Whilst the creative spark for a song often only takes minutes, finishing it can sometimes take years. Looked at another way, the spark is really just establishing the creative problem. Sometimes the solution comes easily, whilst in other cases, I’ll put the song aside and come back to it many times. Some songs have such great potential, I keep persisting, and others I lose my enthusiasm when I start to doubt I’ll find an effective solution.
I’m working on a couple of songs at the moment which represent some challenges. A song called “Saturn’s Sun” which is typically Space March – melancholy synthpop with a pretty melody. The challenge with this song is that the main theme melody is circular. Whilst the melody has two parts to it – it’s not a verse, chorus scenario. Circular melodies can work well when you keep wanting to reiterate the theme but each time build on it – like say John Barry’s “Space March” which I covered on my album It Must Be Obvious. Or, they can also work in a lyric orientated song like say, Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” with its six verses and absent chorus. But my song is neither of these, so it comes down to a non-traditional song structure – like what I did on “Someone Something Sunshine”. So I’ve interspersed the vocal theme with instrumental interludes, an instrumental middle 8 and a different outro vocal melody. It’s an unusual structure, but I think it’s working – I’ll come back to it…
The other song I’m working on is not very Space March at all but an insanely catchy, ‘campish’ POP song. When I came-up with the melody, I thought it would be the perfect song to pitch a ‘name’ female pop star. I then wrote these cheeky lyrics on the subject of anxiety, with the title and main lyric being “Forget What The Mind Says”, which are kind of funny but possibly a bit left of centre for the mainstream pop world. I recently read an article about Sia where she describes her songwriting work for mainstream pop artists and she notes that the modern theme for lyrics is the ‘victim to victor’ – read the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Roar” for a perfect example of this. By contrast, my lyrics sound like the output of a session with a bad therapist prone to sarcasm!
Of course, now that I’ve demoed my vocals onto the track (so I can show people) and not being a female pop vocalist, it sounds completely different again. Maybe it could be a Space March song?
Perhaps the most interesting thing about doing my last covers album was seeing how my style translates to a range of different songs – as well as a somewhat frightening realisation that even if I had written one of those legendary songs on the album, it probably wouldn’t have been any more of less successful than any of my own songs.
I guess what I’m ultimately saying is that each part of the song making process from inception all the way through to mixing can significantly change the course of a song. The genesis of the song is like a baby – the baby could grow-up to be many different people depending upon what happens along the way.