Archive for Songwriting

I’m back. Kinda…

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by Gideon K
Van Surfing. On a van.

Van Surfing. On a van. Because I’m cool, that’s why.

 

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do for a little while is start blogging again. Not in the same way as I used to, but not to abandon it completely. The problem for me was thinking of a way in which I could get back into it in a way that fit into everything else I’ve been doing (some of which were the reasons I stopped blogging).

 

Well, I’ve decided to start writing here again, but also maintain a separate blog for my band Black Hay (here). I need some place where I can talk about all that stuff in an appropriate way that doesn’t end up looking like my blog here is just “Check outmyband.com”

 

Why did I stop blogging? Why did I leave it alone for a while? Simply because I felt like after a certain point, I was just writing about creativity rather than being creative. Also, I think the way I was going about doing my songwriting challenge was quite harmful for me in certain ways.

It did bring out some good things though. I started writing a lot of poems as a result of being so fed up of songwriting, and that has altered the way I write songs now, I think for the better.

 

I originally started this blog as a means of emptying out my head of various ideas. I was trying to flush out everything I knew, or thought I knew, and share it to see if it stood up. But more than that I wanted to see what resources I had left once I found I was empty of all the ideas and notions I had accumulated.

 

For the most part I think I’ve done that now, and will still post something if I feel it has to be talked about, but in terms of my priorities it’s a bit of a way down the list.

 

I had another brief experiment with that one-a-week song challenge, with slightly different parameters, and it went very well without me writing about it. The aim was just to get a song and song demo completed by the end of each week. Some record of how the song is played and song, even if it’s just guitar and vocal. That works better for me than talking about the process of writing, or trying to, which can be more harmful than useful I’ve found.

 

I’ve made what feels like a lot of creative progress in the last year or so, which I will get on in due time, but right now I’m just writing to say hi and see who’s still listening.

 

Hope all is well and groovy with you all.

 

G

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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 Weeks 5, 6, 7, 8

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

Hello, I’ve been gone a little while but it sure is good to see you again.

Where to begin?

Firstly I suppose I should fess up to the reasons for my lack of posting and keeping pace with my self-imposed deadlines for this challenge.

Apart from having various external constraints such as trying to finish my EP which has been filled with various time-consuming tasks and hassles, the details of which I won’t bore you with, I’ve generally just not been feeling it. I’ve been in a weird blue funk for pretty much the whole of last month without knowing why.

Now, the whole point of the challenge and of writing on command and so forth is to be able to avoid being susceptible to such periods, to maintain consistency and movement regardless of internal weather patterns. Insofar as showing up, working on songs, writing, toying with the word/chord/melody is concerned, I have put the time in. I have shown up, written some songs, finished some, failed to finish others.

I’ve been recording, singing, even played an industry showcase that I’m told went down pretty well, but throughout this whole time I’ve been feeling hollowed out, like I’ve been running on empty.

It’s strange – I had a notion before I started blogging, that doing something online/in public should make you more accountable in some way to keeping track of deadlines etc, but really it got to the point where I just don’t care. The work counts and that’s it. I’m sure if I had people banging at my door or ringing me up demanding how many songs I’d written that day/week/month, my reality might be different, but it’s not like that. This is all primarily dictated by me in the cultural and social vacuum of my own imagination.

The general creative pattern for each of the 4 weeks in question was:

–          An attempt to finish an older song that I’d built up in my mind as important than others and thus ground progress to a halt. Chipped away at said song, but did not get to the finishing stretch.

–          Unrelatedly (and unconsciously) wrote an impulsive quick song about something or other that had been on my mind that week. Had a luke-warm feeling of finishing something, but did not feel impressed by it and did not play with it further to refine it or make something better.

–          Generally felt a bit crap and powerless regarding both my failure to come up trumps, and my lack of mojo or clear vision regarding where the writing is going.

Week 5

Attempted an old song,  then realized why I hadn’t finished it back when I started it. I was approaching the song from a One-dimensional perspective and needed to take it somewhere or let it take me. Dylan refers to a lot of songs of his as having been written because of an image in his head. I had the image in my head, and the memory. I’d just been wrongly interpreting what the image meant. Did not finish that song though.

Week 6

Similar story. I attended a Comedy Improv workshop. One of the many valuable creative tools that was brought up was a game I’m now a huge fan of called ‘Yes, and…’. The idea of it as an exercise is that collaboration works by accepting as a gift anything that your collaborators have to offer (and you can expand this to anything that happens in life), this is the ‘yes’ part. You say ‘yes’ to it, then you say ‘and’ by adding something to the picture, and take turns in doing this.

ie

“Let’s go for a walk”

“Yes, and let’s get some ice cream”

“Yes, and lets go to the park and throw things at the ducks”

“Yes and lets scare little children by making bear sounds at them as they run past…” etc etc

I really clicked and had good creative rapport with a girl I met there. We were chatting online a day or so later and she suggested we write a song. I suggested we do so then and there, so we ended up writing a song in the space of around half an hour – two different versions of the same thing. It was insane fun, although really we need to get together and finish it.

Since reading ‘The Craft and Business of Songwriting’ by John Braheny, I have wanted and tried implementing a ‘No-free zone’ in both my own space and in any group or band spaces I’ve been in, with varying degrees of success or acceptance. I keep trying though.

Week 7

At some point I had the notion of trying to rationalize all the various scribbling I had made during the previous few weeks since completing the last song – a list of all the started songs and worked on numbers, and another list of all the various poems I’ve been writing. The list was not insignificant. It seems I have been very good at catching that initial glimpse of an idea but not developing it all the way.

I have a number of songs that could become finished but I have been worn out. Until I wrote the list down it felt like I had not done very much work at all. My muse knows I haven’t been getting down to the heavy lifting yet but frankly I have been burnt out. I’ve been trying to lavish myself with inspiration but I’ve just been tired – mood swings a plenty, really bitter down-ness and general malaise. It’s strange, because I’ve been reading really good books that I’ve enjoyed, and listening to a lot more music.

Recording the EP I’ve felt exhausted during and before it has been finished, which is not good, but although it has been a struggle, it has gone well.

Week 8

I was not even consciously bothering at this point and decided to have as much of a week off as I could. I went out for dinner 3 or 4 nights that week, watched lots of Twin Peaks episodes, listened to lots of different music, did some exercise, and generally tried to do something else, because nothing was working with me at this point. I was a wound up toy-car bumping into the same wall whichever direction I faced. I wasn’t even sure why. I was very frustrated and most likely a pain to be around. Somehow I still wrote things down and toyed with ideas despite myself.

I’ve said it before, but I don’t find myself motivated too much by the idea of songs for the sake of songs. I want my songs to be useful. Art is a means to an end, or should have an element of that just as much as it exists for it’s own sake. I don’t mean I would write a song to try and clear greenhouse gases or something like that, but celebration, dancing, introspection, are all intentions regarding some of the effects of art. It might be that even with that target in mind, the merits of a song or piece of work might just be that it is enjoyable in and of itself, but I need some ‘higher’ goal to motivate me, and recently this has been somewhat missing. Oscar Wilde might disagree strongly on this point, but I can live with that.

However, I knew this was all part of some sort of growing pain and transition and that more fields of glory lay on the other side of this if I could only get to the bottom of what was not working.

“When problems arise in my life, I know I need to work on my art.” –  I think Julia Cameron said that.

“When problems arise in my art, I know I need to work on my life.” – I said that.

And true enough I turned a corner on all this big blue funk in Week 9….

Songwriting Challenge: Week 1

Posted in Songwriting, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , , on February 27, 2012 by Gideon K

 

Note: This is actually a week late but I wrote this when I had finished that week.

I think I’ve done it. I think I’ve finished a song I had about ‘Bad Girls’ as much as possible right now. As in, finished in the way that I won’t really know if it’s done until I start to play it live and so forth. I’ve made a tentative demo of it with vocals and guitar. The thing I can finish now is the outro.

 

Anyway, I’ve kind of done it. It feels a little hollow. It feels good, definitely, but I’m not relaxed about it. Just thinking about the next one. I’m not concerned about running out of stuff to work on, because I have a huge list of works in progress that are up for examination and being blown out.

 

Shit is gonna come out how it’s going to come out so I’m not going to try and control it to much right now, I’m just trying to tap into the wave of momentum and get as much done in as many ways as possible. As many different types of songs and find out what my voice really is. I know I’ve only hinted at it up to now, and in many respects only shown a few sides of me. I’m looking forward to being able to unbutton my personality and loosen up completely.

