Great Quotations: Billy Joel

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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I write backward — I write the music first and then I write the words. Most people write the words first and then they write the music. Keith Richards was explaining his method of songwriting. He calls it “vowel movement.” They come up with a riff, and it’s like sounds, and whatever sound . . . like “start me up” — “up” works because it has a consonant at the end of it, but if you go “take me home,” it wouldn’t have worked. I kind of subscribe to that. It has to sound right sometimes even more than being a poetic lyric. It’s a struggle to fit words onto music, and I want it to be really, really good, so I take a long time. I love having written, but I hate writing. So then I go through postpartum depression, and it’s: “Ugh, I gotta start all over again? Where am I going to get the” — what do you call it? Sitzfleisch?

Billy Joel 

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