“writing” music

When I was a child, my family had a vegetable garden. But the insects and disease always caused our vegetables to suffer, and we (my parents) weren’t that excited about pesticide dusts. So eventually we just took a few packets of wild flower seeds, shook them out around the garden, and let nature take its course.

The garden was beautiful, though we discovered in the following years that the wild flowers were in fact fairly invasive weeds, which slowly took over the lawn surrounding the garden in larger and larger patches each year. Beautiful, though, and it made mowing the lawn an aesthetically pleasing activity for me as a teenager.

I raise this scenario as a metaphor for song writing. I think my approach to song writing is somehow tied up with the familial approach to gardening – let nature take its course, and as much as possible get out of the way. I’ve tried writing songs with more intention – usually starting with a fairly satisfying verse and/or chorus, and trying to stretch it out to a second verse or a bridge. I have to say it’s a rare instance when that second verse isn’t overly sentimental, self-aware, or just bad. Like, my ability to write songs stalled out in its development around grade seven. Likewise for the music to accompany a lyric – as soon as I try in any way, the music immediately suffers, becoming awkward, trite, or boring.

So I am left with only one strategy: spend as much time as possible with my thoughts and my guitar, leaving the door open for nuggets to arrive ready-made, with some paper and a pen handy to remember them by.