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Richard Scotti
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Richard Scotti

8/13/2013 3:43:02 PM

What are you writing about?
I'm very interested in the kind of things you are writing about in your songs. What is motivating your creativity right now? What are you trying to say in your lyrics in this point in your song writing journey? What themes are you exploring lately? Why are those themes coming out now?An inquiring mind wants to know.


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Hop On Pop

8/13/2013 5:12:27 PM ---- Updated 8/13/2013 5:15:07 PM


Interesting topic!
I like to write about relationships. Not about Boy meets girls, falling in love, lah-di-dah, but about the complexities of relationships both interpersonal and with the Self.
Sounds high-brow and hoity-toity, I know. But I think that it's something that most of us think about.
I just obsess.

My most-recent song (which I am rehearsing now and will be recording in Nov.) is called "Break My Heart". About trying to communicate and empathize with somebody who is hurting... somebody who I care about a lot.

Sample lyric:
"Break my heart
I want to feel what you're feeling
Break my heart
Then steady me as I go reeling...

Break my heart
And use the pieces to put yours back together"


Stuff like that.

I would blame it on reaching mid-life (43), but honestly, I have been writing lyrics about this stuff since I wrote my very first song, at age 20.
"Every Kane"
Yup.


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Steve April

8/13/2013 8:55:46 PM


Well, a recent endeavor "The Borgias," a work in progress...

There are so many beautiful contradictions in the story. First, a leading family in Renaissance Italy, a truly flowrering moment in european history. The Borgias were great supporters of the arts, including a patron of Leonardo da Vinci. Also, they respected diversity, in many ways, and tended to allow diligent "immigrants" to settle in Italy, who were fleeing hostile regimes.

Having said that, much jockeying for position among the royalty, and the Pope was right in the middle of it. Pilgrimmages, and beauteous ceremonies, mingle with conspiracies, dungeons, and poisonings.

Have about 8 verses about them however history and a song are not always compatible bedfellows lol. So the present version's kinda short and sweet hopefully.

The Borgias go down in history like sensuous, extravagant, corrupt, and so on, however a closer look reveals Lucretia, the Pope's daughter, especially getting basically a bad rap. Her deeds are praiseworthy overall, the notes to the song go into more detail.

"Contradictions, of course contradictions, I embrace multitudes..." Walt Whiman


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Shoe City Sound

8/14/2013 2:52:54 AM ---- Updated 8/14/2013 2:54:13 AM


Oh my God - the 2 posts above have me in lyric envy. I have written a ton of words in the last few months and then not liked them enough to set them to music. Thank God the music itself always comes to me any time I like. But what to say in words and what point of view to bring importance to with musical sound..... for now, I got nothin'. Anyone that knows me personally would be astounded that someone that likes to talk as much as me, can't think of anything worth saying at this point.

Great topic, Richard.


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Chandra Moon

8/14/2013 4:04:49 AM


I've just written a song about the idea of mankind passing on wisdom from generation to generation as they do in Africa through the musical story tellers known as griots. It has a catchy chorus line "sing a song of all our nations...." but it's not quite there yet.

It needs another verse and a middle eight so not quite ready to share yet.

I like the idea of using "drums and bells and human voices..." to pass on a positive message..


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Richard Scotti

8/14/2013 8:47:59 AM ---- Updated 8/14/2013 12:20:33 PM


Todd ~ I can relate to your feelings about exploring the nature of relationships and wanting to avoid the cliches of a typical love song. I've written a bunch of love songs over the course of my life and I feel that I've said all that I want or need to say on that subject. I don't want to keep plowing the same earth over and over again. In a way, all of my songs are love songs even when not specifically about "boy meets girl" because all my songs spring from the same well ~ a very happy married life. Some people say domesticity is the enemy of creativity but that has not been the case in my situation. Being married to a great woman has provided a spiritual foundation for me to be who I am, so when I do write about love, it's usually with a universal approach that most people can relate to. But it's always a challenge because love is the subject of so many songs throughout history and it's so tempting to go down that road when more intellectual subject matter is sometimes so elusive. That's why I find so much of pop music to be "lazy" writing.~always the same words (I love you, I wanna have sex with you, you have a great butt. etc etc etc.) and always the same beat. Add a synth and mix well ~ Boring!

I love the first song you wrote, Todd. It was amazing! The guitars and vocals we're really outstanding. At 20 you were certainly ahead of your time. That song still works today.

