Videos by American Songwriter
Tell us a little about your experiences in the music industry.
It’s not so much the music part of it. I’ve always been more interested in words. I’m a lyric writer, not so much the melody and stuff, which is kind of ironic because where I grew up, my family is very talented musically. For some reason, even though I was around all of these musical instruments, maybe I wanted to be different. If I could do it again, I’d probably learn how to do the music thing.
I have gone to a couple of songwriting symposiums. About fifteen years ago, I thought I should get more serious about this and I went to Nashville a couple of times and went to a few seminars. I also read a lot of books and taught myself a lot of stuff on my own, just reading lyrics and trying to figure out what makes it so great.
How do you generally approach writing songs?
I kind of gave it up for nine years but I could never get it out of my head. I was a painter and I just had a lot of time to think about it. Just last fall, I decided to sit down and get serious about writing again. I get a lot of ideas that pop into my head or I’ll do a lot of research on book titles, for instance. I’ll look at titles and I may find something that I can do a hook on. Sometimes it’s totally different than what I’m looking at. Some ideas just bring up different ideas. Research really makes a difference. You think you have a title that’s pretty good, you look it up and if it’s never been done, you know you have a unique idea. Once I have the title and an idea, the writing is not too bad. I find it fairly easy, actually.
What’s the story behind “I Know How the World’s Gonna End”?
You know how people always predict how the world’s gonna end? Like Y2K? I came up with the title and was thinking, I could change this to a kind of love song. That’s where the idea came from, just listening to the news and hearing it all the time.
When did you write it and how long of a process was it?
I had the basic idea for it down in twenty minutes, because I wasn’t doing the music. It was just a lyrical thing. I had that idea a time ago, probably ten years, but I really polished it up over the last few months. If I get an idea for a song, you know how songs kind of write themselves? That was one of the easiest ones. I’ve always thought there was something decent about this song.
Is there a recorded version of this song?
There isn’t a recorded version because I actually haven’t given it to anybody to try and put music to it. For some of the other songs, I’m hooking up with a guy to put music to it, but it’s pretty recent. I don’t really have a melody in my head when I’m doing these, but I have an idea of how music works. I know theory a bit. My dream would be just to write the lyrics and find a great co-writer. I have more fun with the words.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
A lot of times if I’m writing something serious and I get stuck on something, I tend to just get away from it, either go for a walk or take a break, or I’ll write something funny. I’ll get that out of my system and then I’ll go back to it a day or two later. I tend to get writer’s block more if I stop writing for a bit. It helps if you try to work on something every day if you can. When you take a break, your mind goes someplace else.
When did you start writing songs and were they good right away or did it take time?
I started writing seriously about fifteen years ago. Looking back on it, they’re okay. I knew I had some great ideas. The ideas were there. Some of the titles had good hooks. But I knew I had to do a lot more work to get it where I needed to get it. I was very patient.