10 random songwriting thoughts

1. I love great pop songs. Sure, I’m a folky-ish singer-songwriter, but I’m also proud of my pop-py hooks. And I’m a fan of even the silliest pop tune — if it’s the perfect confection. I’ve been listening to a lot of top 40 these days, which I haven’t in years, since I’m now a suburbanite in my car headed to various errands and listening to the radio. So right now I’m loving Katy Perry‘s “Waking Up in Vegas,” with this awesome lyric: “Why are these lights so bright?/Did we get hitched last night/dressed up like Elvis/Why am I wearing your class ring?” Hmm…maybe not so fabulous out of context. Still, a new pop classic.

2. I wish I could co-write. I’ve never, ever sat down with someone else to write a song. Or, even taken someone else’s music and written a lyric. Or, even taken someone else’s lyric and written a melody. Wah. Does this make me the songwriting equivalent of anti-social? I just consider my songwriting time kind of my quiet alone time. Guess I’m just a la-la-loner.

3. I love hearing original songs played stripped-down and acoustic. Last weekend I saw a wonderful songwriter, Maia Sharp, play at my friend Chris’s house concert series “Notes From Home” in Montclair, New Jersey. Maia has had her songs recorded by such famous artists as Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood and the Dixie Chicks. Wow, right? It also turns out I had her CD sitting on my table for months, ever since her publicist sent it my way, but I never had time to listen. Well, I LOVED her songs. She was absolutely amazing. I could see becoming obsessed with her songs. But when I listened to her CD, while produced perfectly, I didn’t love it quite as much. I just loved hearing her songs completely acoustic (no mics even!) — it was such a magical and special way to hear them.

4. I’d like to write a song on ukelele. Yup, it’s true.

5. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to interview Paul Simon. See previous posts here, here and here.

6. It’s funny how two people never have the same opinion on your songwriting and your music. Today I had someone tell me they liked my Sweet Bitters CD better than my Shake the Stars CD, and that they preferred the fast songs to the slow songs. Last week someone mentioned that they loved the emotion-filled lyrics of a new tune, while someone else said, about the same song, that they loved how it was about grilled cheese. Huh.

7. It’s rare to find a fabulous open mic to play your newly written songs. But I found one! I had a terrific time at the Barrington Coffee House in Barrington, NJ. The coffeehouse owner is a musician, music-lover and hosts the open mic. So unusual, but it helped the vibe in a big way. I haven’t heard such hooting and hollering of joy at an open mic in ages. And the barista was even considerate about not noisily foaming the milk during quiet songs.

8. Recording your songs is terrifying. I do love the process, and couldn’t have asked for a better journey this time around, but still…it’s panic-inducing. It’s scarier than a spider. I’m relieved it’s almost over. Then, I’ll need a recording hit and frantically try to get to the point where I can record my songs some more. I’m a songwriting masochist!

9. Have you ever heard “Lydia the Tattooed Lady?” It was written in 1939 by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg and became one of Groucho Marx’s signature tunes. Such fabulous rhymes, like “Lydia” and “Encyclopedia.” And no online rhyming dictionaries in those days! Ahead of its time.

10. The “Dog Days of August” songwriting challenge is due tomorrow at midnight! Here are the rules and regulations

  • Barrington Coffeehouse is a great place. I’ve never been for an open mic night (a little too far north for mid-week), but I’ve played there three or four times. Glad it continues to get lots of support.

    And I completely agree with hearing a stripped down version of a song. The new Indigo Girls CD has both the guitar versions of songs and the produced versions. Very nice.

  • I think “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” is an amazing lesson in songwriting: have fun and dare to be different. Brilliant stuff.

  • Cool post.

    10 Random Thoughts About Songwriting should be a meme!

    The one I relate to most is #8, having just come off a week in the studio.

  • Shannon Wagner

    Well, I’ll definitely have to join you for the Barrington Coffeehouse next time!

  • 1. Whenever somebody tells me that they don’t like pop, I usually get them by saying “So you don’t like Marvin Gaye?”

    10. Check it out! looks like you’ve got at least one entry coming from my corner! Hats off to Angelo. I wanted to enter myself, but I’ve got some students to take care of this evening.

  • Hi there!

    I know what you mean about recording, but I’ve been doing a lot of my own recording. It puts me in control and keeps me calm. I hope it’s going well.


%d bloggers like this: