Musings on songwriting

When I first started writing songs as an angst-filled teenager living on Vancouver Island, I thought that putting together a poem and then adding music was how songs are written.  And in some cases, that may be true.  But many writers create the music and lyrics at the same time or find an instrumental, rhythmic or lyrical hook and some cool chords and then struggle to find words that fit.

Legend has it that Robert Plant composed most of the lyrics for Stairway to Heaven to Jimmy Page’s classic music as he sat for an evening at Headley Grange in Hampshire England.   But for every song written in which the writer was so inspired or connected to the muse that the lyrics poured out in almost perfectly usable form, many songwriters struggle and strain for days, weeks or even years to find just the right words to express what’s inside of them.  Ideas don’t always come when we call them, but rather at inopportune times when we’re thinking about something else.

Like the other day when I had brought my old dog along for a car ride to the store (she loves car rides) and the hook I’d been searching for popped into my head.  I had forgotten my cell phone and the only paper was my driver’s registration, so I scribbled the words in as small print as I could read to capture the idea before it found someone else.

I recently read a quote about ideas by Leonardo da Vinci that really stuck with me:  “…It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which if you consider them well, you may find really marvellous ideas.”