Sunday, 28 September 2008

"Sunday Sunday"

Sean McGhee writes the blog: Seeing as Rob was talking about songwriting yesterday, I thought I'd continue the theme. The new Temposhark songs were almost all written over the last 12 months or so, in 3 distinct bursts. We set aside time to get together regularly, which was very important - sometimes inspiration strikes when you least expect it, but a slightly regimented approach can work too, because it puts you in the right frame of mind to write.

One approach is for me to come up with a groove idea for Rob. I might spend an hour or two working on an idea for Rob to sing over; anything goes, as long as it's inspiring. Sometimes we'll get the beginnings of a song from his piano jam sessions - one song we've written for the new record started as a long, improvised set of ideas Rob performed at the piano. He brought it to me and I sifted through it until we found a part we liked. We took took this idea as a jumping-off point and wrote a whole new song around it.

As soon as he's ready to sing an idea, I'm ready for him - the handheld mic and his headphones will be set up ready before he arrives, and with just a couple of clicks in Logic, we're off. Often, his first pass through will be full of goodness, and it's a question of finding the great ideas and refining them. You're always looking for the moment when the track stops being a jumble of ideas and starts being a real song - and it regularly happens without you realising.

Canonical, Sunday evening.

There's a lot of passing the microphone back and forth; we'll both throw ideas into the pot. We want the song to be the best it can be, so we're critical and picky about what goes in and what stays out. Often I'll start doing the backing vocal arrangement whilst we're still writing so I can flesh the sound out at an early stage. Lyrically, we take ideas from anywhere - a piece of gibberish buried in a melody idea might suggest an angle, or a story; sometimes Rob has some lyrical ideas he plays with as he sings melody ideas. Once the melody is set, we'll work on the words. Sometimes this takes minutes, and sometimes days. Song 1 was quite a simple one lyrically - the (proper) title came very early on while Rob was improvising, and it was simple enough to extrapolate a lyrical angle from there. A couple of hours work, and we were done.

Of course, once the song is sung for real, things might change - what seemed like a clever piece of alliteration or a flowery way of saying something simple might go straight out the window if it doesn't feel right when it's sung. Rob keeps the worst of my lyrical excesses at bay - if I try to be too clever, he's brilliant at getting a simpler, more direct way of saying the same thing. It works both ways - he knows I'll pull him up sharp on a bad line! I never let a duff lyric go unchecked, so there's often a lot of tapping on the keyboard and frustrated grunting until I'm sure it's the best it can be. And I never ever ever ever ever use rhyming dictionaries. My songs are free of any toast / ghost / most nonsense.

You can't write a great song every day, though. and plenty of songs go into the bin on the way to the final album. A couple of weeks back we had a run of songs which would have been perfect for the end credits of a crap 80s teen movie - we managed to escape them.. But the time, the sweat, the swearing, the desperation and the endless Madonna impressions are always worth it - nothing beats that feeling of nailing a good song.


Not too much to say after that amazing piece by Sean! We did lots more singing today and managed to COMPLETE all the vocal sections for Song 1! Woohoo! :) It was a good day, hard work paid off... more tomorrow!

I'm going home now to watch the movie Atonement on DVD to wind down... hope it's good.

Putting my shoes back on... going home now... night...

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