 

I think my goals are reasonable, and entirely doable. My anxiety, excitement and fear comes from the reaslisation that it’s only a case of showing up and letting the monsters out, however they want to land, and trying to make sense of that. I’ve felt that in trying to write poetry – I don’t have the technical skills or ability to breakdown which bits are weak or strong, and then DO something about them, fix them.

 

I do know that about songs though. I want to experiment with more melody, with more accessibility. I’m not looking to pander to anyone or dilute anything, but rather to make sure I’m not purposefully cutting myself off from things as a defence mechanism because I’m scared of exposing something. I want to make mature works, not childish pieces that pretend that they don’t care what anyone thinks. My desire is to make world-class pieces that stand up to anyone in any walk of life. One of my tasks on the challenge will be to write songs aimed at certain target demographics I usually alienate – I want to write for the ‘straight’ world, I want to write a song for young kids that would grab them, really grab them and stand up to my needs at the same time.

 

A lot to do, and a lot to look forward to. But I do so, somewhat tensely, tentatively, nervously. I’m warming up.

 

 

Songwriting Challenge – 52 Songs, 52 Weeks

Posted in Songwriting, Songwriting Challenge 2012 with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2012 by Gideon K

I’ve decided to do a songwriting challenge. Why would I do such a thing?

 

I love missions.

 

Since doing the artist’s way, I’ve gotten somewhat hooked on the feeling of growth and measuring progress, and more to the point, it seems to work for me. As I was coming to the end of the 90 day post-course agreement I was considering what to do next. I hadn’t managed to meet all of my targets and personal goals and was frankly a little worn out with everything.

 

During the last 6 months, I did not get as much songwriting done as I had either intended to or hoped for and thought that this should be top of my priorities. Incidentally, I spotted several mentions of people who were doing them and how it is a way of forcing yourself to learn and grow a lot in a relatively short space of time. What could be better?

 

I’ve tried doing songwriting challenges before, one not even that long ago. But none of them went well. The last one I tried for instance was 30 songs in 30 days – one per day. I was setting myself up for failure. Firstly real life and work etc do not allow one with that luxury everyday (at least not me,) and even when they did I often ended up writing throwaway stuff that was slight in all areas. The time frame was way to narrow considering I have certain songs of mine that have taken a year to write, another took about 2 years from start to finish.

Secondly, I was starting from scratch each time, which was silly considering how much raw material I already have stashed away, and what a backlog I have of started pieces to work from. So it did not last more than 3-4 days before I kicked that one in the head.

 

This time I thought I might research other challenges that other people have done, and make my mind up after I’d researched it. But nothing was happening that way, and I still haven’t researched them that thoroughly. Instead I realised that I just need to start doing it, and everything will sort itself out as I go along, as and when needed.

 

So, starting the week of Sunday 12th February 2012 I’ve started a new challenge. For the next 52 weeks I will be setting myself the target of finishing one song per week. I knew it was the right thing to do when the prospect of it filled me with raw excitement and fear.

 

Luckily, I have lots of work to choose from. If I finish exactly 52 songs, I’ll still have many unfinished pieces, scraps, and ideas to work through. I’ve often heard artists say how they always feel that they are playing ‘catch-up’ with themselves, and always lagging behind. I don’t doubt that for a moment or think it is a different feeling for anyone. It gives me hope and encouragement in fact as there is always something to do.

 

I can’t wait.

 

The Guidelines of my challenge are as follows:

–          Complete one song by the end of each week.

 

–          Each completed song should be demoed in some rough manner – ie voice and accompaniment on guitar, bass, keys or whatever, even acappella, full arrangement or a live band take, so long as the song is documented being played from beginning to end.

 

–          The songs can be anything at all as long as I have learned something by doing them.

 

–          One pavlovian reward to be used the next week after each week completing a song, for each completed piece.

 

–          I should, and will, look for challenges from old ideas, other songwriters and other challenges

 

–          Stay inspired and invigorated by researching the subject and investigating, by allowing a constant stream of good music, reading, and exercise.

 

–          Nothing should stop me from writing and pursuing my art and using this quest as a means or source of self-discovery, learning, enlightenment, meditation, prayer, self-therapy, sharing, spreading love, and giving thanks to creation for the spot I’ve been allowed to hold in it.

 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

The Artist’s Way: Week 9

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 6/7

 

And on the 7th day he rested….

 

Actually it was the 6th day I didn’t do them. It was a day of fasting and atonement and contemplation and would not have been in the spirit of the day.

 

This week I’ve finally hit some serious pay-dirt with the pages. Regarding the size of the pages in my current notebook, I allow myself to do 2 pages of stream of consciousness, which is equivalent to 3 full pages in any other book, and then I use the 3rd page to write a full page-worth of ideas, thoughts, lyrics, re-writes etc of a song I’m working on. Just pick one and go. And the thing is, that I’ve done it each morning? And thus it works.

 

I’ve tried hard before, really hard, in heartbreaking terms, to find a daily, disciplined songwriting regime that I can stick to and that works for me. I’ve tried setting a timer and writing for an hour each day. I’ve tried chaining myself to the chair until I finish. I’ve tried a whole bunch of different ways. None of them have worked for me, and being cruel to myself, I figured that each time they didn’t work I was being lazy and not working hard enough, not wanting it bad enough etc, when the truth is that I’m not lazy I was trying really fucking hard, it just wasn’t the right method for me.

Now, I know I have a concrete goal which is basically write  and write, whatever I think about it, whatever avenue I want to explore with it and don’t stop until the page is finished. It just works for me and allows me the space to create and explore without having to get it right or wrong that I needed and that has seemingly been missing from all my other methods.

 

I did this every day that I did my pages, which is the first time I’ve ever said that I would repeatedly work on my songs every day – AND ACTUALLY DONE IT!!

 

If this had been the only thing I had gotten out of the course, it would be more than worth it and I would still be overjoyed. I’m finally on my own conveyor belt artistically instead of somebody else’s. I’ve made decent headway into several songs in this manner. None are yet completed, but they will be, soon, when the time comes.

 

Artist Date:

 

No I didn’t. I had planned to go people watching, to see if I could make up stories about what I thought people’s lives were like and what they were saying and feeling etc just by watching them from a distance. Or going to a crowded bar/café and noting down bits of stray conversation my ears picked up. I was going to do this for a bit on Thursday but failed to reserve enough time for it between what I was doing during the day and what I was doing in the evening. It will have to wait until I make the time for it either this week or next.

 

Can’t think of any synchronicity exactly. I’ve had a few gig offers and confirmations this week, but I’ve been contacting people about gigs for several weeks now. It seems logical rather than mystical.

 

They ask me about compassion, I think regarding myself. I’m totally cool with myself regarding my artistic side at the moment. This doesn’t mean I can’t do better, but I’m ok with me. I like me a lot.

 

I’m also feeling a lot more favorably disposed to people at the moment, more forgiving. I’m trying to clear out any cobwebs or bad feelings in my life towards people.

 

I finally got round to that exercise from week 6 about postcards. I sent off a bunch of emails to people I wanted to contact and say things to. People I haven’t spoken to, people I wanted to get things off my chest about, people I miss. Better late than never. I feel so much better doing this. I feel full of life, love, I feel clearer. It’s off my chest so to speak.

 

I also finally bought a keyboard and feel very happy. I can now use it to play midi parts on my demos as well as having easy access to a fully-functioning keyboard to practice and learn on. I’ve been playing it a little when I’ve had or made time. I started working through a book of small pieces to get good at reading music and get my L/R hand coordination back up again. Feels great.

 

I think once I’ve finished the course I’m going to go back and go through any and all taskt I didn’t get round to doing each week. There haven’t been that many, but one here and one there will add up I suppose. I want to lick the lid of artistic progress, drink every drop.

 

I’m very happy about finally doing song writing pages each morning. I know it will lead me on to big things.

 

What blessedly have you allowed yourself to change or accept? The glorious moment. Letting go of past failures. Smiling at the future. Flirting outrageously with what lies ahead. I want to be humbled further.

 

This great trip keeps getting better.

 

 

The Artist’s Way: Week 7

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 6/7

Today is the only day I didn’t do the pages on time. It was sunday, and sunday comes after saturday night…

I got round to sitting down and doing them around 5 or 6pm, completed them, and got something out of them, but the effect is never really the same as doing them first thing in the morning when you’re fresh.

This week’s check-in asks “Have you allowed yourself to daydream a few creative risks?” The answer is yes, definitely.

As I mentioned last time I’d had the idea of using my morning pages to write songs in. This is a great idea even if I say so myself, and I only received the idea through my aerial, I can’t take credit for it.

