Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Secrets of Songwriting Revealed! (not really)

It's been over a week since I returned from my trip to a Songwriting Retreat in Indiana, but I am just now getting around to blogging about it. It was my 3rd year there and I would say my best year. It was non-stop writing as usual, but this year I had just an extra measure of energy to make it through some late nights, some unexpected co-writes, and literally running up and down the halls to meet up with people on time. Counting songs that I finished up from last year, I came home with 6 new ones, and was apparently dubbed “The Little Writing Giant”. I wonder if I'll get my own infommerical. Anyway, it was such a good time and I wrote some really good songs and hung out with some really good people. The food was great as usual, and this year's t-shirts were great: “More ballads in a weekend then a whole season of Idol”. Yes, t-shirts. As my friend Allie puts it, it's basically songwriter nerd camp.

Nerdy as it is, a lot of people ask me about this mysterious process of writing a song. The most common question I get is “Do you write the melody first or the lyric?” I tell people it happens all different ways, but when you throw another writer or two into the mix, things get even more interesting.

The basic process, at least as I have experienced it, is you sit down in the writer's room with the other person or people and spend some time just shooting the breeze or getting to know each other if you don't already. Then you start throwing out ideas of what to write about. Both writers are ideally prepared with a few good ideas, some even partially developed, and after a little while both people can generally settle on one idea that strikes them each with enough passion and vision for the song to go ahead and “chase it”, as we say.

Every song is built around what is called the hook. The hook is usually that one line, often times the title, that just gets you when you hear it or sticks with you when the song is over. Ideally you would start with the hook and build a chorus around it, then come up with a couple of verses to explain and set up the chorus. If the song needs a bridge it's typically added after the rest has been written, and inevitably there will be some tweaking along the way. Depending on who you're writing with, the melody could be written right along with the lyric or you could end up with a completed lyric to hand over to a melody writer. Regardless of how it happens, the goal of that 3 hours or so is to birth a new song into the world.

Mysterious is a good way to describe it. It is never cut and dry. What I described was a sort of normal, standard, baseline for the process. But really, anything can happen. Sometimes it's miserable. Sometimes you laugh until your sides ache. Sometimes the Spirit is so present in the room you feel you could reach out and touch Him. I write solo most of the time, so I'm still relatively new to co-writing. But I'm so thankful that once a year for four days, I get to indulge in that mysterious melding of minds and muse.

PS- A note on those pictures... Each night we performed the songs that we'd written that day for the rest of the group, and that's what those pictures are from. So just to clarify, we do not write with microphones.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Scrapbooking and Pseudo Death

It's hard to blog after you've begun to get sparser and sparser with posts. You feel like you need to have something significant to say before you're eligible to write again. Kind of like when you haven't prayed in a while and you feel like you'd better have something good to say to God before coming before Him. But both notions are quite silly so I will post with or without significant thought.

We made the announcement last Sunday that we are going to join Luke at Second Mile Church, a plant of East Valley. Matthew will be coming on as the Associate Pastor and will also lead the music there. We are so excited! A part of our hearts have been there since the church began, so it feels really good to finally get to be a real part of it. I will continue with my single mom's group and with Women's Ministries at East Valley, but other then that I plan to fight my propensity to jump into much else with adoption on the horizon. I am guessing I will need everything I have here at home, at least for a while. Or perhaps for the next 18 years.

I just finished up a little scrapbook for our adoption. It tells the story of our family to help the state make a good match. I had so much fun doing it. I also committed not to spend much money on it, and I was able to use a lot of my leftover stuff from my previous 2 books. I love what little scrapbooking I've done, but was so difficult to try to capture our family (and our extended family) in ten 6" by 6" pages and to decide which pictures to use. I'm very happy with how it turned out, though. I hope I get it back!

So it has been an odd, at times surreal couple of months with the switch to Second Mile. We have been joking since Sunday's announcement that you'd think Matthew had died or something. Everyone has been coming up to him and saying all of the nice things that people think but don't usually say until your funeral. He's been extra careful to keep the valve on his head open lest it fill and get too big. It has been cool, though, to hear some of the fruit of your work and ministry in the lives of the people you shepherd and care about. In case I don't, I should take pictures of it. Maybe I will post them!

Tonight we are off to see "Star Trek", which Matthew consistently calls "Star Wars" which drives me crazy. Right now he's sleeping off a morning at the zoo, but in an hour and a half I will get him all to myself for the rest of the day. :)

Here's the book: