Sad to waste it!

I saw a concert on TV a few days ago, where the troubled, but very talented Amy Winehouse was performing and, as always, I couldn’t help but think how much she left undone with her early departure from the world. I felt that she had wasted her life by being wasted a majority of the time.

 
The thought of Amy Winehouse’s life stayed with me during that day, but after a while I started to feel guilty for giving myself the right to judge her and say that she wasted her life. She has left so many wonderful songs behind and given so much pleasure to so many people through her music, but even though I can be allowed to feel that her life in part was tragic and that it is sad that it couldn’t have been longer; there is absolutely no way I can say that her life was wasted.

 
Having got that far in my thoughts, I decided to write a new song lyric in honour of all the bright shining stars from the creative world who have left us too soon when we look at their lives from a very human perspective.

 
I’ve called my new lyric “Sad to waste it”. I’ve used the same method again that I showed you last week, where I have written new lyrics to a well-known melody. This time I won’t tell you which song I took my inspiration from, because in fairness it doesn’t matter. The lyrics are totally independent from that song. Having said that; if you think you can figure out which melody my words are built on, feel free to guess. I promise to tell you if you get it right.

 
So, here’s my new lyrics written in honour of all the creative bright shining stars that passed away way too soon, often in sad circumstances, but who’s lives I’ve got no right what so ever to call wasted.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Sad to waste it

 

I saw a video today,
from a great gig, back in the day.
You seemed so happy, you enjoyed the crowd.
Your youth was vibrant, made you cool and loud.
And your talent was so rare, the world just paused,
stopped to stare.
Wasn’t it sad to waste it?

 

I always wonder what went wrong?
What made you struggle to stay strong?
When did darkness start to hang around?
How did you stumble and fall to the ground?
And when life turned dark, was there
someone you could call?
Before the fall?
cause it was sad to waste it?

 

Is there a deal a soul like yours,
must sign with our Universe?
To shine brightly and touch endless lives.
To have to suffer from a thousand knives.
When you close your door, and spotlights fade away.
Who can say?
But it feels sad to waste it!

 

They found you lifeless in your bed.
You over dosed, or so they said.
You were young, your life had just begun.
Many plans, so many songs unsung.
Was there anything, that someone could have done?
Help you move on.
Stop you becoming wasted?

 

Right now, the world’s a darker place.
Where your light burned, an empty space.
At the same time, you will never die.
Through your songs there won’t be a good-bye.
So, in one way you’ve found the way forward
That we are still looking for, behind each door.
Your life, was short, not wasted.
©Åsa Sandberg 2018

 

 

Is anybody out there?

Lyric writing can be a very lonely job. Especially when you are still flying under the radar, like I am. This year I have been given many signs that things are moving forward and that I’m starting to get the hang of the fundamentals of my craft. Still, between those encouraging comments and signs, there is plenty of time for doubts to creep in.

 
Being a pure lyric writer, with no real aspirations to write my own music I am always on the look out for collaborators. This is where doubts in my own ability become my worst enemy. I find it quite hard to contact someone with the intention of showing them some lyrics of mine, because I always feel everyone else is better than I am. Sometimes I feel it would be rude of me to assume that composers would want to spend time putting music to my words. All that aside, if I want to get to the next level with my writing, I have to overcome my doubts and fears and just get on with it. I’ve realised that the times when someone totally out of the blue will offer to write music to my words are few and far between, so I will have to become proactive.

 
So, how high do I, as a virtual nobody, aim when deciding who I will target with my lyrics? Do I reach for the stars, hoping to catch someone’s attention at tree top level, or do I look for a potential composer closer to the factory floor where I’m sitting myself? Well, chancing it and sending something to a place which feels totally out of reach is actually somehow easier, because I don’t really expect an answer or, even expect that my email or letter will be read in those places, so any reaction is a plus. What I never do is to send lyrics to someone who write their own. Except if they say that they do look for collaborators when it comes to the lyrics.