Delores ~ Don't fret. The words will come. But don't forget the power of music to convey messages too. It's just as valid a form of communication as using words.
That's why I started an all instrumental radio station called Instrumentally Yours.
You mentioned that you're surprised that someone who talks so much is at a loss for words to put to music. A mentor of mine once said: "Write what you know and write what you say". Some of the best writing is a result of conversational language. Put your thoughts on tape and listen back. Mick Jagger write stories in prose and then turns them into songs by making the lines rhyme.

Steve ~ our resident historian! There is plenty of lyrical gold to be mined from the study of history. Thank you for sharing.

Chandra ~ congrats on your new CD and the wonderful messages you are putting forth. Your work is a prime example of artfully blending the personal with the universal. I love the concept of generations passing down stories. So many in our younger generation is uninformed about the struggles of previous generations but artists like you are changing that reality. The art of storytelling should always be preserved, protected and shared. If you know where you came from, you'll know where you're going!


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Hop On Pop

8/14/2013 9:08:54 AM ---- Updated 8/14/2013 9:10:40 AM


Thanks, Richard!
Oh, and the lead vocals were not me, but my friend Mike. I did the "harmonies" in the "na-na" part, though.


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Shoe City Sound

8/15/2013 6:14:35 AM


Thanks for the encouraging words and the lyric writing tips :) Instrumentally Yours is a great station. I really listen to the music first and the words later usually. So yeah, I guess I'll just get off my own back and be happy writing tunes with no words for now


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Stoneman

8/15/2013 1:39:50 PM


Currently I am working on an R&B/Hip-hop song called "Strange Ass People". I contracted with a comedian to write the song as a theme song for his reality show called "Interviews With Strange Ass People". On his show he does comedic interviews with strange and bizarre people in Southern California. I hope to be done with the song and sync tracks in a few days.

In addition to this my sub-publisher has been requesting that I write and produce a couple of rock/pop songs for one of his clients. I have written and produced the music for one song but I won't get to the lyrics until sometime next week. Also, I have one gospel song in the cue that is waiting for my attention. I only have the melody hummed on my dictation machine. But I can hear all the other parts already in my head. The hook is "I Know He Listens".

That's the plan but things could get shook up and priorities rearranged according the will of the creative process. I don't rush the creative process these days. I like to just let it come and be fresh. That's why I like to work on 2 or 3 songs at a time. When one starts to get tired from several recording takes, I move on to another one in a different genre. It's fun being retired. I just do what I feel like doing. No label or publisher pressure! Just me doing what I do when I feel inspired to do it.

In regard to other themes I am exploring, I have a Trayvon Martin tribute song that has been percolating in my brain. There are so many of them out right now that I think I will just wait a while. I am also interested in writing a song about the troops who are returning home from war. Then there is the usual relationship themes that seem to be a constant source of inspiration. I really could get into writing a song about the close bond that I have with my brother. You don't hear many "brother" songs very often. But it is something I would like to do in the near future. Also, two dear people in my life have recently successfully battled breast cancer. I would love to write a song about their courage and struggle to overcome such a potentially dire situation.

I have 3 CD's worth of songs waiting for mastering and release. I'm in no hurry to get to them. Hell, they may never get mastered and released. I'm just not hurting for the money or willing to do the business work right now. My joy is in the creative process. The rest is like going back into the work force. EEEEEeeeeew! As you know, releasing a CD and promoting it is such hard work. I'm too tired or lazy right now to move on it. Life is a dream and I am living in it. Some day I will be just a distant musical memory for a few people. I'm okay with that!

Much Respect and "Keep Writing" Richard!
Stoneman


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Steve Ison

8/16/2013 1:43:46 PM ---- Updated 8/16/2013 2:18:34 PM


Really interesting thread Richard - and also think its so generous-spirited n thoughtful to give such cool feedback to other peoples individual reflections on the subject here..Nice one :)

I'm always impressed that people can have such clear-cut ideas about subjects n themes they're going to write about - and also where they are emotionally/spiritually in their lives at the present and how that feeds into their songs..

Being honest,my songwriting muse dosn't work that way at all..I never have any idea what i'm gonna write about beforehand-i ALWAYS come up with the chords/vocal line first - and coming up with lyrics that i feel satisfied with - and mean something to me- is always hard work..
The tune can take 15 minutes to write..The lyrics 2 or 3 weeks..

Its like i FEEL my way into them -playing the tune over and over in my head while out walking and seeing if anything lyrically inspires or sparks me from that..


