by Christa Wells
again the past few days (nights, really)…remembering that sometimes a
three-minute song requires days or weeks of loving, painstaking
labor…shaping, like wet hands sliding over clay, forming, pressing,
always. There are those glorious, rapturous moments when inspiration
swoops swiftly down, blowing through a writer like a sudden wind.
often. For me, anyway. I have over the years discovered I differ from many writers in this way: I am not fast.
People ask, "HOW do you write a song?
I could never…"
And I always think: "Of course you can write a song. A
child can write a song. I could
teach you in an afternoon. Maybe not a masterpiece, but
Step One. Listen.
Step Two. Consider.
Step Three. Create.
Yes, and of course, metaphor, rhyme
scheme, melody, chord structure…but all of that can come later. Write something down!
Yet, here I am, twenty plus years of
songwriting…still the struggle.
Like Jacob wrestling. Or a
crazy person holed up in a closet humming with a pen and notebook, scribbling
and crossing out, scribbling and crossing out.
So this is what it looks like really. In case you wondered. Mystery exposed!
HOW THIS WRITER DOES IT
small seed of idea, enthusiasm, followed by…
season of solitary brooding, considering, pondering. Destroying dinners while compulsively connecting potential
patterns, figuring perspective, angle and approach. Then..
at the keys…some few phrases in hand…solid starts that will survive and…others,
doomed to be disposed of.
dabbling…the making of a melody…probably for the first verse and chorus only. Said melody will change many
times over many hours and days of tinkering…
will the chords laid beneath the melody like tumbled marble. So many options for every syllable…must
test each possibility until Special happens. Then, that syllable gets to sit quietly while the next has
his turn on the pottery wheel.
Every line must find Special somehow.
of pre-occupation, pausing by piano at every opportunity to re-play…burning
melody into the memory of every innocent bystander in the house who have all
long since grown weary of the precious infant song…
and over again, every time, so upon hearing playback, writer can attempt greater
objectivity (this is a crucial tool, I’ve found)…
embellishing, taking away, shifting melody, meter…
new songbaby a capella while stirring spaghetti, driving, waiting for rain…and
discover that some lines are already forgettable and others are quite
marvelous. Play with it, re-shape
until it holds.
lyric and test against melody.
Swap small words that no one else will ever notice but which matter very
much to writer.
brave. Play new baby for
husband. Take husband at his word
and trust that he’s probably right, either way.
Give it a name.
baby out to meet the other kids…Hope he is greeted warmly by people who
understand what he’s about.