Songwriting: Square One 🔲

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Almost everyone has been there:

"I'm going to write a song."

But for many people, that might be where that thought ends.  You write a few lines and say to yourself, "why am I even trying? This is terrible!"

I would like, this week, to ease some of your worries and frustrations. 

How do you write a song?

Google this, you won't be the only search.  Some people will go on and on about the importance of music theory, others the lyrics, and others still will go on about something specific that you might not fully understand.  But what makes a good song?  I would first start off with asking yourself:

Why am I writing this song?

Depending on your musical history and approach to being creative, the purpose behind the song you are writing can vary wildly.  Are you writing this to woo a prospective lover?  To remind a friend that they are not alone?  To express an emotion to connect with other humans?  To adventure through a musical genre you would like to get better acquainted with? 

My first advice would be:

always keep in mind your purpose

You don't write a message in text-speak to your CEO boss, and you wouldn't write a 5-page essay to your friend about your weekend plans.  In general, keeping in mind your audience and mood will greatly influence how you approach structuring your song. 

That being said, using contrasting methods can have a great effect on your songwriting.  Paramore's new album After Laughter generally has a very uplifting beat and sound, with a sad and depressed message (ie. Fake Happy and Hard Times). This can definitely be used to your advantage! 

All this being said, I would say that the biggest piece of advice any of us in Fat Stallion can give would be: 

Be gentle with and trust yourself.

Writing a song is making art.  Your art will be what it will be, and the world will interpret it as it will.  But at the end of the day, you wrote it and it is what it is.  Do something that makes you happy, draw from the influences that inspire you, and trust yourself to make something amazing. 

The very fact that YOU are making it vs. anyone else puts your creation in its own field.  Every artist is their own worst critic, and you will be inclined to be very harsh with yourself over your creations.  With that, you will want to quit projects if you don't view them as "perfect", but who exactly are you comparing yourself to?

It's not healthy to compare yourself to other people.

The only Ed Sheeran on Earth is the man himself!  The only woman on the planet that will perform as well as P!nk is Alecia Moore (see what I did there?). 

Every person who writes has something individual to add to the music world.

It is not fair to anyone to dip out because you are not more of a person than someone who already exists.  There are thousands of amazing guitar players in the world, and every one of them are valid and amazing artists.  As cliche as it is, only YOU can be the best YOU (this is truer than true!). 

This being said, always try to be the best YOU that you can be!  The only comparison that is valuable is to compare yourself to who you were yesterday.  

How do we write music?

I asked all the guys for their thoughts on songwriting in general.  Jack Elliott had this to say:

"When writing music, there are a ton of different elements that cross my mind. From nerdy things like phrase structure, harmonic contour, and sonic arrangement, to more abstract thoughts like emotional arc, character/thematic development, and technical poetic practices. The single most important thing though, is vision [the message]. If I don't have a vision for how I want the final recording of the final arrangement to sound, then it is hard for me to finish a project. Sometimes a melody or riff will give me the vision, sometimes the poem will elicit an emotional vision, and sometimes I will only have pieces of an idea, and over the course of the composition, the vision will reveal itself. These are the most exciting moments, when a musical idea grabs you by the hand and leads you where it needs to go. Usually by about half way through writing, the vision becomes clear, and the rest is easy."

And Light had this insight:

"Song writing for me usually comes from a random line or lyric that gets stuck in my head. I'll obsess over it, just replaying it over and over until I write it down or play it out. Sometimes those thoughts become full ideas and songs and sometimes they don't, but most of my writing starts with a random phrase or line. After that I'll share it with the group and we begin the "shared writing process" and make something new that reflects a little of everyone in the band. Most important for me is that I write about what I care about, otherwise I feel like it'll come off as insincere and for myself that would be an injustice to the music I hope to make."

Riley had this to say:

"For me, songwriting is life. I am a very introverted person who oftentimes finds it difficult to express myself the way I would really like to. Songwriting and performing the songs that I’ve written allows me to do just that. I am able to take the mask off and make myself completely vulnerable to anyone that is listening. It is liberating. And in regards to the process of songwriting, I am all over the place. Sometimes I’ll write the chord progression and hooks first and sometimes the lyrics come first. Either way, I make sure to put as much emotion into the song as I can muster. I want to build relationships and relate to people and have people to relate to me through music. My goal is to make people cry even if they don’t speak my same language. I absolutely love to write music, I can’t imagine myself not doing it!"

As for myself (Emma Dawn!), I will really depend on my mood and quest.  Beyond what I've written so far in this blog, I have this to say.  When I wrote Seeds, my intent was to connect with others over a very specific feeling regarding mental health and the human condition in general.  I wanted to remind listeners that there are people around who want to help, and that relate to what they may be experiencing.  I want people to understand that I am sincere when I perform it as well, and for me, just a little bit of chordal movement and simple melody get this mood across well.  Simplicity in writing goes a long way to making your writing seem original, too much can very quickly seem forced and insincere (in my own opinion. Again, your music is your own!). I write to relate to people, and to express my feelings.  I only feel as if I've failed if I do not have an emotional response to my performance. 

So what now? 

Try it!  Write a song, play with your words and with your chords and feelings.  My favorite saying on the subject is:

"No newborn baby is pretty in its first moments.  This doesn't make the event unimportant or any less amazing!"

Let your newborn song take its first few moments to develop, and give it the love and attention it needs to grow into the amazing adult it can be.  This process is different for every artist, but the most important part is to trust yourself and give your art the opportunity to blossom that many don't allow. 

But always remember that your art is amazing and worthwhile, even if each project only leads you to your own artistic growth and never sees a stage or recording studio.  

If it means something to you, then you have succeeded.  

And in the meantime, you are always more than welcome to reach out to us for advice.  We love you, and want to see you succeed and grow! 👍

(Check out this week's LIVESTREAM on this very topic!)

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We really hope that you found this interesting and/or helpful, so please let me know your thoughts and comments down below!  And let me know you took the time to read by leaving a like!  You are all the best, and we're so excited to have you with us.

Thoughtfully and respectfully from all of us in Fat Stallion-

Emma Dawn, Jack Elliott, Riley, and Light ✌🐴❤