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New-fashioned love song.

March 27, 2007

Between now and June 1, I have to write about six songs. Two of them are big-time deadlines, not for my band, but for another, ridiculously talented musician who asked me to write lyrics for his as-yet-unwritten music. (The others I need to write ARE for my band and if I don’t get them done, there will be a revolt and Chinese water torture will be employed against me. I ain’t strong enough for that.)

Here’s the problem:

These two non-band songs I need to write are out of my normal realm of lyric-writing style. First, the lyrics I’ve written in the past normally come to me very quickly. I will hear a turn of phrase or something will occur to me at random, and I’ll make that the base of a verse or chorus. Voila, thirty minutes later, the song is done. Sometimes this happens three times in a weekend, and sometimes (like now) I’ll go months in between. The point is: it just happens. Nobody tells me to do it and, most significantly, nobody gives me any direction like “I need you to write a song about [whatever] that sounds a little like [some artist].” Until now. For this new project, I’m supposed to write lyrics in the style of this guy, who is very, very talented, of course, and beloved by many, but not someone of whom I could call myself a devoted fan. He does not write his own lyrics, I don’t think, but these words I need to write should be appropriate for one of his songs, if that makes any sense. Pretty words. Simple lines. Love songs about actual love, not lost love or dead love or sad love. No twists or clever reference required. Very straightforward “I love you, here are the reasons” type songs. Can I even do that? Honestly, I am very happily in love — my marriage, thus far, has only gotten better and better — but it just seems so… obvious to write a song about how great everything is. When I type it out like that, I realize how ridiculous and ungrateful I sound. See? This blog was a good idea.

How stupid is that notion, anyway? I should be writing about good things. I’m so thankful for all the good things in my life, especially the people I love. I feel good about it. Yes, I like dark songs because they are more dramatic, but hell, I’m embarrassed that the reason I can’t seem to pull off a nice love song is because… apparently I think I’m too cool to write one? I have to lower myself to write a song about being in love, which I am very happy to be in? What? I don’t want to be like that. I once saw an interview with Pharrell Williams where he said “at the end of the day, you’re the one who decides how cool you are.” He was talking about how much he loved being in his high school marching band despite it being a decidedly uncool thing to do at his school. He’s exactly right, of course. I resist writing what I view as nice little sweet songs because I feel like, I don’t know, anybody could write a song like that. But if anybody could do it, why aren’t they? Is it because those songs are lame? If so, why do so many people like them? I don’t have to like them to write them, do I? Not really.

Also, I don’t want to be like Lucinda Williams (no relation to Pharrell, ha! or…. IS she?), who I adore, but who has said in several stories that she’s incapable of writing anything good when she’s happy. I have often felt the same way, but I’m sick of that. It’s time to bust a rhyme up in here, and I don’t intend to get miserable in order to do it. I have spoken with other creative people about this, and my friend Pam suggested I visit museums or the like to spark my imagination. It’s a good suggestion — in fact, I always get ideas for songs when I am at live music performances. I have 40 receipts all over my house that I have used to scribble lines on in the dark while the band plays. The most recent one was at a Lucinda show, where one word kept occurring to me, and I wondered what I could do with it, so finally I borrowed a pen from a bartender and wrote it on a napkin so I could stop thinking about it: “crumbles.” Sure to get a mega-hit off that one. I wrote my favorite song of all time crouched over at trashcan at a Jayhawks show. It’s about an old drunk man crying himself to death in a burned down hotel. Yeah, good times, but for my current purposes — well, such things are not what you want to think about when you’re in the mood for love. Or happiness. Or… anything but total stoic misery. Y’all, I’ve got the corner on total stoic misery. That’s what I should have named this website. Too late.

Maybe I should fly to Vegas and watch endless Celine Dion performances until I am drowning in sugar. Or bombard myself with poetry of questionable quality on the discount rack at the book store. I’m not being a snob — I just don’t normally go for that stuff. Everyone has different tastes. Surely I can write outside mine.

Here’s the other problem:

This guy who wants me to write for him? Sort of a musical genius. Maybe one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. And he wants me to write these songs? (And possibly sing them, which I can’t even begin to contemplate yet, so I am ignoring that part.) I don’t even understand why, but I guess he thinks I can do it.

Conclusion: I’m stupid. Follow-up question: Why? Solution: Just write the damn things.

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