Yesterday as I was talking to my guitarist Taylor (@enloe) he mentioned he has this little guitar riff that he had come up with that he was wondering if I would be able to come up with something for. He said he wouldn’t be able to really use it for his band, it didn’t really fit his style. So he sent it to me.
The minute I listened to it I was hooked. It’s amazing, because when creativity starts bubbling inside you, the only way I can explain it is like a sizzle. It’s brewing and bubbling and you just know something creative is coming up to the surface. And I felt the sizzle.
I listened to the riff a few times and was all excited. I could easily hear a bunch of melodies in there, but I was struggling with what I would like to say in the song. This is about the time I put it down. I can easily get caught up in feeling like something is so good I don’t want to ruin it with mediocre lyrics or a less than stellar melody.
It’s really important to let something like that simmer, because the caught-up-ness on whether or not it’s going to be “good enough” is a big blockage for the creativity. At least it is for me. So I let it go …for now.
This morning I was driving around in my car, running a few errands and listening to the snippet every once in a while to remember how freaking cool it is. And finally the hook came to me: “I Feel A Rebel Coming On”. The topic of feeling like you’ve been holding it in and like something is ready to pop, was all too familiar to me back before I decided to follow my creative path. And they always say to write about what you know, right? I couldn’t wait to start writing this down.
I walked in the door, phone in hand and my friend and roommate Cirke and I started talking about other things, and I was totally distracted. I felt like my sizzle was ready to boil over, I needed to write this hook down, that by now had turned into a verse and I could feel a chorus not far behind. So mid sentence I told Cirke I would be right back and ran upstairs. This is commonplace with creative folks, urgency is everything when you have a good melody line in your head. It can slip away from you so easily. She laughed.
This is why I almost always record anything I come up with the minute I come up with it. I admit to doing this even while driving, and I’m sorry world, but it’s for the greater good. My phone is filled with little snippets of songs or hooks or melody lines. Sometimes when I listen back to them, I’m going “what the hell was I thinking here?” And that must mean they obviously weren’t as memorable as I thought they were at the time.
Up I go to record, on top of Taylor’s own hook and a partial melody line he had come up with. Yeah, the first versions of songs can be quite horrific quality. These are what we call “scratches”. But as long as they get the point across we don’t worry too much about that. After I got the initial idea down, the chorus wasn’t far behind.
I’m writing this mid-collaboration. Taylor and I are going to work on it together this Monday, but I won’t be surprised if a rough draft of the song is done way before then. We sent each other “reference songs” songs that have elements of what we would like to put in there, or have a rhythm we would like to integrate. And it sounds like we are totally on the same page with where this is going.
Some songs become life changers. They are impactful, graceful and tell stories to the world in a way I never thought I could. There are certain parts of my songs I sometimes think “where did that come from”. In the best way possible. I will look at part of a verse or a line or a hook and it will feel like someone else wrote it through me. I know many other artists feel this way about their art, like their hands are being guided. Or feeling like a channel. These are the songs that make us feel like vessels doing immensely important work.
And then there are the songs that are just meh. The ones that aren’t really “good enough” (whatever that means) and you can’t really figure out why. The ones that in the grander scheme of things were some sort of transition.
It’s important to remember that all songs serve some purpose, even if it’s just that they had to be written. Even if you’re the only one who will ever hear them. Some are therapeutic, but only for you. Some are therapeutic for the whole world. Some are expressions. Some leave impressions.
I sometimes imagine that my songs are waiting in one long line to be created, good ones, crappy ones, fantastic ones, #1 hit ones… And I don’t know which type of song this next one will be. Nor do I have to know. I just have to write it. This has helped me to not judge my songs, or feel like a crappy songwriter because I just wrote 3 "bad ones" in a row. Because who’s to say they weren’t blocking the way for that awesomely great one that’s coming next?
I can’t wait to share this next song with you.