In what I am retrospectively calling 'songwriting' month here on Scottish Fiction, there is a slightly serious side behind the Words With Friends Cup, and that is to put the spotlight on the art of songwriting. So I've asked our competitors if they would be kind enough to answer a few questions about their own experiences and opinions, and what is after all a hugely important part of music.
We all have our favourite lyrics, a line we wish we'd written. Music full of pulsating beats, jaw busting riffs, bone shattering bass lines and soaring vocals is great, but it's words that make us connect with a song, make us laugh, cry, cheer or grimace as the story being told unfolds.
So who better than to talk to us than the wordsmith himself, The Chief Of Constanents, The Spellmaster, so-good-he-ate-a-dictionary-and-spat-it-out-with-more-words-in-it, our Scottish Fiction Words With Friends winner, Boab Canavan!
As an musician, how do you balance the music with the words?
I don't think we have a deliberate formula in which we say 'we're going to have this much of this thing and counter it with this much of the other thing' for our songs, it's more just a see-what-works-and-tweak-it-as-we-go-along type approach. Sometimes it can takes months or even a few years to get this right.
What is your approach to songwriting?
We normally have a melody idea and a basic song and chord structure mapped out before the lyrics are written. I don't find it particularly easy to begin writing lyrics. It'll sometimes take me a while to get the first few lines going but once I get started the words just seem to keep on coming. I can't just sit down and tell myself I'm going to write lyrics. It's normally just something that'll occur to me, often when I'm doing something mundane and not really thinking about songwriting at all. I've also found using the Evernote app has been a massive help in getting ideas down, allowing to record snippets of melody and guitar chord ideas as well as writing lyrics all in one handy document.
Is there a particular lyric that you wish you'd written?
Aww man, there are loads! I know mentioning Morrissey in reply to a question like this could be considered by some as a bit cliched but the song The Queen Is Dead is full of lines I wish I'd written. There's the cutting 'Her Very Lowness with her head in a sling, I'm truly sorry - but it sounds like a wonderful thing'. There's the silly line I like to believe is a veiled reference to Michael Fagan, 'So I broke into the palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner', which I don't think has any great significance in the song, it's just a great line. And the fantastic observation about the unconditional affection some hold for the Queen, 'but when you're tied to your Mother's apron, no-one talks about castration'. Superb stuff.
Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) is also another favourite of mine. There's some really tasteful sexual imagery in The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1 (and indeed, throughout the whole album).
'...Dad would throw garbage all across the floor,
as we would lay and learn what each other's bodies were for
And this is the room
One afternoon I knew I could love you
And from above you how I sank into your soul
Into that secret place where no one dares to go'
It's a beautiful way of putting sexual release across. I don't need to even comment on this one from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, just read.
'And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see'
Anyway, I'm rambling so I'll stop now, but those are just a few of the lyrics I wish I'd written.
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