I’ve been enjoying a wonderful little book called Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. In the book, Kleon points out that no work of art is truly original; all great artists are referencing those who have come before.
As I was reading, every page made me think about my own songwriting process. My next thought was: I really want to share this with YOU.
Stealing like a songwriter means…
Suggesting that someone “steal” sounds pretty awful. But no one here is suggesting that you actually crib someone else’s test answers or intellectual property.
I’m also NOT suggesting that you be anything less than your creative, authentic, wonderful Self. David Bowie used to refer to himself as a “a tasteful thief” and in an interview with Cameron Crowe he boasted, “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” I don’t think anyone could call David Bowie unoriginal. Continue reading “Steal Like a Songwriter”
When I hear great fiction writers talk about their craft, I’m often struck by how easily these insights can be applied to songwriting. We can learn a lot about our own craft by stepping outside and looking at it from another angle. For example, the late, great novelist Elmore Leonard said this in an interview with WritersDigest.com:
A writer has to read. Read all the time. Decide who you like then study that author’s style. Take the author’s book or story and break it down to see how he put it together.
If you apply this to songwriting you get:
A songwriter has to listen. Listen all the time. Decide who you like then study that songwriter’s style. Take the songwriter’s songs break them down to see how they’re put together.
To become good at your craft, it takes more than talent. Elmore Leonard was certainly a great novelist – Get Shorty is a classic! – and a hugely talented writer of short stories and screenplays. Why did he feel the need to study other writers? Because he understood the limitations of talent. Continue reading “Elmore Leonard’s Advice to Songwriters”