So here I am, sitting in an airless basement, surrounded by broadcast equipment. I’m recording an interview and live session for a hospital radio station show. There might be 100, 30 or even 10 listeners so this is not mass media. But it’s a professionally put together show and the presenter – Mandy Willis – is great. By that I mean she’s interested, lively, enthusiastic about the music she’s playing and the musicians she’s interviewing and knowledgeable. She has also set up studio lights to create a good atmosphere. Not everyone would do that and she’s taken the time to listen to my music before we go on air.
So we chat for a while and I play a couple of songs on the acoustic guitar I’ve brought with me. When I finish playing she asks: “What inspires you to write songs?”
The How and the Why
There’s probably a millisecond of dead air while I think about that one, then I hit my stride. I explain that I tend to write character-based story songs. The stories come into my head and I turn them into lyrics, verses, choruses, hooks ( on a good day) and middle eights. I go on to say something about my writing method and how it’s evolved as other parts of life have become busier. (More about that in another blog)
What I don’t explain is why I write songs. What keeps me finding new stories? What drives me to spend time and energy putting together words and music? And once the songs have been written, why do I bury myself in the studio, building arrangements track by track?
Self expression, I suppose. That’s the simple answer. Some people paint, others write poetry or novels, I write songs and I’m lucky enough to be able to gig fairly regularly and play them to a range of audiences. And thank to a combination of Youtube, streaming and downloads, I can reach a few thousand people every year with my recorded music.
And just occasionally (I think), I tell a story that hasn’t been told before, or say something new about an old situation. And even more occasionally, I write a song that means something to someone and get the feedback to prove it. Sometimes, I just tell a story – like this one (Who’s that in the corner) – which make sense of something that happens to me. Any of these small achievements are immensely satisfying.
I write for a living – journalism and copywriting mainly – and I think it’s also the case that songwriting is the non-profit making arm of my wider writing career. Frankly, it’s great to have a creative outlet,
Have a listen and see what you think. The new album Love and Pride is out now
Or stream it on Spotify