If you could go back…


I like to research the songwriters I don’t know and find meaningful personal questions for them.  Things I’d like to know about their; process, writing and songs.  I ask these things because, in my mind, they’re things that everyone is interested in.  But, I also love having some questions that everyone is asked so we can compare the answers.

This question started showing up after a few interviews and has been a really interesting, and strangely consistently answered one.  Check out how many times ‘Pet Sounds’ or other Brian Wilson sessions show up on this and the question about “who would you like to talk songwriting with?”

 If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?

Adrienne Pierce: It would be fun to be a fly on the wall during the recording of The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ Album. Just imagine watching them sing the vocals for “God Only Knows”.

Heather Woods Broderick: Hard to choose. Maybe Neil Young’s ‘Comes A Time’. I learned to sing harmonies to his records, and I often have dreamt of being there singing along. Or I might just want to be a fly on the wall during the making of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’.

Torres:  Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Nick Drake’s Pink Moon are two recording sessions for which I would’ve been obliged to be a fly on the wall.

Toby Goodshank:  Oh, The Frogs “It’s Only Right and Natural.” I wouldn’t have belonged there, though. Or maybe Scott Walker’s latest. Any Jandek album.

Caleb Hawley: ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered” album. Not only is it my favorite Stevie record but it’s one of the few he used the funk bro’s on. I’d love to sit in the room with James Jamerson & Stevie Wonder at the same time. That would teach me more than a Berklee degree easily.

Dallas: I would like to be a fly on the wall of the Pet Sounds sessions.  No one other than Brian Wilson knew what he was trying to achieve and he didn’t feel it was necessary to convince anyone that he was doing something great. “I guess I just wasn’t made for these times” is such a genius line that explains exactly what he was doing at the time.

La Fleur Fatale: “S.F. Sorrow” with Pretty Things.

Courtney Jones: After much debate, I think I’m going to go with Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon”. I wonder what that room was like, not knowing how successful and defining that record would become. Also, I’d really like to know if that whole Wizard of Oz thing was on purpose or not. But seriously, watching that album come together would really be something special.

Sharon Van Etten: That’s a tough one. Maybe Neil Young ‘Harvest’.

Adam Levy: Talk Talk’s ‘Laughing Stock,’ from 1991. This record is an utter enigma to me. So beautiful! I don’t know what I would have added, but I wish I could’ve at least been a fly on the wall.

Aves:  ‘SMiLE” by the Beach Boys most definitely. To me the whole album and the story behind the making along with all the making of snippets there are, is simply the most fascinating tale of creative genius at it’s peak.

What album session would you like to go back and be part of?  Please leave a comment!


Advice for young songwriters



Yeah, that’s me on my first instrument many years ago.  We all start somewhere and we all, hopefully, keep learning and growing.  I like finding the right questions for each person I interview here. I research them and read other interviews. But, I also like to ask some of the same questions of everyone so we can compare the results and learn from how differently each person thinks and approaches things.

Today, I’d like to share all of the answers so far to the question;

What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?

Hope you enjoy these….

Andrew Belle; Find the first song that ever made you feel an emotion; the songs that led you to fall in love with music in the first place. Study it until you understand what it was that resonated with you; then chase that feeling in your own music, and don’t settle for anything less.

Ernie Halter; write every day. don’t worry about it being perfect. writing is a process. it deserves attention and practice. first work on writing songs consistently. the art of writing good songs comes later.

Small Houses; Just write.

Christine Hoberg; Believe in yourself. Have patience. Seek out and listen to critiques and dually take them all with a grain of salt. Realize that there is no limit to talent, so keep seeking to create better music, say more honest things, and try to continually improve the quality of everything you do. Try all kinds of genres and don’t pigeonhole yourself. Oh! And never let someone buy you out of your rights! Get a music law book and a lawyer!

Adam Levy; Write a lot of songs! Write and write and write. And read a lot—fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever. The big idea is to go as deep as you can into the world of words.

Aves; Be true to yourself and bring out your heart. Don’t aspire on following others too much. That’s all I can say, as I feel I’m still pretty rookie myself as well.

Golden Youth; Be inspired. Don’t replicate.

Music is inspiring. There is no doubt about it. I can’t help but want to song write after listening to Simon and Garfunkel. There maybe a hint of inspiration from them, but it doesn’t mean I am trying to create songs that could have been theirs. Let other artists write their music and you write yours.

If it’s honest, people will be on board.

Katelyn Convery; It is SO much harder than it looks! Keep working! Like all careers, you can only be a pro by working hard at it. Start early before all the responsibilities of adult life creep in. As you get older it becomes very hard to justify buying that loop pedal when you don’t even have a couch in the living room yet… Oh how I wish I had known I wanted to do this earlier! But for those who only figure it out a little later, still don’t give up, play with others, watch and learn from others, find out what you’re good at and run with it.

Sigrid Zeiner; I haven’t been asked to give advice before! I still feel like there are so many more things for me to learn first. But, I think a great way to start at least for singers is to become as independent in the process as possible. The more you can do on your own the easier it will be to have creative freedom and continuously write. I really wish I could play piano and guitar better so I guess I’d encourage that for others as well. My focus has been getting on developing my production and technology skills instead. Although, I’m far from good enough yet. Another thing I would say is to write as much as possible. The more times you try to do something the more you will be inclined to think of new ways to do it. This improves your process and helps you become more creative.

