Rich Deans scored 1st Place in the January 2022 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for his song “Blue September Morn.” American Songwriter caught up with Rich to get the scoop on the lyric’s inspiration and other writerly musings.
American Songwriter: What was the inspiration for “Blue September Morn”?
Rich Deans: I was living in an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, almost directly across from The World Trade Center on 9/11. My wife was managing a store in downtown Manhattan near to the Twin Towers and was friends with some of the firemen who were the first to go into the building after the first plane hit (several of these firemen died when the building collapsed around them – including the fireman my wife was closest friends with). For about three months after the attack, the fire continued to burn and we could see smoke every day across the Hudson River. I wanted to somehow try to capture what that day felt like on a visceral level to the average person on the street and also honor the firemen who gave their lives without a moment’s hesitation.
AS: How long have you been writing lyrics?
RD: I’ve been writing lyrics since my college days. I started out trying to write poetry but quickly found out that words came easier to me when I put them to music, as lyrics.
AS: Have you written music for this lyric? If so, how would you describe it?
RD: Yes, I wrote the music and lyrics for the song together. I guess I would describe the music as a folk ballad with Irish/Celtic (touches)—the type of song the Irish band The Pogues were so good at writing and performing.
AS: How long does it usually take you to finish a lyric or song? How about this one?
RD: It really depends on the song. Some of my simpler, humorous songs come to me with music and lyrics almost complete in one sitting (though that’s rare). Usually, I can get a melody and lyrics for one verse and a chorus within a few days of working, and then it may take anywhere from a week to a few months (or more, depending on how often real life intrudes) to finish the song completely. “Blue September Morn” took a few months to finish because I had written music and lyrics for the verses in about three weeks but then decided to add the bridge to the song which took me a while to get right.
AS: Do you prefer co-writing or solo writing?
RD: I prefer to write on my own, only because I’ve been doing it that way for so long. But I have co-written several songs and enjoyed the process and found it a great learning experience. When you write by yourself there’s no feedback and you have to trust that what you’re trying to say is getting across clearly. Co-writing gives you that extra perspective you miss when you write solo.
AS: What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?
RD: Listening to other songwriters, the famous and the should-be famous, motivates me. A lot of times I come away from hearing a new song by someone and my mouth just drops open and I think, “How’d they do that? I want to do that too!” And so I keep on writing hoping to find that key.