QUOTES

I will use this page to post quotes about songwriting that I found interesting, challenging, inspiring, etc…

“Each song has its own secret that’s different from another song, and each has its own life. Sometimes it has to be teased out, whereas other times it might come fast. There are no laws about songwriting or producing. It depends on what you’re doing, not just who you’re doing.” – Mark Knopfler

“My songwriting and my style became more complex as I listened, learned, borrowed and stole and put my music together.” – Boz Scaggs

“Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It’s something I don’t feel like I really control.” – Tracy Chapman

“That is what intrigues me; songwriting and song structure and expression.” – Geddy Lee

“When you tune your guitar in a different way, it lends itself to a new way of looking at your songwriting.” – Sheryl Crow

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” — Plato

“Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young.” — Aristotle

“I do more writing by myself than with anybody else. My best thing is sitting…around somewhere with a guitar, and having an idea. You never know where it’d come from. — Charlie Daniels

“Sometimes a great song is defined as much by what the lyric doesn’t say as what it does. One of the advantages of writing a song as opposed to writing literature, painting a portrait or building a house is the extraordinary context that the music provides for the lyric. Sometimes good melody and chord structure allows a lyricist to say very little, leaving the music to imply the rest of the story. Intriguing plot lines and amazing imagery are impressive, but feel horribly out of place if they crowd the emotional content of the music. The ability to provide just enough information in the lyric is what separates great lyricists from great writers.” — David Mead

“All those songs are totally timeless. They’ll always stand up because they came from a real place. They weren’t crafted songs. They were written from the heart.” — Shooter Jennings on his father’s songs

“It’s just the more you do it the better you get, or at least that’s how I feel in my case. I think it’s a combination of confidence and just having done it this long and just learning. I’m always learning. I’m still honing my craft.” — Lucinda Williams

“Sometimes an unexpected chord change can be the difference between a good song and a great song.” — Gary Talley

“I had more verses [to Coal Miner’s Daughter]. Owen Bradley said, ‘Loretta, there’s already been one El Paso and we’ll never have another one. Get in that room and start taking some of those verses off.’ Yeah, I took six verses off.” — Loretta Lynn

“Sometimes they work, and sometimes they just won’t. Sometimes you get hung up on them. When that happens, you just throw it back, and maybe come back to it two or three weeks later.” — Loretta Lynn

“Write about the truth. If you write about the truth, somebody’s living that. Not just somebody, there’s a lot of people.” — Loretta Lynn

“Poetry is a solitary process. One does not write poetry for the masses. Poetry is a self—involved, lofty pursuit. Songs are for the people. When I’m writing a song, I imagine performing it. I imagine giving it. It’s a different aspect of communication. It’s for the people.” — Patti Smith

“The ending should be short and sweet. … Trust your audience to understand your message and don’t try and beat it into them. Stop yourself from prolonging the story because you’re having such a good time.” — Dan Kedding

“I think it was Tommy who told me, ‘When your song is called ‘XYZ’ or whatever, every line has got to make sense against your title.’ He showed me little methods of proving to yourself whether the line belongs, and ways of finding out whether you were able to get more out of a line if you tried.” — Merle Haggard

“I think the more the listener can contribute to the song, the better; the more they become part of the song, and they fill in the blanks. Rather than tell them everything, you save your details for things that exist. Like what color the ashtray is. How far away the doorway was. So when you’re talking about intangible things like emotions, the listener can fill in the blanks and you just draw the foundation.” — John Prine

” Some of the songs come so fully, it’s like they are pre—packaged. There have been a couple that came in the middle of the night. And I thought, jeez, I’ll never forget that. And went back to sleep, and it was gone. You’ll hear something years later that another songwriter that you respect writes, and you go, jeez, I think that was the remnants of that song that got sent to me.” — John Prine

“I edit as I go. Especially when I go to commit it to paper. I prefer a typewriter even to a computer. I don’t like it. There’s no noise on the computer. I like a typewriter because I am such a slow typist. I edit as I am committing it to paper. I like to see the words before me and I go, “Yeah, that’s it.” They appear before me and they fit. I don’t usually take large parts out. If I get stuck early in a song, I take it as a sign that I might be writing the chorus and don’t know it. Sometimes,you gotta step back a little bit and take a look at what you’re doing.” — John Prine

“I think you can refine what you do, and become more consistent. And you write better songs that have a better shape and a better feeling. You evolve into and out of things, and go through stages, but, ultimately, you do improve.” — Richard Thompson

“Every song really tells a story. Some are more fleshed out than others. Some are more linear than others. But most pop songs, apart from pretty basic dance music, is telling some kind of a story—usually a love story, sometimes a political story. In modern songwriting there is a lot of cinematic technique, where you jump into the middle of action. You might be writing in first person through the eyes of the protagonist. It’s a little cinematic scene, and you do hard cuts. And some more is left to the imagination. I do a lot of that in addition to the narrative songs, and I enjoy both. I’m surprised by how popular the ballads are, the story songs. So in a sense, I’m reacting to what the audience would like.” — Richard Thompson

“Writin’ songs is like a mystery. The most difficult thing to do is have a good idea. If you have a decent idea, the songs are the easy part. Actually having something to say is the hard part. If you get an idea for a song, then it pulls you along. There are just some ideas that you get that are really hard to edit out; it’s hard to stop thinking about some bad ideas. So you just finish it and you end up putting it on a record.” Lyle Lovett

“Beyond hoping that someone will like one of my songs, I don’t think about how a song will be received. I just hope that, when somebody hears one of my songs, they’ll want to hear it again. I don’t have an impact or an effect in mind. I really just try to write something that makes sense for me, that seems true. For me, songs are sort of sacred ground, because it’s a place where you can actually tell the truth. You don’t have to be diplomatic. I think the point of a song is to just say something that’s true, or that expresses an idea that reflects something that’s true, whether it’s a truth about human nature or about the way people bullshit one another. A song doesn’t have to be serious to be true… but to me, that’s what a song is. And if I can get that right for me, then it’s worth writing. …You’re asking people for their time and attention, and it’s a chance to tell somebody what you think, or to share a joke. I just always hope that whatever’s in the song is worth demanding somebody’s time [for].” Lyle Lovett

“You know, it’s a pretty mysterious thing still, why you start the songs you start, and the specific flavor of them, the nature of them. I don’t know about other writers, but, for me, it’s still somewhat out of my control. It’s not really a logical process.” — Gillian Welch

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