Adam Daniel; Here’s a good rule of thumb: You’ll know you’ve written a standout when it sounds great sang in any style: metal, disco, reggae, jazz, polka, whatever. The best songs hold up no matter the production. Try it in your head with one of your favorite hits. Fun at parties.

Bodebrixen; Try don’t to think about whether what you have written sounds stupid or silly – and don’t think about what others will think about it while you write. Don’t work against your songs; If its a pop song it’s a pop song – don’t try to make it something it’s not. Write a lot of songs. Songwriting takes time and like everything else it takes practice. If you’re in a real hurry, try a different career. Maybe things will go your way – and when it does things start happening very rapidly indeed – but never count on it, that will only make you depressed!

Toy Soldiers; Don’t think to much, or at all. You can’t sit down with the intention of writing the greatest song in the world. Just write songs, lots of them, about nonsense if you have nothing else to say and eventually great things will start to happen. Keep it simple, no one cares about technical for the sake of being technical. Have fun, love it, live it, be honest, don’t force it and be your damn self.

Kristin Center; Play your heart out, be as honest as possible, and remember to look at yourself from your audience’s perspective. Would you pay money for your show?

John Lefler; I am not a legendary songwriter, so I feel a bit silly giving advice. However, if I had to, I would tell them that songwriting is a craft. It’s a skill that is acquired and, hopefully, kept sharp. I would advise against being one of those musicians that says, “I don’t want to learn the rules because it will stifle me as an artist.” The groundwork of this profession (or hobby) has been laid by men and women that are much more talented than we are. Learn from them. Don’t just learn ten chords and feel like you’ve, “got it.” Also, technology is a tool. It can’t write a song for you. 99% percent of all great songs ever written can be performed with just a voice and guitar, or piano.

Levi Weaver; The best advice I ever got about songwriting didn’t come from another songwriter, it came from a comedian (I wish I could remember who), who said (I’m paraphrasing), “it takes ten years to find your voice. You’ll struggle, and you’ll accidentally copy other people, and you’ll be really awful at first, and then somewhere around ten years, you’ll discover your voice, and by then – if you’ve been plugging away, and practicing, you’ll be ready.”

I don’t think it necessarily takes that long with songwriters, but it does take a long time. You really are going to be pretty awful for awhile, even if you have a great voice and even if you’re a good writer, unless you’re some kind of savant. Don’t get discouraged by that. I’ve never understood how in every other profession, you go to school and then do an internship, and then after years and years, you become an expert, but in the arts, people act like they should be Paul McCartney by the time they’re twenty. It’s a skill, just like anything else, albeit one that is intensely personal and vulnerable.

All (ALL. I am not exaggerating about this) all of my favorite singer-songwriters that I’ve ever talked to are absolutely riddled with self-doubt. Embrace that early. If you know ahead of time that you’re not going to be good and you have no choice but to play and write and sing anyway, in spite of the nerves, in spite of the discomfort and embarrassment and social anxiety, just because it’s just in you and HAS to get out, then you’re in the right game. Knowing it ahead of time sorta braces you against crushing disappointment right out of the gates, too.

Shane Alexander; Don’t suck and don’t quit! If being a songwriter is what you truly want to do, then do it.  Write honest music. Write constantly. You will NEVER have as much free time as you have in your teens and early 20′s, so don’t squander it.  Be prepared to hear the word NO a lot, but never accept it.  Be known for being badass, professional and likable.  Believe in your own abilities, because if you don’t, you will never convince anyone else to.  Work on your voice, your rhythm, your lyrics and your playing DAILY because it isn’t possible to be too good.  Seek out things that make you happy.

Dan Haerle; Write a lot of music but have a big wastebasket! Every note you write is not going to be sacred! Also, if you are not sure about what to do with a work in progress, put it aside and return to it days, weeks, months, even years later!

Camille Cortinas: Everyone is different…so why you write may be also. That being said.. If you’re looking for honesty and authenticity, try to maintain a writing style that is true to your character, something you would really say. I have old journals when I started out that I’d be mortified to read now… SO many terrible odes to lost loves, and ugh … those shakespearean tragedies. i was 16. …I was a punk. i’m not discrediting my personal experience i just wished i’d narrated from my own perspective and didn’t try so hard. I was looking for an outlet to express what I was feeling and I suppose it’s trial and error…but the worse thing was to go above and beyond to explain something ..Making it flowery as possible. Maybe all it needed was a simple explanation… in my simple words, truth from my lips. it’s my own thought process and explanation, that’s as real as you get.
I really think over thinking is overrated.

Salim Nourallah; Figure out what you want to say or what emotion you’d like to evoke before you start writing a song. That’s really important in my opinion. Also, figure out what makes songs with your favorite lyrics work and why. Then try and use elements they use in your own songs.

That’s everyone so far.  Hope you enjoyed these as much as I did.  I wish I had all of this insight available when I was starting out.  If you want to review the past interviews the easiest way to access everything is HERE

Thanks for stopping by and please come back tomorrow for the interview with Peter Broderick.  You may not have heard of him, but he’s a great writer/singer and it’s a really interesting interview.