Air Traffic Controller Offers Songwriting Advice For How To Get Started

Dave Munro, frontman/songwriter for Boston-based indie folk-pop band Air Traffic Controller proved his expertise when his band’s debut album The One (2009) and its follow up, NORDO (2012) earned significant exposure on MTV and NPR. For their third album, Black Box (2016), they won three Independent Music Awards (and one nomination). Their 2018 EP, Echo Papa, earned them yet another Independent Music Award. The band’s latest single, “Sometimes,” was released on August 25.

Videos by American Songwriter

“Concept is key,” Munro says when asked what songwriting advice he would offer to aspiring writers. “Without a good concept the song likely won’t resonate. I start with the concept, which is often related to the title, and build on that with story and specifics. It’s important to me that the listener connects the song to their own life, but I have found that getting specific to my personal stories has not gotten in the way of that at all – in fact, people seem to gravitate to the more detailed songs and somehow relate, as long as the concept is strong.”

When coming up with concepts, Munro says it’s also important for writers to stay true to themselves, “I think honesty is always the best policy in songwriting,” he says, “so just try to be yourself, because even if you do succeed not doing that, eventually you’re going to hit a roadblock where you’re faking it. From my experience, it’s easier to find ways to make honest songs than it is to make stuff up. For me, anyway, it’s not as fun when you write a song that’s not from the heart.”

“Don’t be too concerned about the rhyme,” Munro continues, “because sometimes you will stray too far from the point you’re trying to make just to get a good rhyme in. I love when I hear another artist say something so honest that doesn’t rhyme with the previous line. I think that’s beautiful.”

Also, as a father who often finds it hard to find “alone time” to write, Munro has a suggestion for other parents: “I bought one of those little travel guitars that I can leave around that if anyone breaks, it’s not a big deal,” he says. “That was the best thing I could have done, because if you have something out all the time like that, you can just grab it when you have literally three minutes to spare, and something could happen.”

Air Traffic Controller’s Bandcamp page.

Leave a Reply

Ricky Reed Advises Songwriters to Prioritize Collaboration