 
It is somehow more difficult to approach people in the same boat as myself. Still, the ideal would be to find someone that likes the same kind of music that I do and who is working towards the same end goal, which is to get better, and at some point, get signed. For some reason it has proven difficult to get a reply from someone that potentially could be a person like that.

 
A few weeks ago, I heard a collaboration from an unsigned composer that I thought sounded very promising. Looking at this person’s home page I could see that we like a few similar genres of music. The best thing of all was that this person, according to the home page, was actively looking for collaborators. I decided to give it a go and wrote an email. I even sent a lyric of mine that felt like the kind of thing this person could go for, as an attachment.

 
Since then I haven’t heard one single word. No thank you for writing, no thanks, but no thanks. Absolutely no reaction what so ever. This actually upsets me. The fact that an unsigned musician has a home page with an aim to create interest for collaborations, and then totally ignores someone that is replying to the plea on that home page, is unsettling. Whether or not the interest to collaborate with me or my lyrics was there, I feel I deserved an answer. Especially since sending someone something as personal as a lyric is a scary thing to do.

 
The total silence has at least made it clear to me that this person is not anyone I would like to collaborate with. If you’ve got a home page that clearly states that you are looking for collaborators, the least you can do is reply to those who are showing an interest. If that basic skill in how to treat people isn’t there, I have a feeling the future is looking brighter for me than for this other unsigned individual.

 
Therefore, I just want to let you know that if there is a composer out there looking for lyrics, don’t be shy. Please ask. I promise to listen to your music and if I feel I can put words to your melody I will tell you. Which ever way, I will definitely reply, and I will always be grateful that you took time to ask!

 
Apparently, it has always been difficult to find collaborators. In 1967 one of Sweden’s best lyric writers and country singers and a very close friend of mine, Alf Robertson, put an advert into a Swedish newspaper. The ad said; “Lyric writer looking for collaboration with a composer.” Alf, who sadly isn’t with us anymore, didn’t get one single reply to his ad, and someone later told him that it wasn’t done that way.

 
Alf wrote the most phenomenal song lyrics in Swedish. He also translated a lot of familiar country songs to Swedish and recorded them. The song he had most success with was a translation of Tom T Hall’s “Old dogs, children and Watermelon Wine.” Alf’s version was called “Hundar och ungar och hembryggt äppelvin.” He got a gold record for that one in 1980. I will leave you with a YouTube clip of a young Alf singing that song on his first ever television appearance in Sweden. This is proof that even if no one answers your pleas for help, it can all work out in the end if we are tenacious enough and never give up.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing
Åsa

Desperate writer

As a lyric writer that doesn’t compose my own music, I find sometimes it can be difficult to step outside the box when writing. It is much easier to find variations to your subject matters if you have a melody to inspire your senses. One thing I have started to do as a way of practising my writing, is to write new lyrics to favourite songs of mine, or big hits that are constantly playing on the radio.

 
Last summer, if you were near a radio, it was impossible to avoid hearing “Despacito” with Justin Bieber. Being an avid YouTube visitor, I soon noticed that this particular song had inspired a lot of artist to write their own lyrics to the “Despacito” melody. I totally understand this, because it gives a real challenge to a lyric writer. In the end I couldn’t help myself. I had to give it a go and write my own lyric version to the melody. I decided to go down the self-irony route with my version, because I enjoy attempting humorous lyrics now and again. I named my version “Desperate writer” and this week I will give you the challenge to follow my lyrics to the melody of the link of “Despacito” which I wrote it to.

 
One other reason I find it a very good exercise to write new lyrics to very familiar songs, is that it trains me to accept change and makes it okay for me. I always form emotional attachments to favourite songs of mine and I wouldn’t like them changed for anything in the world. Writing a totally different set of lyrics to a song I have loved for decades, is training me in the art of letting go and this is a skill I really need to learn if I’m to remodel and improve my own creations especially the ones I’ve got special attachments to, without becoming an emotional wreck very time.

