Where does a song come from? I don’t know that this question has ever adequately been answered. And, frankly, I don’t expect to change that.
My first songwriting experience (as I explain in my biographical articles and memoirs) came about as a sort of epiphany. I had played music pretty much all of my life, and I was always an improviser. Whether it be in a jazz solo on saxophone, in a jam session on bass, or while simply strumming a guitar, I had experienced those moments when you transition from just playing to a sort of trance. And I’m not going to attempt to explain this phenomenon, nor could I even if I wanted to, but I’m certainly not alone in these experiences.
Prior to my first songwriting experience, I had also written countless poems–many of which just seemed to come to me out of nowhere. I think everyone has these moments, whether they realize it or not. And I don’t think that they’re limited to such things as poetry and music. Everyone has their art and art can include all things.
One day, I was sitting, playing guitar and just improvising, when I began to develop a chord progression. No sooner had I fleshed out the progression (that had suddenly popped into my head), when a poem came to me. The two experiences had never happened simultaneously, but this particular day–they did. When it was all said and done, I was a bit stunned, but eventually I realized what had occurred–I had written a song. And soon, to my further amazement, the experience repeated itself. Before I knew it, I had several complete songs. And then it hit me–”Am I a songwriter?” I supposed I was.
For me, the process is a solo effort in every sense of the word. Each little epiphany has to be expanded–note by note, chord by chord, word by word–in a lonely process. Does it have to be this way? Not for everyone, but that’s how it seems to work for me. (For more details on what may have led to this solo mentality, check out my biographical articles.) Every part for every instrument has to be written and rehearsed before you hit record, but thanks to the art of multi-track recording, I am my own drummer, my own bassist, my own keyboardist–so on and so forth. As each track is recorded, I am able to listen to my previously created part while playing and recording the next. In the end, all are combined, levels are mixed and soon you’re listening to a finished song. If the process sounds exhausting, I assure you–it is. As was the case with my first, some songs take only moments to create; but, more often than not, each can take weeks, months or even years. But, for those of us who enjoy the abuse, it’s pure bliss.
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