So as 2 examples of my process involving songs up on IAC - Ghost Of My Baby started out with my demo idea singing 'Goes to my Baby' on the hookline
Luckily going from Goes To My Baby to the far superior poetically Ghost Of My Baby was fairly easy..
Once i'd got the title there were a lot of ideas that resonated with me i could work with..

Its to do with obsession- and the need to escape from the mundane world..On the surface,its about a guy who can't give up on either the loss of a relationship -or the death of his treasured lover- and needs the transcendence n hope n beauty 'she' conjurs up in him to give him faith to carry on..

Its using the idea of conjuring the internal angelic goddess within us to bring solace n comfort thru hard times too..

For me it works also as a metaphor for the death of 60s innocence, beauty n magic in music -but even tho everyone around says thats all dead -the hero in the song refuses to believe that and will fight to keep that spirit alive....

So hopefully i kept it open enough for people (who'd be interested) to put their own imaginative spin on it ,but thats what the song meant for me personally..

With On THe Way Up i was lucky to have the title to begin with when i wrote the basic wordless song...
I loved it as a title 'cos its so open n free

I couldn't help making it a bit ironic -because my experience of life is we're never really 'on the way up'..Or maybe we can be for abit -but then something or others always gonna bring us crashing down to earth with a bang..

Its dealing with loss as well- which seems to be a huge theme that comes into my lyrics...

Loss of the 'ideal' romantic dream lover,loss of youth,loss of a life you could've had if you'd taken a different road etc..
The 'loss' felt cos your real home's not on this earth -but away from it..
I don't know all the reasons -but i keenly feel that on a general level..

Deaths just around the corner..It could be tommorow -it could be 40 years away -but its gonna come..
Thats not meant to sound depressing lol -its just true- and there's not a day that goes by where i don't reflect on that -even for a bit..

But on the positive side it gives me a sense of urgency n intensity to try and live the creative life i've got here as vitally n presently as i can

That's why i get shocked n disillusioned that so many of my creative musical hero's seemed to allow their creative gift to just slip away..They took their eye off their muse and she never returned..

She needs lots of time, attention n devotion- like any lover
You can't just ignore her for many years then suddenly expect her to come dancing back to embrace you with open arms...


I'll do everything in my power to try and make sure that never happens to me -but life ultimately is beyond our control - and thats a scary thing too..


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Richard Scotti

8/17/2013 9:34:22 AM ---- Updated 8/17/2013 10:51:35 AM


Stoneman said: "Some day I will be just a distant musical memory for a few people. I'm okay with that!"

I feel that your music will live on in the hearts and ears of many more than just a few people. Keep writing your heartfelt words and music as you are the conscience and the spirit of all the essential themes that you espouse. All of us and our songs are information and quantum physics says that information can never be destroyed. It literally lives forever but in other forms. Your positive "survivor spirit" and your prolific and proficient approach to music and production inspires me and will always be with me and others as well.

Steve - you mentioned:
1) the death of 60s innocence,
2) the need to escape from the mundane world,
3) loss of the 'ideal' romantic dream lover,loss of youth,loss of a life you could've had if you'd taken a different road etc..
4) Deaths just around the corner
5) it gives me a sense of urgency
6) life ultimately is beyond our control - and thats a scary thing too..

I clearly hear all of the above messages in your songs and relate to them very much.
Your themes abound in my own work as well. Here are some of mine:

1) the pain of regret and the attempt to overcome it
2) Life is short ~ seize the day while you're able
3) Love is precious ~ don't let it slip away
4) Sometimes life seems unbearably hard but it's the only game in town
5) You can't always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need
6) You can never know where you would have gone if you had chosen the "other road" or the "other lover" so there's no point lamenting that it would have been a better place than where you are now.
7) Hope is future ~ where there is no hope, there is no future ~ keep hope alive no matter how bleak things seem sometimes ~ find joy in the little things.
8) Music is your only friend until the end.

Your music and your stimulating blog posts always inspire me to examine what I feel about stuff.
I also never know what I'm going to write about in advance. Music just pours out of me, non-stop.
I have enough material to last a few life times. But the words take a while. It about the same ratio you mentioned ~ less than an hour to write and record the whole song with just the music and then the words come whenever they come. The vocals take about 2 or 3 hours and of course there is additional mixing which is always a pain in the butt but so necessary.

While I'm writing, I try to stay in the moment and any section that bores me has to be deleted or changed. I try to listen to it as though I was listening to a great Stones or Beatles song. I try to channel the choices they made in their songs and figure out what made those songs so compelling. If my song doesn't excite me, it won't excite others. I set the bar as high as I can within the parameters of my technical and musical ability and after I run out of ideas I try to expand those parameters. I hate to repeat myself.

I agree that good titles are important. They practically write the songs themselves. In the end, my songs have to be songs that I would buy and enjoy if they were not my songs. I try to write the kind of music that I enjoy listening to.

And lastly, I agree with Steven Stills when he said "Don't forget the art part".


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Stoneman

8/20/2013 9:11:52 AM


Thanks Richard! Man, you are such a quality person, musician and songwriter. But importantly, you are an all around nice guy.

Much Respect To You My Friend!
Stoneman


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Steve Ison

8/20/2013 2:05:50 PM


"if my song doesn't excite me, it won't excite others."

"In the end, my songs have to be songs that I would buy and enjoy if they were not my songs. I try to write the kind of music that I enjoy listening to!

Cheers Richard -Yeh i totally agree with all that -Absoloutly the way i think too..And i'd never ever do a song i didn't personally enjoy because i thought it might appeal to an audience..
That wouldn't feel good.,.
Following your own star's the only way to go..

Think its really important to keep an objectivity about your music - and not just think its great "because its me" lol


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Richard Scotti

8/21/2013 9:18:17 AM


Usually I think it sucks "because it's me" ~ lol


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Bob Elliott

8/21/2013 6:01:04 PM


To me it's very much like the quantum world. A particle is actually in many places simultaneously (even though we can make no real sense of that) until you measure it, then it is , of course, in only one exact location. Then the equation for the wave form has to collapse to one place.

Talking specifically about what am I writing about seems to collapse the wave form of the lyric. The symbols involved in language and sound and how those course through us seem, if material is rich, to be multifaceted and complexly inter-related, and also interact with complex arrays within different people, and I don't really like to collapse that to a meaning.

My songs aren't meaningless, but I guess I write the lyric like hoping to play the long hand in gin rummy where instead of trying to go out quick you keep trying to pick up more of the pile to work more angles before going out. I am opening up to a lot of cross traffic when I write words usually.

Or it's about sex.


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Hop On Pop

8/22/2013 8:33:03 AM


My songs aren't meaningless, but I guess I write the lyric like hoping to play the long hand in gin rummy where instead of trying to go out quick you keep trying to pick up more of the pile to work more angles before going out. I am opening up to a lot of cross traffic when I write words usually.
PERFECT!
Yep.


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Richard Scotti

8/22/2013 8:44:47 AM


When writing a song, always go "all in" ;-)


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Bob Elliott

8/23/2013 11:47:56 AM


Here later in life I like reporting. Like lines end up in songs not based on meaning so much as based on happening. Like say a line from "when Louis Armstrong Speaks"

America listens when Louis Armstrong speaks
Seven thousand letters before the general can sleep

I read the words of this general, and it stayed with me, so it makes its way into the song. What that means is a few different things depending on who you are and what you are thinking on, but it for me it has power mostly because it happened to soldiers and their commander.

I like to get as much reporting into the writing as I can. Then it's not so much me with a viewpoint, but rather life in its puzzling but real aspects. Somehow those lines are always stranger and grab me more. Just like good novelists will follow more the curves of reality which ring odd and ri g true, I want to practice reporting with less of my editorial on top.


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Stoneman

8/23/2013 2:13:51 PM


I agree with Bob on this but I like to call it the observational technique. Meaning, I observe and report through music. This is one of my favorite styles of writing. But my most favorite styles are conversational, imaginative and eventful.

Conversational is when I write lyrics as if I am talking to someone. Having a one way conversation. In one sense I have observed something about them and in another sense I am talking to them about it and giving them my own personal advise about it. My song "You Need Therapy" is like that. I witnessed a friend who's husband was cheating on her and being violent with her. Yet after all we did to help her get away from this crazy guy, she kept going back to him. So, I concluded that she needed more help than I/we could give her. I gave the songs title my proposed "Solution" (you need therapy) and then added the conversational verbiage into the verses and bridge. The song went on to win an Outstanding Achievement In Songwriting award in the Great American Songwriting Contest. But more important than that, my friend heard the song and immediately proclaimed it to be about her. She took the words to heart and got therapy. Now she is with a guy who treats her the way a loved one should be treated. People tend to like the conversational style because it is like the listening in on a private moment. In her case, she always tells me how grateful she is that I wrote that song. It helped to open her eyes.

Imaginative is when I formulate an entire story in my mind and write about it. I use to practice this style by observing random people I don't know and making up an entire story about their lives. Now my wife and I play this game where she will point someone out and then ask me to tell her their alternate story in life. I then build up a persona and life history of that person according to what they look like. Sort of song "profiling" if you will. By using this method I am never "writer blocked" because the entire world of people is a possible writing source.

Eventful is my most used method. In this method events that happen in the news and within my personal life become source material. Events or happenings like child abuse, gang warfare, war, drug addiction, murder, racism, heartbreak etc. are all used as source material. This is mainly because these events or "happenings" have affected me deeply emotionally or spiritually. So much so that writing about it becomes my own personal therapy. But the events can also be light and cheerful events. I have recently written an entire CD (Club Stoneman) about partying, vacationing and taking a break from life. The source material being the fact that now that I am retired my wife and I have more time to go dancing and on long vacations.

Now sometimes the lines get blurred and a conversational song becomes partly eventful or imaginative. The only rule in my overall songwriting style is that it must make me feel something. Even if that feeling is only to get up and dance. It must make me feel or react in some way. Organic emotional content is what I thrive on. I want the music that I listen to to make me feel or react in some way. So, the music that I write has to be that way also.

By blending the organic with the technical abilities I have learned over the years i.e. multiple instrumentation and production. I am able to write songs that I will hopefully still be proud of years from now. I love to blend time sequences into songs. For instance, I like to add the funk of the seventies into a Hip-Hop song. Also I like to trans-genre a song. Meaning to make a rock song sound like R&B or a Blues song sound like Pop. My favorite being to make a gospel song sound like Hip-hop, Pop or Rock. I like to break the genre rules because to me, there shouldn't be any rules. Music is music! My one rule is that it has to sound good to me. Generally if it sounds good to me, maybe 50% of the people that hear it will like it also. 50% is a great success in my book. Anything more than that is bonus!

Great thread Man!
Stoneman


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Bob Elliott

8/23/2013 3:27:42 PM ---- Updated 8/23/2013 3:29:26 PM


Like in the tune below I heard about the general who couldn't sleep until he wrote to all the 7000 families who had lost their soldiers. I had also read a lot about how army recruiters had a very high suicide rate. I just want those things in the song. I don't want to tell anyone what to think of that, like we can all think on that our own selves, I just want the facts in the song.

The first line ( America listens when Louis Armstrong speaks) had come unbidden into my head a couple years before, and I usually want to get those kind of lines in, and I can't ever pin an exact meaning on those kinds of lines, but they drive me the most.

When Louis Armstrong Speaks

America listens when Louis Armstrong Speaks
Seven thousand letters before the general can sleep
Four score and twenty
Burning through our money
Abraham Lincoln moving through the streets

Jimi Hendrix’s ghost singing out like Bird Parker
Does anybody know if it’s getting lighter or darker?
Shooting in the war, Man, I couldn’t do that anymore
But recruiting other souls, somehow that’s getting harder

Can you feel it?
Can hear it?
Oh, he's singing out
Singing just for you

America listens when Louis Armstrong speaks
I been up and down the malls here
in and out of seven weeks
Iron in my backbone
But I need it in my soul
‘cause if Billy keeps singing
I’m gonna break down and lose control

Can you hear it?
Can you feel it?
Oh, she's singing out
Singing just for you


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Bob Elliott

8/23/2013 3:37:42 PM


Or in this song below I was reading a letter from the sixteenth century written by a captain who had left his family in America and sailed back to England and when he returned for them they were gone. Mostly all I was trying to do was get in as many specific details from the letter into the song, because the situation of his family joining with the natives carries much power, and I don't need to editorialize the meaning, I don't know that I could any more than anyone else could, but what I can do is get it in the song. As far as I can tell these we're the facts:



Well, I wait all the days and the nights
With our child
As you sail to our home
Oh but now, I’ve gone wild

Those we became made the fires
That you see
I heard your songs on the sea
As you cried out for me
But I’ve changed and I live
As the savages live
We have taken what they give
And I’ve gone wild

All your books have been torn
And your pictures and your maps
Have been spoiled with the rain
And the falcons have all flown
And the clothes I have worn
Are no longer what I wear
Find our footprints in the sand
‘cause I
I’ve gone wild


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