 
Now, lets see if you can follow my version of lyrics to the melody of “Despacito”. Good luck!

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Desperate Writer
(A different set of lyrics to the song Despacito)
It is my dream to get a break through
With time running out
I’m feeling desperate, yeah
I’m getting close to forcing
my words everywhere.

Oh, I am
becoming my worst enemy
needing to change identity.
Angry neighbours telling me to give up
writing and reciting.

I still got one good friend
who doesn’t throw me out.
Wonder for how long,
She will stay that devout.
A dozen lyrics in a week,
Can make the strongest start to shriek.
I need some new friends cause they don’t last long

Once, once I really thought that I could rule the world
These days I’d be happy if I got one third.
With population growing it works out the same so…
Oh yeah,
Why, why can’t no one see the brilliance in my pen?
Pearls are found among the blindest of our hens
I’m sure I’ve got lyrics that could make us millions

Desperate writer
Way back when I started I was an igniter
Now rejection’s turning me into a fighter
Every day my chances’ turning that much slighter.
Desperate writer
Socially I keep an image that looks brighter.
Than reality, that’s turning a lot tighter.
Need to turn this darkness into something lighter.

Where is Mr. Shakespeare’s spirit
when I really need him?
William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?
(Need a hit, yes need a hit so badly)

Maybe I should stop and concentrate on different skill sets?
It has been suggested to me.
Just the thought drowns me in cold sweats.

You should have seen me when I started out.
I didn’t have one single doubt.
I knew what it was all about
I thought I carried massive clout
What I had to give would change the world forever
Bang-Bang
Everything from my pen was extremely clever
Bang-Bang
Since then I’ve learned others done what I do, only better
So far, so far, so far
not managed one small unique letter
You could say I’ve changed from being
ignorant go-getter,
to someone the world taught how to know better.

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

If I’m wrong, it won’t be
due to lack of trying.
One thing that could stop me,
is if I’m busy dying.

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

The universe’s a giver
and I plan to ask her;
to give me inspiration,
enough for me to get there!

Oh yeah!

 

Desperate writer
Way back when I started I was an igniter
Now rejection’s turning me into a fighter
Every day my chances’ turning that much slighter.
Desperate writer
Socially I keep an image that looks brighter.
Than reality that’s turning so much tighter.
Need to turn this darkness into something lighter.

Where is Mr. Shakespeare’s spirit
when I really need him?
William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?
(Need a hit, yes need a hit so badly)

Maybe I should stop and concentrate on different skill sets?
It has been suggested to me.
Just the thought drowns me in cold sweats.

Desperate writer
Way back when I started I was an igniter
Now rejection’s turning me into a fighter
Every day my chances’ turning that much slighter.

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

 

William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?
(Need a hit, yes need a hit so badly)

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?

Desperate writer…
Åsa Sandberg©2018

 

 

 

 

The day before you came

It is almost six minutes long. It doesn’t have a distinctive chorus. The arrangement and melody doesn’t give the listener a lot of variety. Still, I class this song as pure brilliance and the lyric is probably my absolute favourite lyric of all time. Which song am I talking about? The last ever single released by ABBA; “The day before you came”.

 
Growing up in Finland you could say ABBAs music more or less came to me via the mother’s milk. It was everywhere and since then I have followed and enjoyed everything written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. The duo really can’t do anything wrong in my opinion, but the haunting sound of their last single before ABBA split up, I think reaches extraordinary heights.

 
The first interpretation I think of when hearing the lyric is the one of a woman telling us the story of how she was before the love of her life came into her life, but it can mean many other things too. Personally, I could dedicate these lyrics to the people who have nudged or, sometimes, pushed me quite violently onto the path I’m supposed to be on, because it was needed to get me out of my comfort zone. Some of these very special friends are still with me today and some are now a part of my past. Even though with some old friends, we’ve now outgrown each other I still feel the same big gratitude towards them when they cross my mind.

