The Songwriter’s Ears

It’s an odd title yes but indulge me for a minute. 

When I tell people that I write songs, I’m often asked the same question: How do you write a song? What happens? What do you do? 

At first this question used to befuddle me. How the heck am I supposed to answer that?  How am I supposed to tell someone how I do it? I just know that I do it. I don’t have a step by step process for writing songs. But after the umpteenth person asked me this question, I realized I needed to have an answer so that I wasn’t just stumbling around in my words. 

So I sat and thought: What’s the first step to writing a song? Is it having a hook of some sort? A concept? A picture? Where do those even come from? 

Then I realized. It starts with the ears. 

(See I told you this title would make sense!) 

If I’m going to write a song, I need an idea or a concept or a picture. How do I find those? Well it starts with listening to what’s around me and paying attention to what I hear. If my ears are sensitive enough, I’ll be able to figure out if I’ve got a hook or an idea or a concept that would make a good song really easily. I have to be paying attention to conversations, prayers, art, people etc. If I don’t write about real things, people will have no connection to the music and that pretty much defeats the point.

Now it’s not about making money. I mean that is a side affect of creating great content. But that doesn’t come unless the content is good. If the content isn’t good, people won’t buy. Good content is created when something is real and speaks to some aspect of the human condition. That’s why artists like Shakespeare are so prolific and have lasted so long. Shakespeare’s plays — while hundreds of years old — still resonate with audiences because the characters, ideas, and concepts are all rooted in our humanity. Our fundamental needs and desires as people haven’t changed for hundreds of thousands of years and it sure as heck isn’t going to change now. Yes, values change and morals can change but the basis of what makes us human isn’t going to change. 

By extension, if I want my music to last, I have to create music that is able to consistently speak to and acknowledge the roots of the human condition. If I’m able to do that, then the music will last and I’ll have done my job well. But If I don’t pay attention to people and to the world of people, then I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the opportunity to pay attention to what real people experience and live on a day to day basis. That’s why my ears have to be tuned. It’s the first step in understanding and learning about people. 

So the next time someone asks me how I write a song, I’ll simply tell them: “You start talking, I’ll listen.”  

Peace & Harmonies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *