Robin Wilson, frontman of The Gin Blossoms, certainly knows a thing or two about successful songwriting. He wrote that band’s hit “Allison Road,” off their 1992 album New Miserable Experience, then co-wrote “Follow You Down” from the band’s 1996’s follow up album, Congratulations I’m Sorry. Beyond that, Wilson watched his bandmate Doug Hopkins pen hit singles like “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You.” These songs all became decade-defining singles, proving that Wilson has a solid understanding of what it takes to create a song that resonates with people.
Given his status, Wilson is definitely in a position to offer expert songwriting advice. Sitting in his yard at his Long Island home just prior to doing a live stream show in early August, Wilson offers these words of wisdom: “Don’t be afraid to throw your songs away.”
Wilson explains what he means by that: “Most songs that people write aren’t very good,” he says with a shrug. “This is my favorite analogy about songwriting: a song is like a chair. A chair can be a really cool Gothic throne, or it can be a rocking chair on the porch of a farm, or something really sleek and modern – but most songs are like a boring chair that you bought from Target. You can still sit in it, it has the legs and the back and all the same parts, but there’s nothing really interesting about it. A really good song is like a really cool chair.”
To achieve the best results, Wilson recommends that “You sort of work backwards: what is the title of the song? What is the message? And then you just have to work backwards to fill in the blanks. The title of your song, that’s your theme, that’s the name of the story. What do you have to say to lead you up to that moment where you hear the title of the song?”
Wilson demonstrated his mastery of this method on the most recent Gin Blossoms album, 2018’s Mixed Reality – and he says there’s a new album in the works. He also occasionally steps in as the lead singer of The Smithereens (since that band’s original frontman, Pat DiNizio, passed away in 2017), so he and guitarist Jim Babjak are currently writing songs for that band’s next album. Regardless of the particular project, it’s likely that Wilson’s writing will continue to be instantly memorable.