Archive for May, 2012

Songwriting Challenge Week 13

Posted in Songwriting, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by Gideon K

I still don’t know how good any of the recent stuff I’ve written has been. I don’t get the feeling that these have been songs that I will be singing year after year, or that people will ask me to play to them etc. Although I don’t want to judge these poor scabby babies just yet.


What I love about all this is the element of surprise involved. I had no idea any of these ideas were in there or that they were coming out. I had no idea they would exist until they did. It’s a nice contrast to a lot of my songs and how they’ve been written, which is that I’ll have an idea, a theme, or an image and from that point it’s a case of wearily carving away and sweating really heavily over them until they feel like they do justice to my inner feeling of what the ideal could be like. My point is, that once I have the image in my head, I have some idea, often a pretty good one, of what the end result will be, especially from a musical point of view and it’s just waiting til the lyrics sit right.


By contrast, all the things that have come out in the last month or so have been a complete surprise to me for the most part – and thus a pleasant one no matter how they come out. I just love feeling that I can surprise myself with what I do – it gives me a generous feeling of being touched by or touching, reaching out into the unknown, pulling something raw out of my subconscious. I’ve had that a lot recently, and all along from doing the morning pages, but here is something that has gone into songs. I hope it will continue.


This week I’ve been working on a song that was mostly a case of reportage of something that was happening between me and someone I know late one evening. (No, not that – for once). I was just trying to get the important details of what was taking place and why I felt it was both important, and resonant. This has been another song I’ve written lyrics first, and tried to find some melody and chords for it afterwards.

The advantage of this is that in this scenario the rhythmic flow of the words is able to suggest the structure of melody itself.

The disadvantage is that the fairly standard structure and meter of the words means the musical side of the song won’t be too original necessarily. But that’s fine, it will suit it as a late night folky/lullaby, gentle rain song that it wants to be.


All is going well, although I’m at another stage where I have far more song ideas than I have time to devote to them. My only hope is to dive into attempting to writing them as fully as I can in the moment they are conceived. If I can do this, and do it well, I will not only be able to capture a breathless spontaneity and possibly livelier aspects of the songs, but a whole new (for me) songwriting skill, talent, or tool.


Forcing myself out of my comfort zone.


Fingers crossed

Songwriting Challenge Week 12

Posted in Songwriting, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by Gideon K


I spent most of Week 12 in Cornwall hanging out with a friend, recuperating, writing and reading. I wrote a song very quickly one morning from some rough lines I had in my notebook. They seemed to call out for me to do something with them, so it was just a 2-section, simple chord thing. Very minor, sad, gloomy. Very me. The whole thing still needs a bit of polishing but is essentially ready to go.


My friend Anna and I also wrote a song together with full chords, melody, structure etc, and made a start on a lyrical theme but have not crystallised that last part yet. We were trying to get some kind of underworld, transvestite gangster subplot into the lyrics of a 3-4 minute pop song and have not got it tailored to fit yet.

It was great fun doing it though, and quick. It worked so well and fluidly I think because neither of us was saying ‘no’ to anything, always accepting each other’s ideas and adding to them. Or, one of us would give to 2 choices as to where we could take it, the other would choose and off we went, always keeping with the playful, experimental side, allowing the whackier ideas to play out and show their usefulness. It’s a catchy little number too.

I’m looking forward to finishing the song and doing more collaborations soon.


So, at the end of 3 months in, it turns out I have 5-7 songs finished, depending on how far along or how happy I am with them. I plan on having some rough demos of things up soon.


There’s also a hell of a lot more work to do on unfinished stuff. The key is to keep doing it. I can already feel a difference in how I approach songs.

More importantly, I feel like I’m not quite there yet. I can feel myself in mid-air if you will, and where I land will be quite different.

I’m at a stage where some things are happening now very quickly although very nebulously, so I get a finished piece but it seems cloudy, misshapen. I don’t really have any idea what it is, but I celebrate because I AM creating. It is my job to create and not to judge – at least that’s the received Artist Way wisdom on the subject.


