writing

Where’s Bob Dylan?

Okay, so we couldn’t get Bob to come to the studio for the show. Not surprising considering how the Nobel Prize people can’t find him either. On this show about Bob Dylan we discussed:

  • The new film from Ron Howard  – The Beatles, Eight Days a Week
  • How the Beatles wrote songs
  • Should the Nobel Prize for Literature have been given to Bob Dylan?
  • What was Bob Dylan’s contribution to the music world?
  • Bob’s lyrics and melodies
  • How much his early career was influenced by the times (early sixties)
  • His long career
  • Two of his songs: “Shelter from the Storm” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

Writing for musicals with Stephen Witkin

Lyricist and librettist Stephen Witkin returned to Song Talk Radio for a highly informative hour on writing for musical theatre. Here are some of the topics we discussed:

  • what is the “book”  and the role of the book writer for a musical?
  • collaboration with the muscial’s composer
  • the purpose of the book in relation to the songs

Website: Stephenwitkin.com

Blog: stephenwitkin.wordpress.com “From Here to Epiphany”

Twitter: @StephenWitkin

Linked In: Stephen Witkin

Facebook: Stephen Witkin

Listen to the full show:

Jeff Greenway finds his own way

Jeff Greenway returned to the Song Talk Radio studio to share his thoughts on song writing. His approach to writing is through a feeling, not a theory. This was amply demonstrated in the two songs he shared with us. The first, Cavalry, evoked the sadness and confusion you feel when a relationship just isn’t working any more. No one is coming to save the day and there’s nowhere to hide. The second tune, I Need describes the two opposing sides of possible reconciliation. Notice the lyric shift from “don’t come home” to “please come home”. We discussed:

  • collaboration
  • home recording with a good microphone and Logic
  • modulation
  • background vocals
  • the use of silence in a song
  • chord substitution
  • teaching music to children

Listen to the entire show here:

 

The unusual world of songs with unusual lyrics

For this special theme show, each of the hosts presented a song with “unusual” or hard-to-decipher lyrics. We delved into a discussion around understanding the intentions behind and interpreting the songs. Download the lyrics here: Unusual Lyrics

  • Neel’s selection: A Self Called Nowhere by They Might Be Giants
  • Bruce’s selection: McArthur Park by Jimmy Webb (performed by Donna Summers)
  • Janice’s selection: Paranoid Android by Radiohead

We talked about:

  • The notion that once your song is released to the world, it’s no longer yours and open to multiple interpretations
  • Check out www.songmeanings.com to read user interpretations of songs
  • What is the purpose for communicating a story through unusual, hard-to-decipher lyrics?
  • Use of metaphors
  • Writing a song with unusual lyrics as a songwriter’s challenge – break the rules!

Listen to the complete show:

 

Making an Emotional Impact as a Performer: Part 1

Having been immersed in the wonderful world of singer-songwriters during my time at Song Talk Radio, I’ve attended quite a number of gigs and open mics over the past year.

Everyone I’ve seen perform has great talent in singing, playing an instrument and writing music.

However, I find there’s a lot of variation in a performer’s ability to make an emotional impact on me as an audience member.

A singer may have an amazing voice, but if every song in their set (or even a single song) is delivered in the exact same way and with little variation in emotional expression, I might leave thinking: “That was a good show”, but not feeling that my mind was blown or heart inspired.

So, I’d like to share an exercise – the Song Interpretation Exercise, to be exact – that may help in taking your performance up a notch in the mind-blowing, heart-inspiring department.

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Letting songs steep with Carmen Toth

Carmen Toth / Social Potion joined us for the second time to talk about a new song, and an older one, both of which are appearing on her upcoming album.

Stuff we talked about:

  • writing lyrics first, songs first, or improvising on the fly during a jam/collaboration
  • journalling / creating a “lyrics bank”
  • starting a song from an emotion
  • marketing to promote other artists
  • memorable titles in the world of singles
  • working with a producer to focus the song structure and strengthen commercial appeal
  • writing universal, relatable lyrics
  • using a bridge to bring a new perspective into the song

Download Carmen’s lyrics for the show.

Listen to the complete episode:

Blair Packham packs emotional power

From the moment Blair Packham started to speak, we knew we were in for some great lessons from a master songwriter and experienced teacher. If You Were Mine featured a great bridge and instrumental break. In Her Dreams started out as a story of a woman in a call centre and moved to a daughter caring for an ailing mother. In our wide-ranging conversation we also touched on the following:

  • who are you writing for?
  • does the song connect emotionally with the listener?
  • collaboration is good
  • ask for feedback and use it
  • write from your creativity
  • the new singer-songwriter accent (Shawn Mendes song Stitches for example)
  • song-writing workshops (songstudio.ca)

Listen to the full episode

John Glover keeps it simple and engaging

On this highly informative and entertaining show, we talked with John Glover:

  • how John adapted his guitar playing after a hand injury
  • the difference between “cathartic creativity” and the hard work of writing songs
  • Justin Rutledge‘s songwriting workshop
  • lyrics versus poetry
  • playing with Willie P. Bennett
  • starting the writing of a song with a melody and a chord progression
  • Object writing” as a songwriting exercise to build sensory awareness
  • Secret Agent Man” as inspiration
Bruce with the team

Keeping it real with Bruce Harrott

A very special show with Song Talk Radio’s co-host and co-creator Bruce Harrott, showcasing and discussing the process behind some of his best songs. We talked about:

  • Bruce’s traditional approach with writing lyrics first, and trying a different approach now
  • working with different producers
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  • writing about real experiences (“staying true to the story”)
  • using different melody/chords in bridge vs. verses
  • chord substitutions

Do you write songs from the heart or from the head?

Often on Song Talk Radio, this question arises.  Sometimes, it’s fun for the hosts to try and guess.  “Your song sounds very cerebral,” or “Your song sounds very intuitive.”  The guests themselves tell us how well considered every decision in their songwriting process is, or tell us “It just came to me.”  This question of process in creative endeavour is as old as the creative endeavours themselves. On Blair Packham’s show, he talked about his own journey on both the intuitive and the cerebral roads.

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