 
I belong to the highly sensitive people of this world, so I do need a lot of routine to function and the story told in this lyric mirrors my own life in so many ways. That can sometimes make me sad, because the words really paint a very dull existence. Still, deep down I know a big part of my life has to be routine. I need to more or less hibernate until it is time for me to step into a livelier period of living once more.

 
During the last six months it has felt the same way as it has done in the past, when a big change is about to happen in my life and my routine existence will be uprooted yet again. Maybe that is why the haunting melody of “The day before you came”, has been a constant in my playlists lately. Almost a calm before the storm sort of thing.

 
Whether you are an ABBA fan or not; if you are a lyric- or a song writer I do recommend that you take time to read these lyrics and listen to the song. It takes the listener totally outside the box, and I will stick my neck out for it any day and call this a song of pure brilliance. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus as always, on top of their game.

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

The day before you came

I must have left my house at eight because I always do
my train, I’m certain, left the station just when it was due
I must have read the morning paper going into town
and having gotten through the editorial no doubt I must have frowned

I must have made my desk
around a quarter after nine
with letters to be read
and heaps of papers waiting to be signed

I must have gone to lunch
at half past twelve or so
the usual place, the usual bunch
and still on top of this I’m pretty sure it must have rained
the day before you came

I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
and at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I must have kept on dragging
through the business of the day
without really knowing anything
I hid a part of me away

At five I must have left
there’s no exception to the rule
a matter of routine
I’ve done it ever since I finished school
The train back home again
undoubtedly, I must have read the evening paper then
oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within its usual frame
the day before you came

 

I must have opened my front door at eight o’clock or so
and stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go
I’m sure I had my dinner watching something on TV there’s not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn’t se

 

I must have gone to bed
around a quarter after ten
I need a lot of sleep
and so I like to be in bed by then
I must have read a while
the latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style
it’s funny, but I had no sense of living without aim
the day before you came
And turning out the light
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
and rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
the day before you came.

 

 

 

Attention!

If you are reading this as a budding lyric writer, I’d suggest you pay attention to my blog today. I have delved a bit further into the treasure trove of the song writing course “Success for your songs”, http://www.successforyoursongs.com and today I’m going to share something that made the penny drop for me when I read it.

 
Personally, I’ve gone from trying to make things a bit too complicated to become as simplistic as I possibly can. The text I’m sharing with you today from Anthony Ceseri has given me the blueprint as to how I can practise my similes or metaphors in ways to capture my audience from the word go. The language can still be simple, but I have to evoke people’s senses. This is what Antony says;

 

A great lyrical introduction is an excellent way to get your listeners interested in your story right off that bat. Plus, if it’s a snoozer, you run the risk of losing them. People have really short attention spans these days, so effectively grabbing their attention early is crucial. Having said that, I better get to my point… and make it quick!

I recently revisited a great example of a strong opening line in the song “Round Here” by Counting Crows. The first line of the song says:

“Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog, where no one notices the contrast of white on white.”

This is a great intro for a few reasons. The first is it’s really visual. Any time you engage the senses, you’re probably doing a good job of inviting people into your story. This line does that by engaging your sense of sight. It’s easy to picture a ghost and a fog as described here. Immediately, we set a stage of what this lyric will look like in our heads. It’s even fun to try and visualize the slight contrast that might actually be there between what we envision a ghost to look like and a thick fog.

 
In addition to that, this is a fantastic simile. There’s a comparison being made between someone who feels they just aren’t being noticed by the world, and a ghost in a fog. The element that ties these two thoughts together to make it an effective simile, is the idea that no one can see this person. It works very well.

 
This opening line is also very intriguing. After hearing it, I already want to know more because it’s so interesting. Had the first line had the same idea, but been said more simplistically and generically, I wouldn’t care as much. What if the song had opened with a line like this:

“Step out the front door, feeling like no one can see me.”

