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Richard Scotti
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IAC Prime Member


Richard Scotti

7/13/2008 7:57:13 AM ---- Updated 7/13/2008 8:18:30 AM

Song subject matter
What kind of things are influencing your songwriting these days? Do you feel an increasing need or desire to write about social issues? When Dylan stopped writing protest songs, he seemed to want to go deeper into himself and not be interpreted as speaking for others or preaching to others. But there is a school of thought that says you can address social issues by going deeper into yourself because the more you explore and reveal your inner self the more you can explore and reveal the nature of others and the state of things today. I think that writing lyrics now is more of a an artistic challenge than ever before. The Beatles were lucky that all they had to say was "She loves you" and that was good enough for those days. It's hard to get away with that kind of lyrical simplicity now in most rock genres. Like A Rolling Stone is said to be a personal song about a woman but the lyrics could be interpreted on so many different levels. In fact, some people say that most of Dylan's most complex songs are about relationships, but his genius is that he gives the songs layers of meaning that relate to many different subjects or variations on subjects.

I just want to get a discussion going of lyrics and subject matter and how the artists here approach them. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy lusts after girl, true love endures, etc etc. How many different ways are there of saying those things? Can anything new be said in that area? The war is wrong, the economy sucks, global warming is killing us etc etc.
How many unique ways are there of saying those things? Or is there a way of blending the personal and the universal by using metaphor to cause one's lyircs to be interpreted on different levels so they are more literary than literal?

As we all expand our studio gear and our musical virtuosity, how do we expand our expertise in writing the words to the songs that are produced with the gear and musical chops?
More than ever in our daily lives, words matter. How can we make them work for us in our songs? Obviously there is no right or wrong. Some say: just "write from their heart"
but what does that mean exactly? Should some of what the heart expresses be filtered through the mind and the intellect? I'm asking what works for you, not what you think works for others.

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The Man With No Band

7/13/2008 8:59:37 AM

There is nothing new under the sun ... but I do not see that as a limitation in song writing at all ...

No one has been able to claim "originality" in verse for a very long time ... and I do not believe that simple words like "She Loves You" are not good enough for the times .... if you are looking to score a hit song look at "Don't Worry, Be Happy" as a prime example of few words ...

I'm not sure if this is correct but I think I can tell most times when an artist has tried to be overly poetic, or clever ... Those songs come off like a blow-up doll to me ... Give me real, thank you ... You cannot say "I love you" enough ... You cannot say "Peace" enough ... You cannot say "Rock on" enough .. (well O.K. David Essex went a bit overboard) .. :) ... but you get my drift....

The world changes everyday (50 years ago you couldn't sing about a girl on girl, or a transvestite episode) ... and if you are a writer of the social issues there are lots of new things to address ... but the underlying messages have been carved out many generations ago ... sometimes someone needs to bring those songs "up to date" if you will ... Such as when speaking out against war, you can't reach someone by singing about Viet Nam that wasn't even born yet but use Iraq and it makes sense to them ...

If you are a writer of love songs, you have no worries at all, Love songs have been done more than any other and will still be being done till the end of time ... There is a reason ... everyone can relate to them at one time or another in their lifetime .. so the subject matter is worth repeating ... You also have to remember how many love songs that you know by heart, that young people have never heard ... So there is always a brand new audience ...

I think you hit it on the head when you said people say write from the heart ... for IMO words that come from anywhere else are like stale pieces of bread ... and I have been eating bread for as long as I can remember and I never get tired of the same bread ... as long as I know the package is fresh

Well that's my take Richard..

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Duane Flock

7/13/2008 9:07:14 AM

I always write from the heart. It's not worth my time to babble garbage. Although some groups can get away with that and make a hit, it's just not my style. Each of my songs has lyrics that has meaning or a message. Usually I'll have a riff or tune to start with and it will take quite a while to write the lyrics that fit perfectly (or close enough). You're right, music now is less and less about badass lead spots and more into lyrics. I personally love fusion/jazz, but I just don't play that well and that's not what the majority of "the masses" are into. I'm actually finding that the old addage K.I.S.S. works very very well. You don't really need anything complicated if your basics are solid. A good example is my song Money Just Don't Care. I took an imaginary "Stones" riff and built one of my best tunes yet. I played it live last night in a 1hr acoustic set and got a great applause.

