I often get stuck while attempting to write lyrics. The same thing happens when I try to write blog posts and so this post, being long overdue, is an exercise in just getting some words out. Lately I have been trying to squirrel away time to work on new songs. There have been some really cool chord progressions and parts we have come up with while jamming a bit at rehearsals recently. I have been taking advantage of those gems, by recording the tasty bits and making notes for later. There are about 4 or 5 new songs in the works and I am starting to feel the mixed pleasure of feeling inspired by working on them, and anxiety about making more progress on them. This creative part of the process is one of my favorites and its easy to get lost in (inspired) and or stuck by (anxiety).
Lyric writing is usually a fairly challenging creative endeavor for me. I think that is why I continue to be intrigued and entertained by the process. Writing lyrics can be a frustrating and labored exercise of fitting logical ideas to music that evokes a feeling, and hopefully support or expand on the feeling. My perfectionist tendencies are usually more of a hurdle than a help. Some of my favorite songs that I have written happen a different way though. Sometimes songs seemingly materialize from the ether. Sounds and words just fall into place. Like the song already existed somehow, as its own thing, and suddenly revealed it’s self.
I’m increasingly interested in going more with the flow and letting a song reveal its self, without forcing a topic. Its hard to do. I tend to want to construct a linear narrative that tells a story, but more and more I am interested in the dream like quality of music. And if you have ever had a dream, you know its not always linear or even makes any sense.
There is a technique in art and writing called “Exquisite Corpse”, invented by surrealists where ideas are assembled collectively without context of the previous part. William S. Burroughs’ “cut up” technique also comes to mind. This makes me think of some of my favorite artists from a variety of genres who write songs using these techniques, or otherwise just write lyrics that don’t really make much sense. but they are able to tap into some kind of foggy dream like logic that makes some kind of subconscious sense that we as listeners are able to connect with. In a world where so often things are not really what they seem, nor do they always make much sense, these ideas are pretty interesting to me. I am also fascinated by how our brain works to try and make sense of things that don’t necessarily relate, but can string them together on a subconscious “feeling” sort of level or at least inspire deeper thinking to try and find some deeper meaning. Like interpreting a dream.
Here are a few of my favorite songs with lyrics that don’t make much sense, but make me search for deeper meaning:
Wilco, I am trying to break your heart
Syd Barrett, Baby Lemonade
Radiohead, Everything in it’s right place
Cracker, Kerosene Hat