Eh. Suddenly I just don’t care as much anymore. I mean, it’s basically saying the same thing as the real first line, but in a bland, non-descriptive and generic way. Maybe I’d listen carefully to the rest of the lyrics. But maybe I wouldn’t. The “ghost into a fog line” is infinitely stronger and makes me want to stick around for more.

 
You can see how putting a really strong line up front is a great way to get your listeners excited about your story right off the bat. Granted, you want to keep them interested as your story continues along, but that first line can be crucial to getting their attention. Good imagery with a strong simile or metaphor, like we saw in the opening line of “Round Here,” is an awesome way to get your song rolling.

 

I do hope you find that just as useful as I did!

Take care and Happy Writing!

Åsa

 

Kill your darlings

Many moons ago, when I worked at the Finnish Television, we had an expression we frequently used, which was; “kill your darlings”. It was used when someone wanted to keep a part of a programme or insert where they felt they’d been really creative or where they had got something exactly as they wanted it, but for the sake of the whole, and to make the programme better this special bit had to be sacrificed and left on the editing floor.

 
Yesterday, I adapted this system to my song lyrics. So far, I have kept all my lyrics in one single file on my computer called, believe it or not, lyrics. Every word I’ve felt worth holding on to since the dawn of my lyric writing journey have been kept in that file. However, a lot of things have happened since then, and yesterday I felt it was time to re-evaluate this file of mine.

 
So, I decided to keep the lyrics I felt were as good as I could ever get them, in the original file, but I created two new sub files. One called “Needs working on” and a second one called “Scrap file”. Anything landing in the scrap file is living very dangerously. The scrap file is the final destination before the delete button, but I’m giving myself a cooling off period, just in case at some point I would find a way to turn something I feel is beyond rescuing today, into tomorrow’s masterpiece.

 
How did I do then yesterday when I tried to evaluate my own work? Well, 28 of my lyrics stayed where they were. Some of them stayed there, because I have already made the changes to them that I planned to do before trying them out in competitions and evaluations again. Some stayed there because they are brand new and haven’t yet been seen by anyone, so they are also sitting there waiting to be judged. A few stayed, because they have already been made into demos in the form they are. They may not become chart toppers but changing them would mean that not just me, but also others, would have to get involved in the revamp, and I may not feel these lyrics are worth that kind of time and effort at this precise moment. I prefer to let them live as they are and hope that someone, someday will see potential in them, that would then make it worth starting a makeover. Then of course there were a few lyrics in the file which I feel really happy with just as they are.

 
In my file “Needs working on” I have now got 24 lyrics. Most of those suffer from the same disease. It is where I’m using a language that are fine in books, but not in songs. They have a lot of peculiar words in them, because I just love words, but sadly they don’t look good in song lyrics, however much I enjoyed finding them. I really will have to kill a lot of my darlings and say goodbye to some favourite turns of phrases. Some of the ones in this file, should possibly have gone into the “scrap file”, but I felt the subject I had chosen to write about could work with some adjustments. I thought I should give these a go before sending my work to a certain death. A few of the lyrics in this second file need a clearer story or a bridge to make sense to someone outside my inner circle of friends so I will try to make them clearer. All the lyrics in the “needs working on” file stand just as big a chance to be scrapped as they do to be revived. It all depends on how the remodelling goes and, in some cases, if the lyric already has a melody; how the altering of the music feels.

 
Six lyrics were sent to my “scrap file”. Most of them due to the choice of subject. When I started out I may have thought that it was a good idea to never limit myself when it came to subject matter. I still don’t, but now I know that there are topics that won’t stand a chance, and some for good reasons. I will keep the lyrics in the “Scrap file”, only because they could be useful if I ever get to a point where I take another look at the musical manuscript I wrote a couple of years ago. Some of the lyrics could fit in there.