I’ll be spending a huge amount of time over the next few weeks, months etc and with any craft the hours you clock up take you to that place where extraordinary things happen – a place of mastery.

The only problem is that I’ve had it the wrong way round. I’ve been doing the pages first and trying to somehow write songs within the context and rules of that, which is wrong and doesn’t do anything good. The real approach is to write songs, and try and fit the goals of my morning pages into that context somehow. The emphasis then is the songs.

It reminds me of a story I read from Osho about two Monks talking about the idea of smoking and meditating at the same time. They both asked the Abbot and only one of them was allowed to smoke. It turned out they’d asked different questions.

Monk 1: Can I smoke while meditating?

Abbot: (Very Angrily) Never!

Monk 2: Can I meditate while smoking?

Abbot: That’s a great idea. Why waste time? While you are smoking, if you can meditate too that’s a great idea. Do it!

It’s been interesting, just brainstorming lyrical themes and ideas and peeling off lines, some good, some god-awful, but I think it’s important to write a lot of crap sometimes and clear your system out so that the good stuff can come out unhindered, and unsoiled.

Artist Date:

This week I had the special priviledge of a bass lesson with a hugely talented and skilled Jazz bassist Mick Coady. I wanted to be shown good technique, posture and such for playing the upright bass so that I didn’t start out with bad habits. It was a brilliant and hugely helpful experience for me. I love swimming in those waters that are unfamiliar enough to let me know I’m learning and seeing something new, but aren’t so deep or turbulent that I’m completely lost in them. Plus, my artist feels fulfilled and rewarded. I’ve now got lots of work to do on this instrument, but I know what I’m doing with it.

Other than that it’s been a relatively slow week artistry-wise. I’ve been more sociable recently though which has been much needed and rewarding.

Earlier in the book they mentioned the idea of luxury and how the feeling of it was quite easily achievable and in no way reliant on money. You just think of things that give you a sense of luxury

I happen to drink a lot of herbal tea. Red bush tea, a fair amount of green tea but only when caffeine is advantageous and not obstructive. I went this week and bought a whole bunch of different teas – Chai, decent Green Tea, Lemon and Ginger. This is part of the idea of spoiling yourself and giving yourself a feeling of luxury, and how inexpensive it is. I mean I bought loads of different teabags for about a fiver altogether. I drink a lot of tea and having lots of choice gives me a feeling of luxury, it’s SO easy to do but we often overlook these things and are needlessly stingy with ourselves. I’m gonna go to china town or to a Japanese place and get some REAL green tea soon.

I decided on something else regarding this way of thinking. I’m always snooping around charity shops for stuff – instruments, vinyl, books, but I’ve hardly bought that much in the way of clothes from them over the years mostly because it’s usually filled with stuff too shit for grandad to wear anymore.

I’ve used being broke over the past year as an excuse to deny myself any sort of luxury in the clothes department. Part of this has been necessary as a means of keeping a fixed parameter whilst trying to monitor other personal changes, but in a lot of ways it does not do one’s sense of well-being much good.

Coupled with the recent clearing out of a lot of stuff I own, getting rid of pretty much any clothing I have that I don’t love to some degree, has left my wardrobe a lot more empty. I’m never going to go through the feeling of wearing something that makes me feel shit in it ever again if I can help it.

Long-story-short: I picked up a jumper/cardigan for a couple of quid the other week, and I love it. I really enjoy wearing it, and so if I can get such a beneficial feeling out of just wearing a simple cardigan, why should I deny myself such a low-cost and easily achievable buzz? I’ve made a kind of pact with myself now, once a week or fortnight, I will buy one piece of clothing, even a belt, or a hat or something, which I REALLY like. Something cool and individualistic and ‘ME’. Or at least I’m going to keep an eye out for that something.

I still haven’t splurged on an electric piano. I don’t know why I haven’t just jumped in and bought one. I know which model I’m going to get and everything, it’s just silly. I can’t go anywhere near one without playing my relatively limited repetoire on it or figuring out new things on it all the time – I’m obsessed. Synchronicity seems to come in here too because I keep finding myself in situations where there is a piano to hand. So that is on the to-do list.

Other than that, everything is going ok. I’ve started making moves towards putting a band together, and to getting a few things moving regarding my future plans but currently they are top secret. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.