Behind The Song Showing Up Songwriting

Oh April! – Five Reasons To Finish A Bad Song

I wrote Oh April (You Made A Fool Outta Me) yesterday. I was completely fried from working on Dig Down Deep To Normal (my kids FAWM album) but the First Tuesday Songwriting Group meeting was that evening and you have to have written a song to be allowed in. And as I host the group it would be a little embarrassing to get banned from your own meeting! The end result was a simple bluesy song with a stream of consciousness wordplay type lyrics, written on the bus to school – it was April the first (Oh April, you made a fool outta me), we were on the cusp of springtime (heading for a fall before summer was through), someone was swearing (used your dirty mouth to get clean away), someone else was talking about buying a smart phone (on your smart phone waiting for a dumb reply) and so on.

It’s really not that good.

So why bother finishing what you know is a bad song?

  1. It makes you a better writer. The only way to get good at writing songs is to write songs.
  2. It cures writers block. Because there is no such thing as writers block. There is only a paralysing fear of writing a bad song. The best way to get over that is to write bad songs and say “So What!?”
  3. It feels good. There is a joy in creation. I had written some words on a page. But when I started singing them over a simple Am to C major vamp the song came alive. It felt like making a bird out of clay and then breathing on it and watching it come alive in my hands. Something that didn’t exist on Monday night, even as a thought in my head, was a tangible thing by Tuesday night.
  4. It tells you who you are as an artist. Writing a lot, whatever the quality, holds up a mirror. It shows up your default chord progressions, rhyme schemes, pet topics, points of view. This is useful whether you’re into self discovery or trying to discern the ruts you need to break out of.
  5. It provides spare parts. Even if a song doesn’t work out it may provide you with a decent line, riff, or chord progression, that you can re-use in the future.

Here’s a bonus reason.

You might be wrong. It might be a good song after all.

Former Pupils Let's Build An Airport EP Nottingham Sounds Showing Up

I Am Studio Face!

Did two cool musical things today (apart from teaching and buying Billy Joel CD’s from Fopp!).

First – I launched a facebook forum for Beatles Songwriting Academy. If you’d like to help me with questions, advice, links or opinions as I blog through all 211 Beatles songs please head over there and join up!

Second – I had an evening session with Deeper Than Forever recording a ‘live in the studio’ track which should be out tomorrow. I was blown away with this band of one-take wonders most of whom are still at school/college.

Here’s a vid of their first ever live performance last month.

A little while ago I noticed Let’s Build An Airport had gotten a review on iTunes! By a complete stranger! And he liked it! “Beautifully understated soundscapes with lovely melodies and chords that might just crumble at any minute” indeed!

Get Let’s Build An Airport here

Humour Showing Up

Monkey Umlaut

After spending most of yesterday recording and editing, and most of today teaching and recording I was just too burnt out to do anything when I got home. I trudged over to Shabby Road for more teaching and a blog post (for wed) after falling asleep in front of the surprisingly good Space Chimps.

The film’s closing song is Another Postcard by the endlessly witty (Steven Page-era) Barenaked Ladies, a group that, like a million misspelled, mis-umlaüted, metal bands, obviously acquired their name in pre-internet times.

Not many white Canadians would dare to cover a Public Enemy song (and do it so well) but I see then as heralds of the future – rap music will become the folk music of the 22nd century – faithfully reproduced by people who have nothing in common with the people who created it and have little idea of what the words and phrases actually meant.

Music Biz 2.0 Quotes Showing Up

Good Thing We Brought The Glock

Lots of editing and overdubbing kid’s songs, a little frisbee* with the fam, and a few quotes. Oh, and I bought a glockenspiel on eBay!

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.

Chinese Proverb

Go back a few hundred years and music was all about performances, not purchases. In the grand history of time, buying music is nothing but a blip.

Rio Caraeff, CEO Vevo: Metro Nov 15, 2011

*”Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.” – George Carlin

Showing Up Top 10

10 Old Songs I Paid Good Money For

Today I have been mostly edited and mixing ‘kids’ songs. Things are moving along now with the Dig Down Deep To Normal album. Thanks for asking.

Downloading is dead? Here’s 10 songs (except the widget will only show you 8?) that I rediscovered via Spotify and then bought! Or discovered for the first time via Spotify (or Sodajerker)! Or just bought. Enjoy!

