my
first instrument--guitar is the new one for
me--I decided to stick with guitar and keep
plugging away. I started a song, got halfway
through it before deciding I didn't like it.
Went to work, jotted down a few ideas and
started a new one when I got home. I had a
recording session that night so didn't get back
to it until the next morning. "Breaking Bad" is
one of my favorite shows and I always wanted to
use the title to the season one episode "Crazy
Handful of Nothing" in a song. The phrase didn't
make it--although I toyed around with it for a
while--but it did become the title for the day
For day six the
prompt was "minimum wage." I've worked plenty of
minimum wage jobs but wasn't inspired enough by
this to write a song about it. I worked during
the day and went to a house concert that
evening. The performer was a great songwriter
who used nature--rivers, mountains, weather--in
her songs. She was a very natural storyteller.
Matter of fact songs with a poetic feel to them.
Beautiful in a plain-stated way. When I got home
that evening I decided to sort of follow her
example and used the ocean as my "prompt" since
I had been right on the ocean that night. I used
the chord structure I had abandoned the day
before but with different lyrics and finished
"Take Your Time" the following morning,
Saturday, right before my next recording
The final day's
prompt was "looking forward." Hmmm... what to
do, what to do...
I thought about
it all day but couldn't come up with anything.
Had that recording session to do and no time to
think about writing a song.
came and I had an idea for a lyric. Later I came
up with a walk down chord progression that I
liked. I let it stew for a bit, added a walk up
progression to go with it and slaved over the
words for hours, finally finishing "Where Will
You Keep Your Soul" late Sunday night. Seven
songs in eight days. Whew.
So what did I
learn from all of this? Yes, I can write songs
on demand if I feel like it. But I'm not crazy
about any of these songs--yet. They may grow on
me. But they don't all have the "instant
classic" feel. I may come back to some of these
in the future--tweak the lyrics, add a bridge
section--who knows? If nothing else, it was a
fun experience and I learned quite a bit about
myself along the way.
Now is a song
better just because it was written in a day? Not
necessarily. Mick and Keith wrote "Satisfaction"
in half an hour. Contrast that with Leonard
Cohen who said that his song "Hallelujah" took
years to finish. Is one better than the other?
Opinions would vary but a good song is a good
song no matter if it's written in five minutes
or five years. You work with what you have and
if inspiration hits you then you take it to the
I have to thank
Timmy Riordan for putting this on. A great idea
done well and I had a chance to listen to some
previously unheard songwriters performing some
of their rawest material, really taking a chance
and not being afraid to put it out there for the
world to check out.
February I may decide to try my hand at the
FAWM.org event where the goal is to write fourteen songs in twenty-eight days.
It could happen.
check out February
Album Writing Month at
group does a once a year event where everyone
attempts to write fourteen songs in twenty-eight
days. an entire album's worth of material
If you are interested in hearing the songs I
wrote for that week go to my Soundcloud page
If you're on Soundcloud feel free to "follow" me
and I will "follow" suit.