by Robin Frederick
Q: I have one big problem and I’m wondering if you can help. I have written over 160 songs. My words, melody, and my voice all seem to sound the same. What am I doing wrong?
A: If you have a “signature sound” – your songs all have a recognizable style and sound – there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. To my ears, many of Jackson Browne’s songs sound very similar in terms of music and vocals, and he’s certainly successful. He relies on powerful lyrics to tell unique stories filled with emotion and character. Vocals and music are secondary, while the lyrics hold the listener’s attention.
So, the real question is, do listeners respond to your songs and your sound the way you want them to? If you feel you’re not reaching them, then it’s a matter of upping your songwriting skills in one or more areas. Continue reading “Do Your Songs All Sound the Same?”
Songwriter Daveit Ferris has taken on the challenge of writing, performing, and recording a song a day for a year. He calls his project 365 Sparks. While he’s not the only brave or crazy artist to undertake the Everest of songwriting, he’s the best and most consistently good I’ve ever come across. Every song I’ve heard has its own quirky, emotional, fun, dark, sweet, thoughtful, or just-plain-catchy appeal.
I’ve had to write fast in my life – I once had a three-year gig that required me to write three to four songs a week for a TV series. But I got paid for it and I didn’t have to perform it and record it myself, so I feel like a loafer compared to this guy. In any case, I can’t help asking: How does anyone do this? WHY does anyone do this? And what happens after the first 100 or so days?
Instead of just wondering, I decided to ask. And he answered. How he found the time to answer, I don’t know. He’s got songs to write. In case you want to listen while you read, he posts his songs on 365sparks.com and Soundcloud.
1. What did you set out to do with your 365 Sparks project?
Daveit: My goal with 365 Sparks was to try and do something extraordinary that would truly test my skills as a songwriter, musician and producer; in that order. The project itself was inspired by a near-death experience that I went through in October 2013 that made me realise I could have left this earth with hard drives full of hundreds of half-finished projects (songs, poetry books, albums, novel ideas, scripts etc.). I decided on that hospital bed that my next project was going to be A) Grand and B) Completed.
2. Where do your song ideas come from?
Daveit: Songwriting is probably the only passion I have in this life and it’s been that way since I discovered the art when I was around 15/16. I only know how to play instruments because I realised this was essential in my pursuit of writing my own music. Continue reading “365 Sparks: The Songs of Daveit Ferris”
I got a question recently from a songwriter who is torn between two very different song genres – Pop and Contemporary Folk. He loves both and sees the strengths in both. But because he can’t decide which to focus on, he’s having trouble getting started and working on a song. Which style is it going to be?
Which genre am I writing in?
The whole question of choosing a genre can be frustrating, especially if you’re drawn to a couple of the big ones – like Pop and Folk. Every style – from Pop, Country, and Rock to R&B, Folk, and Blues, etc. – has a different approach to melody, lyrics, and production. Veering between two styles within a single song can be a disaster. And working on a Pop song while wondering if maybe it should be a Folk song can distract you from the things you should be focusing on. Continue reading “Which Genre Is the Right One?”
I recently got this question from a songwriter who’s just starting out.
Q: Is it okay if my song is a string of verses, with no chorus or bridge? It’s short, too. Can it still be a good song?
A: If a song is a series of verses, it’s in a form that’s been successful for hundreds of years – the folk song form. You can certainly write good songs in that style. These songs often feature a storyline, such as a lost lover, a historical event, or travel to a distant land, but they don’t have to. Good examples of the folk song form are “Scarborough Fair,” “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Continue reading “Update a Song in the Folk Form”