Former Pupils Nottingham Sounds Showing Up

Spaceships In Hindsight

Rushed off to Fopp after teaching to see Spaceships Are Cool play an instore show. Was great to see Helen Maddison rocking an Omnichord. Here’s another great vid from Tom Walsh

And here’s a cool new song from In Hindsight. Guitarist Isaac is another former workshop pupil who was forever switching between instruments. He’s no slouch on the drums either.

Former Pupils Nottingham Sounds Showing Up

Too Many Bands – So Little Time

Today’s theme is getting interrupted by great music. I REALLY should have been editing tracks for my ‘kids album’ Dig Down Deep To Normal but…

….on the way to work I was listening to Injured Birds only to find lead singer Sam had started following me on twitter. His tweets are as witty as his lyrics…

…in one lesson we wheeled out Hotel California by The Eagles. Great ‘circle of fifths’ chord profession and wonderful harmony solo. Talking about Jake Bugg‘s ‘flamenco’ guitar lesson led to Rodrigo y Gabriela

On the way home I was listening to one of my favourite FAWMers Adam Follett (ex-lead singer of Sheffield band Cats For Peru). When I got home I downloaded Matt Wood‘s song Love Is

Then after an hour at home out to see Sea Monster Eyes (who get better every time I see them) at the Tap And Tumbler (great, great venue) supported by the best saw player I’ve ever seen and the brilliant and slightly threatening John Marriott


Tenuous self promotion warning – here’s my song Brother Bull, with backing vocals from Si and Phil from Sea Monster Eyes and mastered by the insanely gifted John Paul Braddock who did the Injured Birds album.

Church Music FAWM Quotes Showing Up

Church Of Snark

Edited another FAWM kid’s composition ‘Midnight Curry Blues’ and then writing in the evening with Deeper Than Forever (a great live vid on the way from them).

Was reminded today of a post I wrote that was popular AND got me in a lot of trouble – Top 10 Reasons NOT To Write Songs For Your Church and a funny old FAWM song that I did write for and about my church (in fact I think this was my first ever FAWM song) If You’re Here This Morning.

Apropos nothing, here’s a few snarky (but probably true) quotes about ‘christian music

The church has been accused of many things, but being musically diverse is not one of them

Kyle Campos

Christian music is a genre that doesn’t sound like anything

Brandon Ebel, quoted in Andrew Beaujon: Body Piercing Saved My Life (p.62)

Quentin Crisp once said, “A lifetime of listening to disco music is a high price to pay for one’s sexual preference.” I can’t imagine anything worse than being forced to pay for my salvation by listening to worship music for the rest of my days.

Andrew Beaujon: Body Piercing Saved My Life (p.158)

And here’s an ‘exception to the rule’ Gungor

FAWM Showing Up

We Won!

The First Tuesday Songwriting Group boasts 4 FAWM winners this year and 3 of them got together tonight to share a bunch of their songs. Matt Wood, Rachel McClean, Martin Quibell and I all wrote 14 or more songs in Feb.

Amazing Australian Jazz bassist/vocalist Liz Frencham was kind enough to feature me on her ‘Writers I Love’  page alongside Leo Babauta, Merlin Mann and Seth Godin – heady company! Check out Liz’s brilliant FAWM song Lazy Train – while stocks last!

Really enjoyed part one of Life In The Woods interview with singer/ songwriter/ Noisetrade founder – Derek Webb (the second part was a little bit wooly and contradictory IMHO)

Discovering k.s. Rhoads (through Noisetrade) was one of the musical highlights of 2013 for me. Such a mature and complex writer and outstanding lyricist. This track is from his debut album Dead Language.

FAWM Showing Up

Mike, Chuck, Harold & Eglon

Songs, songs, songs, they pour out of me
Not all of them are worth finishing
But you got to finish them to see

Mike ViolaSecret Radio from the album Acousto De Perfecto

A great song that really sums up what I’m learning about writing songs.

And visual artist Chuck Close could have been taking about FAWM when he said

Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work

But today (Sunday) I haven’t been ‘showing up’ – I’ve been having a break, going to church, tidying up, watching a couple of Harold Ramis films. And making notes on which songs need work in march. First up – I’m going to try to get the Shrove Tuesday demo up for Pancake Day.

Speaking of mad songs The Eglon Song has been downloaded some 800 times now