I think it's just a factor of the changing times we live in. We're living in an information age and people want to hear expressions of thought and interpitations of artists/musicians art. Of course, it really helps to know your instrument and have a good "natural feel" for the structure of the song too.


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Hugh Hamilton

7/13/2008 11:12:52 AM

Hi, Rich and Friends...The writing has largely given way to tech/producing/arranging work for me lately, though the occasional impromptu song bubbles up on happy occasions. For me personally, writing is the thing that takes the most discipline, and thus is the thing that I do the least.

Larree, what do you plan to do with all those songs? Is a song a song if it never leaves your pocket recorder? I'm not being wise guy, just wondering when the "next step" is going to come and you'll get some of those babies "out there"...?


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Hugh Hamilton

7/13/2008 4:30:44 PM ---- Updated 7/13/2008 4:31:06 PM

Dude. You're missing the "Desitin Finger Experience".

Hmm. Has a nice ring to it. Maybe I'll start a band and give it that name...

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Steve Ison

7/13/2008 5:29:42 PM

Interesting subject Richard..
Song lyrics are so inexorably linked with the tunes they're with,its hard to seperate them...
A line like 'I Love you' can seem a total cliche in one song,yet given a certain melody,delivery and mood can suddenly seem fresh and magical..It all depends

Doing lyrics for me is like solving a puzzle..I have a tune thats already there and
maybe 1 or 2 lines,then its almost searching for what the song wants to say from those clues...While doing that i've gotta pay attention to finding words that sound good-as well as particular vowel sounds which work best in particular places...and
trying to create a mood,picture in the listeners mind and a sense of meaning for me..Hopefully with as much sense of poetry as i can..

I could never ignore the whole aesthetic of the song and making it sound natural with the tune to try and crowbar a 'message' i'd chosen to say beforehand onto it
That just dosn't work for me

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Duane Flock

7/13/2008 7:08:33 PM ---- Updated 7/13/2008 9:52:52 PM

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Richard Scotti

7/13/2008 9:57:57 PM

What I try to do is find a balance between the personal and the universal, especially with the new songs that I've written since I joined IAC last April. I want the words to be as strong as the music and to be poetic and literary without being pretentious. It's a fine line to walk sometimes.I'd like the message of each song to be understood while being slightly ambiguous at the same time. with certain lines being open to different interpretations.

The chemistry between the words and music is so important. As Steve points out, you can say almost anything in a lyric but sometimes the music behind the lyric is what defines the meaning. Words + music = a third element that is only discovered when the words and music interconnect in an organic way rather than a forced way.

Songwriting is extremely intuitive and for me comes mainly from my subconscious mind. I find that if I think to much about the process, it comes out sounding uninspired. I try to relax and just follow the music and let the music tell me what the words should be. I'll just keep listening to the song and try to sing along any words that pop into my head that seem to groove with the music. I have my word processing page open at the same time my music production application is open so I can listen and type at the same time. Sometimes I'll just type fragments of things that sound good and sort it out later.

Once and while a ryhming dictionary can be very helpful. Sometimes I'll have a line that I love but it wil end with a word that has only one or two ryhmes that seem to have no realtionship to the subject matter but the word is perfect for the line and must stay. I then will take the one or two words that ryhme with it and construct a line that connects with the meaning in a odd way and still end with the ryhming word. It's like when Dylan says: "You ride on your chrome horse with your diplomat" The main words that ryhme with "at" are cat, hat, mat, sat, bat, rat, so it's obvious that cat and hat are the only logical choices so Dylan connects the meaning of the the lines by saying: "who carries on his shoulder a siamese cat". It's as if he's working backwards from the ryhme to the beginning of the line. Now that's something that turns writing from a chore to a fun experience. It's not just any cat but a "siamese" cat, a colorful and thought provoking image. That's the kind of genius that really inspires me.

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