Jeff Tweedy’s “How to Write One Song”

Chris Rutledge of American Songwriter magazine recently interviewed Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame upon the release of his new book: How To Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back. You can find portions of the interview here which highlights 5 songwriting tips, culminating the ever-popular “Don’t be afraid to fail/suck”! I’ll be getting the book and taking Jeff’s advice to heart.

May the Muse be with Jeff and you…

Neil Young – Protest Songwriter

united kingdom   january 01  photo of neil young shot in a warner brothers rented house in chelsea, west london  photo by dick barnattredferns

And staying with Esquire, they also revisited “Ohio” by Neil Young on its 50th anniversary stemming from the Kent State University shooting and death of four anti-war protesters. It still resonates today. It’s an excellent read by Jon Friedman:

Fifty years ago this month, Neil Young changed the trajectory of his career and music history forever—catapulting himself from simple songwriter to iconic protest singer with one song. That song was “Ohio.”

Written and recorded in the aftermath of the massacre of four students on the campus of Kent State University, on May 4, 1970, “Ohio” resonated immediately and became identified as one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement. It has endured as a masterful, signature piece of political activism as songwriting.

Crosby had shown Young the famous photo of a young woman named Mary Ann Vecchio knelling over a fallen student named Jeffrey Miller during Vietnam War protests on the campus of Kent State University. Miller had been killed by a bullet fired by a member of the Ohio National Guard and the photo ran on the cover of Life magazine. Young saw the song, and as Crosby told Nash, “I saw Neil walk off with his guitar into the woods. And he comes back an hour later with this song.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash were blown away by Young’s burst of inspiration and decided not only to record the song at once, but to release it as quickly as possible, even though the band was making a sizable financial sacrifice in the process.

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming

We’re finally on our own

This summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio

The Muse can strike quickly and make something that resonates 50 years later – kudos to Neil and CSNY and to protest songs… Video below.

Sheryl Crow – A Karmic Truth

Sheryl Crow recently performed at a fantastic Tiny Desk concert and afterward participated in a wonderful interview by Ann Powers, music critic at NPR.  You can find that audio interview and article here.

Ms. Powers covers a particularly poignant part of the interview, in which Ms. Crow is discussing the craft of songwriting today, as follows:

Mentioning a report she’d heard on NPR about how social media has reduced the average attention span, she said “while the kids are all writing fast food — which is super cool ’cause it tastes great, super filling — we’re sort of still writing salmon. We’re the songwriters that are here to tax your attention span.”

I like that – let’s all tax our attention spans and listen to some substantial songs out there (including Sheryl’s new album Threads).

May the Muse continue to be with Sheryl…

Some Songwriting Tips from Legends

Luke Saunders from Happymag.tv has compiled some interesting tidbits of songwriting in this online article.

My favourite one (of many) was from Leonard Cohen:

Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.

Read some other great songwriting thoughts from Nick Cave and Tom Waits are also in the article.

May the Muse be with you…

The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel

Colorado College

Colorado College hosted a symposium this past weekend.  I wish I had known about it before, I would have participated as it was open to the public… as per the symposium’s website:

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is a scholarly symposium on the music and lyrics of Billy Joel, the consummate singer-songwriter whose compositions translate larger cultural concerns into accessible and compelling musical narratives. In the spirit of Joel’s music, this public musicology conference aims to share academically oriented insights on this popular figure and his output in an accessible and approachable manner.

