All of my songs are “true stories” in one way or another. Some are about events or people, some about feelings; some are memories and some are stories being lived right now. Some stories tell something about my life. Some stories are adventures lived by others.
Each song tells a truth of one sort or another: about people, feelings, wishes or dreams. Some are “true stories”, like “Dunkirk”, or are “calls to arms”. Some are funny, some are bold, some are pure pop candy floss. Some soothe. Others are are shot with the silver of sadness or a mystery that touches the heart more deeply.
The idea for a song might come from something quite random, like an overheard phrase or a fleeting observation. This might be something seemingly obvious in meaning or it might be a something that is ambiguous and full of mystery. Sometimes it is only after it is written, or after I have performed a song for a while, that I recognise the hidden story or truth in the song for me. A bit like suddenly grasping the meaning of a dream.
Other songs are much more focussed from the outset; I have a clear idea of the story that I want to tell, the feelings that I hope to evoke or the message that I want to be heard.
I like crossword puzzles and there are little “word games” hidden in some of my songs. Setting myself a little challenge, like one of these word games, helps me to be more creative in finding expression for ideas and feelings.
Other times, imagining a “film of the song” releases emotions and scenarios that I can identify with. This even more than “word games” helps me to find the sounds to go with the lyrics because, for me, the lyrics are the starting point.
It intrigues and pleases me when someone tells me what one of my songs has conjured up for them, so much more so when “their meaning” is something unexpected. That means that the song has done something much more than give pleasure or amusement, much more than carrying and sharing my intended message: it has gained a life of its own. That is some very satisfying ju-ju!
Lately, I have been collaborating in songwriting and have found this fascinating. I imagined that collaboration would result in songs where I would always be able to “see the joins” and I would know exactly what I had contributed. It has not been like that at all.
I thought it would be like weaving a cloth, with separate threads identifiable. Instead, it has been more like the waters of streams joining to form one river and it is impossible to separate the flow back into its parts. Perhaps this is because the collaborations cover both lyrics and music?
Yet each collaboration still results in something that feels very much like it is “my song”, rather than “our song”. I think this might be because I have only collaborated so far with someone who does not perform in public. Also perhaps because I perform these songs solo. So the process is similar to taking a cover song and “making it your own”, rather than seeking to emulate someone else’s interpretation.
I am still inspired to write songs on my own. However, I have learned so much from collaborating with someone who has a deeper and broader understanding of music theory. My playing has also improved. I have been pushed to tackle unfamiliar techniques. I have practiced long and hard in order to play arrangements beyond my immediate skill level, arrangements that I would never have dreamt up just by myself. My main contributions to this work and play are: bringing the original idea towards the light; suggesting simpler or easier ways to make an arrangement work; taking the song out into the world and sharing it with others.
It therefore pleases me immensely is that some of my songs have been included in Jim Carey’s Ukulele Songbook. The idea that someone, somewhere might be so taken with one of my songs that they would want to give it some life of their own is the best one could wish for. That is what “releasing” a song really means. First, you release something of yourself into its creation. Then you let it loose in the wild to take flight. You hope that someone else will find it and will nurture it with their own breath and blood, that it will release something of their creativity and that they will send it on its way out into the world again. Perhaps even one of the “silly songs” might tickle someone’s fancy enough for them to have a go at it.
The video I have chosen is a song that is all my own work. It was a difficult choice! Suddenly they are all my favourites . . . but all so different.
Given what I have said about hoping that others might like to have a go at playing my songs, I decided to pick one that is very easy to play.
If you would like to hear some of my other songs, there is a playlist on my blog here: