As someone who started out songwriting at 11, not knowing how I was actually doing it, I wrote to make MYSELF feel better, to tell MY stories, to share MY experience!! No, I didn’t accidently leave the caps key on, I wanted you to see that back then it was ALWAYS ALL ABOUT ME!!!!
Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an IMRO songwriting afternoon with a hit songwriter called Ralph Murphy. (See links below) Ralph has a very interesting story and some pretty hot credits to his name across many genres with literally a whole life experience in the music industry. Needless to say, he didn’t beat around the bush and he didn’t hold back. In an industry that involves so much ego and b******t, it was refreshing. My hands were shaking as I handed over one of two songs he was going to review from my catalogue. I remember writing in an older post how your songs are like your kids – you create them, you nurture them and then when the time comes, you let them out into the big bad world! So, inevitably you form an attachment to them and as I reflect now, possibly an unhealthy, slightly obsessive attachment to them. I didn’t really want him to find faults in my songs. I really wanted him to love them as much as I did…. But then boom, out of nowhere, a five minute critique suddenly becomes a whole lifetime of “aaahhhhhhh of course, now I understand…”
Whilst it’s a bitter bill to swallow hearing that there is room for improvement to lyrics or melodies that you thought you couldn’t improve on, it was the reasons why they had to be improved that helped me to swallow that big, bitter songwriting pill. There were many reasons, many interesting and “ah of course” reasons but one reason that really stood out to me and made me think from a different side of the coin is the fact that it’s always all about you. (‘you’ being the listener)
In order to fall in love with MY song, YOU must feel like it is all about YOU, that my details are in fact YOUR details, that my melody is in fact YOUR melody. You don’t care about my story or where the song came from or who the guy was that broke my heart or stole my car, why should you? Whatever the time of day, whatever it is you are doing, that song that comes on the radio that you will connect to, tells your story, not mine. I learned so many valuable things over a couple of hours that had me rushing to the piano with a pen to ‘re-write, re-place, re-assemble’ and it actually feels like the wool has been pulled from over my eyes.
From uses of pronouns, to word meters to just getting over myself, that afternoon was without doubt a big learning curve in something I thought I had pretty much perfected. Whilst it was a little shock to all our systems initially, there is a great sense of freedom and excitement in moving on with that knowledge!
“Hits aren’t written, they are re-written” – Raphy Murphy.