Monday, February 11, 2008


songwriting has always been a tricky gypsy lover for me. like any creative endeavor, sometimes everything falls into place serendipitously, and you have a good song without much laboring. but most times, it’s a hard-fought battle to bend the wills of words and melodies. you wrestle them into submission, but not so hard that you hurt them.

the first album came with its own set of tricky issues. a lot of the songs were older songs, from college, that we had to rework. so they required new arrangements, new melodies sometimes, and almost always new words. ‘mr b’ is probably the song that survived the most intact from its first incarnation. most of his siblings on the album got wrestled pretty bad.

with this album, we are starting completely from scratch. all new songs, and all new ideas. which is a lot of fun for me. it’s like buying a brand new sketchbook. blank pages waiting to be filled. so this was a welcome challenge.

my approach to writing songs is a lot like how i approach painting. usually my first step is to get a kernel of an idea and then research it to death. i fill index cards with weird phrases and bits of trivia. character traits. possible titles. then i spread them all out on my floor and start making connections. putting cards together. re-ordereing and ranking. i think it’s important, when dealing with an open-ended problem, to limit the possible solutions that i’ll spend time on. so a good first pass is a shotgun approach. shoot wide. generate too many ideas. then filter them down. keep everything for later, but limit the scope of the material i have in front of me. i’ll have to do this a few times, each time whittling the cards down.

meanwhile neil is recording demo versions of the instrumentation for the songs. when he finishes them, i throw them into garageband and start matching up themes and ideas with songs that fit the vibe. then i can start playing around with melody and lyric ideas.

or [picture of index cards]
for example, here are a couple index card worth of goofy notes/ideas:

~another fine mess we’ve gotten into
me and leroy
hercules (to ioulaus)

~triskaidekaphobia (tris-ky-deka-phobia)
napolean? roosevelt? afraid of all things 13

~dirty harry had a magnum and magnum had a 45

~the serpent of the nile - cleopatra (medusa?)

~planet mercury has the shortest year
new year’s eve parties are more frequent?

i think i’ve got something for ‘me and leroy’. or ‘leroy and me’. that sounds better.

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