Jan 16, 2009

Songwriting Ain't Easy

I've never said that songwriting was easy. In fact, most of the time I see songwriting as a long, arduous task that takes time, patience and massive amounts of creativity. This is all in a good way of course. I revel in the task of starting with a blank page in my old Moleskine and building from the ground up. Some songs will take weeks, months, or even years to see their final form. (Example, my song "Take Me Home" took almost a full year and saw a complete rewrite before finally being finished just in time for my sister's wedding. Listen in the player in the top right.) In fact, the majority of tunes that start off with the grandest of intentions end us as just another page.

It's just so hard! But I wouldn't have it any other way. It's like you hear all the time, if it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. If it were easy to hit a 100 mph fastball, everyone would be a Major League baseball player. If it were easy to paint, would we ever have heard of Van Gogh, he'd just be another dude that played around with paint brushes.

Though difficult, overall, I don't make my songwriting a complicated task. I either start with a guitar riff or a title and go from there. I never really do it exactly the same every time. Sometimes I have a cool chorus idea then I work in a first verse, a chorus lead in, the second verse and so on. Sometimes I start from the beginning, working through a verse and then busting out a hook. But for the most part, my writings stick to my Moleskine, becoming a messed up array of crossed out words and arrows pointing this way and that.

I'm definitely not Rivers Cuomo. For those who don't know Rivers is the lead singer and primary songwriter of Weezer. He has such an interesting perspective on writing music. Not to say it's odd, like his personality at some points, but refreshing and complete. I came across a lot of his view points in a YouTube series in which he enlisted users to help him write a song. Really, he's just one funny dude.

As if his incredible music didn't showcase it enough, I found his songwriting even more intriguing when I watched a video of him explaining how he wrote the song "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" from Weezer's latest release, "The Red Album". It really would take a Harvard grad to understand what was going through his mind when he was putting this thing together. (He is a Harvard grad, by the way.)

Who knew that songwriting would involve so much paper, scotch tape, random stains, and half of a hotel room floor. (And you thought the Word Box was weird.) It really is amazing how he conceptualized this song and put it together to be the masterpiece that it is. You could pick a much much worse songwriter to model yourself after and take advice from. Just an ounce of his songwriting know how would take you places unimagined.

You can check out the Rivers video at the KROQ site by clicking here. It really is a treat to see how professional musicians do what they do. Be prepared, it's close to 20 minutes but well worth the time. And if you ever thought that writing a good song was easy, this video will make you think twice, maybe even three times.

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