Thankfully, someone (Pianomanross) recorded the keynote event, which was actually a phone call with Billy Joel himself!  Here’s the content of the call with Mr. Joel and it adds a heap of colour to the art and craft of songwriting… enjoy the listen and may the muse be with you…

Barrel of Monkeys and Photographs – Jim Bryson on Kathleen Edwards

Voyageur (Kathleen Edwards album) - Wikipedia

Well, Kathleen Edwards most recent release,  Voyageur, is the darling of critics, rightfully so, with its cathartic songs leading to new beginnings from a dissolved past.  I just wanted to share a quote from an interview by David McPherson in the latest Canadian Musician magazine (January/February 2012 edition).  The quote comes from a fellow Canadian singer-songwriter, Jim Bryson, who contributed to Voyageur via emailing parts and pieces of songs back and forth with Edwards (and is part of Edwards’ touring band and a proud new papa to boot – congrats!):

If Edwards chose not to use one of Bryson’s ideas, he didn’t take it personally. “I know how records work,” says the seasoned songwriter. “It’s like taking photographs. You take 100 and you may only use three of them. If it’s a signature part and you really feel connected to it you can have a discussion, but otherwise, if you are playing on someone else’s record, it’s theirs …at the end of the day, it’s her deal. It’s not like I can throw a barrel of monkeys down the stairs and mic it and expect her to use it.”

Now that’s an image that’s hard to get rid of… hmm… probably a novelty record in that idea… Don’t go calling the SPCA on my… I was only joking… But the lesson is to collaborate with respect for the song’s originator… now that I can work with and may the Muse stay with Kathleen, Jim et al…

Elvis Costello – National Ransom

Elvis Costello - National Ransom (2010, CD) | Discogs

Elvis Costello has a new CD out today – National Ransom.  The almost-Canuck discussed his songwriting in a QMI interview in our local freebie 24 hours newspaper in Toronto today, with a little snippet as follows:

Q: You’ve remained very prolific at an age when many songwriters lose touch with the muse. What’s your secret?

A: I suppose people would give you different views of whether I was connected with it or not, depending on how much they like my last recording – or my last 12 recordings. (Laughs)  I love people telling me how great my early records were, when they were mostly roundly ignored.  But I never really have done anything out of routine.  And I sort of feel I can do it with much more freedom because I have access to a lot of different music and different techniques.

Yes, the Muse remains with Elvis… and may the Muse be with you…

Lennon Letter to Folk Singer

John Lennon wrote a letter to calm a folk singer who once complained that success and wealth could ruin his songwriting, the musician has revealed.

Steve Tilston was just 21 in 1971 when the star read the interview he had done with now defunct ZigZag magazine.

In the hand-written letter, now revealed for the first time, Lennon told the young musician not to worry about becoming wealthy because it would not change what he felt inside.

Here are the words of wisdom in his own handwriting:

lennonltr

The Muse stay with you John… 70th anniversary of his birth in just one month from today…

What A Tale My Thoughts Could Tell

Press Release:

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, two of Canada’s most celebrated songwriters, Ian Tyson and Jim Cuddy, will be live in performance and in conversation for the second episode of the innovative new master series, “If You Could Read My Mind” created by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Through conversation and music “If You Could Read My Mind” contemplates the continuation of the Lightfoot lyric, “what a tale my thoughts could tell” and digs deep to unearth why Canada is such a hot bed for songwriting talent. The series got off to a phenomenal start this past February with its inaugural sold-out show, featuring the Canadian legends Gordon Lightfoot and Gord Downie.

Hosted by CBC Radio’s Laurie Brown, the October 21st event will also feature emerging Canadian artist Wayne Petti from Cuff The Duke, who will bring his unique blend of alt-country singing-songwriting to the stage for a special performance.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Jim Cuddy and Ian Tyson in an intimate setting at the world class, acoustically spectacular George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Contact TicketMaster today!

If You Could Read My Mind” featuring Ian Tyson & Jim Cuddy
Thursday, October 21, 2010 – Showtime 8:00 p.m.
The George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre of the Arts, 5040 Yonge Street
Tickets: $30, $40, $50 – On Sale Now
Available on TicketMaster.com or by calling 416-872-1111.
www.cansong.ca

Insider Secrets to Great Songwriting

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For over 25 years, Diane Warren has written top ten hits for some of the greatest voices in the recording industry. She reveals her secrets to great songwriting. And Jack Perricone, chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music, talks about songwriting across musical genres.

You can listen to the NPR Talk of the Nation program from earlier this week here.