I also sense instinctively that it is only the beginning, and that I have to keep it up and it will really go somewhere. The writing will improve as I go along and find myself within this different context of working. I am slowly shifting my efforts from the excruciatingly involved method of writing I have used where a songs can take months even years to develop – the results of which I’m very happy with – I just need change and variety as well as wider knowledge.  I still have that patience to not call things finished until they are, and they meet certain standards, but I’m also exploring much more the spontaneous side and trying to combine the two, just experimenting.



Songwriting Challenge Week 11

Posted in Songwriting, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by Gideon K
Ajax the dog - Photo courtesy of

Ajax the dog – Photo courtesy of

I tried a ‘new’ approach I’d been meaning to have a go at for ages. Start with a riff or anything and play it into the computer, then listen back, sing over it, or add another bit – let it all unfold piece by piece.

One advantage to this is that my conscious capacity is not burdened with trying to remember all the various ideas I had for it of where it could go and so on, I just lay them all down, react to them, rearrange them and play with them, put new ones down, adding and subtracting as I go – jamming with the software program essentially.

Another advantage is in the case of editing, speed and immediacy of cut n paste, instant arranging etc – far easier to work with in this capacity than tape. With this method I felt like I was working with an army of me as I could instantly react and come up with new parts and ideas.

What started as a 2 chord thing, got twisted into a weird bunch of rock riffs and lyrics about labs, pavlovian dogs, and ghosts. I still don’t really know what the song means exactly, or if it means anything at all, but there was a sort of insistent rhythm to how it came out.

I seem to recall something Bob Dylan said about songs being strange gifts of the spirits – they come and give you these songs, and then they go, and you don’t know what the songs mean, but there they are. I was trying to respect that aspect and feel that. It seemed to resonate. I didn’t want to feel like I was killing that mystical side off by trying to pin down all these words that just came, by insisting they made sense to me. I think that may have been a mark of restraint on my part.

Time will tell.

As I said I had avoided this approach, partially because I’ve always tried to avoid going anywhere near recording a song until it was ‘finished’. But part of this challenge, and my general quest is to find out where things work and don’t work, by trying things out for myself.

In a way I can’t believe I’d never used this process for actually writing songs until now, given that I often use similar trial and error processes for arranging song demos at home.

Whenever I ran out of juice I just stopped and picked it up again later or the next day. This approach seems a lot more fun, and rewarding for me than sitting down with an acoustic guitar alone to write a song – which I often find quite boring. My ‘successful’ attempts at that have all started long before I actually pick up the guitar itself.

Anyway, the train keeps rolling…

Songwriting Challenge Week 10

Posted in Creativity, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by Gideon K

I know I haven’t been good at keeping this blog on a weekly basis, but they seem to go by with so much happening and I’ve been working hard trying to get all my writing done…


I’ll try and summarise as best I can.


I didn’t get much done as I was concentrating on mixing and trying to finish my EP to a satisfactory degree, and spent the weekend in the countryside with a friend I hadn’t seen for 5 years, so no writing got done then.


Regarding this idea of hard work, I thought I’d include a quote from James Ellroy’s brilliant ‘L.A. Confidential’ which I’ve just finished reading. It was a stupendously captivating and immersive reading experience. I had great difficulty putting it down at all.


‘I’m working hard at it.’

‘Work harder. Good efforts are for schoolboys, results are what counts. Go to it, gentlemen.’


The character who said it was a bastard – most of them are, but he had a point.


Also, I saw an excellent talk by the mighty John Cleese about creativity which is highly recommended, and I have been following his 90 min guideline since. This video is pretty much a must-see.



I have made a start at recording presentable basic demos of the songs I have accumulated on this challenge so far and will be putting them up on my soundcloud page soon. I decided enough paying lip-service to it all, it is time to actually display some of it for proof.