 
Yesterday’s exercise was more useful that I ever imagined when I decided to have this “spring clean” among my lyrics. It helped me realise that my emotional attachment to them has completely evaporated. This has given me an amazing feeling of freedom. I think it has also removed the risk of me feeling hurt ever again, when getting results from competitions and evaluations. Somehow, I have understood that this is what it is, or to use a quote from “The Godfather” one of my favourite films ever;

 
“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Kill them with kindness

When I was a child, I was bullied. I remember thinking that when I grew up, this behaviour would stop, because grown up people know better. Hah! How wrong I was. It turns out that bullies never really change, except, maybe to get worse. A trade mark for bullies is that they want what everybody else has, but they are too thick to realise that you have to work for the things you want in life. Therefore, the typical bully, grows more and more bitter and jealous the older they get and the further they are left behind.

Due to various circumstances, I threw away fourteen years of my life and a career that was on the up within the media branch. When I finally came to my senses I was 40 years old, with no chance of picking up where I left off. Getting work on the ground floor was my only option. I spent eight years in one job, where I met a lot of other 40+ people that had been working in the same place since they left school. Some of them saw the job for what it was, a means to an end, and they had plenty going on outside this job, and did not let it wear them down. Then we had this other group. The ones that got more and more bitter for every day they spent in a job that they hated, and they obviously needed someone outside themselves to turn this bitterness against. Their favourite targets were people that hadn’t been working in this place very long and who still dared to dream.

I was one of those who dared to dream, because I believed in my own creativity. Since I love being creative in many different ways, I started to build things with a career in mind. I may have been too old and with too long a gap in my CV, to be able to get back into a well-paid job of my chosen career, but I had all the possibilities in the world to make something of myself as a self employed individual. Thanks to this belief, the soul-destroying job that paid my mortgage never broke me. What it did in the end though, was to make me a target for the bullies. It finally became my turn to get taught “to know my place”.

To begin with it was horrible. The mental bullying was both brutal and childish and sometimes it took all the courage I had to actually go in to work, knowing what was waiting. In the end I knew I needed a strategy of my own, and what I came up with was to kill my antagonists with kindness. So, I started to go into work with a broad smile on my face. I looked everybody in the eye and I always said, “Good morning.” I never let myself get pulled into any kind of gossip. I spoke politely, if spoken to, but if I was ignored I just smiled and continued with my day.

To begin with, nothing seemed to change, but with this change of attitude, I was never scared to go in to work any more. Also, I could leave my work behind when going home, instead of mulling things over in my head and losing any well needed sleep. Then slowly but surely, things started to change and two years after I had put my plan into action, I had succeeded in killing them with kindness. The bullying stopped when they realised they couldn’t break me. Twelve months later when I left the job I had both become, and stayed, “the flavour of the month” for quite some time.

The reason I am telling you this story, is that I have decided to write a song lyric called “Killing them with kindness”, because I feel it could be a good story within that line actually. I was reminded of these years last week when the one, single person with the same trade marks at my present job, was working the same shifts I was. I had to make a swift decision to start with my old method again. So, watch this space. “Killing them with kindness” will soon be done.

While going through the tough times in my old job, I did write a song lyric about bullying called “I pity you”. Fredrik Holm put my words to music. It became our only journey into the outer fringes of the rap-genre. Tine Sylvest helped us by recording the demo for us. Please have a listen if you feel like it. We all know someone like the person described in the lyrics.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

I pity you! 

Too fat or too thin, too quiet or too loud?
It isn’t very easy to fit into a crowd.
There really shouldn’t be a need to act a certain way
but bullies all around us make it hard to feel ok.

Too dim or too scared, too stupid or just mean?
There are as many reasons, as bullies to be seen.
What do you have to gain from making people feel all bad?
You strange and lonely person, forcing others to feel sad!

Chorus
To bully is a good excuse for getting nowhere fast
You’re just too scared of living life to have a real blast!
I pity you!
I pity you!
I pity you!

One day you’ll be sitting by yourself, growing old
Your days will be so empty, your nights will be as cold.
The way you lived your life will make you easy to forget
or maybe be the one we wish we never would have met.

Bridge
Why don’t you change tactics,
make someone your friend.
Turn hate into love
bring bullying to an end.

Chorus
©2013Åsa Sandberg

What is your favourite story?

Is there a connection between what kind of stories/books/films we like and the kind of song lyrics we are drawn to? I think there is. In general, I like stories that gives me an environment I can feel comfortable in. I like narratives that I feel I can trust and can learn something from. I also like details, as long as the details have a purpose.

 
As a child, my favourite writer was Astrid Lindgren. A Swedish Master of Children’s books whose books have been translated into 72 different languages. My absolute favourite, which I still read once a year, is called “The Lionheart Brothers”. A book that did very well all over the world, except in the UK. In fact, hardly any of Lindgren’s books became popular in England, even though they were loved by the rest of the world. “The Lionheart Brothers” talks about death, which may be a strange ting for a children’s book or, at least it was unusual before Harry Potter entered the stage. I was five or six years old when “The Lionheart Brothers” was published, and I have loved it ever since. The book has so much love and light in it which shines even brighter because of the sharp contrast of the evil and darkness that also fits within the pages. It fights the same fight between good and evil as our daily life, but in fairy-tale form, and this is a format that I’ve always gravitated towards.

 
As a young teenager I found Alistair MacLean and his thrillers and probably read them all. Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone and Puppet on a Chain springs to mind as favourites. MacLean wrote very detailed content, so I suppose it doesn’t come as a surprise that my absolute favourite writer today is Dan Brown. Another favourite is JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series. In them we are back to the struggle between light and dark and, just as in real life, no one is safe and guaranteed to survive, however big a part a character has played in the story line.

 
When it comes to films made out of these books the ones about the fight between the light and the dark are easier to capture in that media than very detailed books. The Harry Potter films are my comfort film marathon. It is the series I take to, when the world outside my door gets too nasty and I want to escape to a world that clearly shows who is good and who is bad. The Lionheart Brothers was made into a film too, but it was way before the time of CGI so even if the story has stood the test of time and the actors includes the cream of Swedish talent, the film hasn’t aged so well.

 
Sadly, as a big Dan Brown fan, his books aren’t easy to translate into moving pictures either. Don’t get me wrong, Ron Howard’s film versions of The Davinci Code and Angels and Daemons are good enough films for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but they can’t live up to the books on any level. Inferno, I didn’t like at all as a film, but then “Inferno” was the only one of Dan Brown’s books I couldn’t get in to.

 
So, when it comes to books and films I like good versus bad; detailed stories and they also have to give me a feeling of comfort. Does this pattern follow through in my favourite songs? Yes, it does! A few all-time favourites spring to mind immediately, The Eagles’ “Waiting in the Weeds”, Kenny Rodger’s version of “The Gambler”, and Confederate Railroad’s “If you leave that way you can never come back

 
All these three let your mind form your own place of comfort in the first two lines and they do it so well that you feel it is totally safe to lean back and prepare for a good story.
“Waiting in the weeds” starts with the lines;

 

“It’s coming on the end of August,
Another summer’s promise almost gone.”

 
I can so relate to those lines. The darkness is starting to close in again, and I’m sitting here wondering where the summer went. Being able to relate to a song quickly, always makes it a friend for life.

 
In “The Gambler” the first two lines are;

 
“On a warm Summer’s evenin’
On a train bound for nowhere”

 
Again, personally I can so relate. Metaphorically, I did travel on a train to nowhere for quite a chunk of my life, but there is something very comforting with a train journey on a warm summer’s evening. Obviously, the lyrics to The Gambler have other ingredients in it that I adore in things I want to read. The lyrics offer me a wise old man giving advise and then the drama of the same old man dying during the journey. The fact that his last words stays with his travelling companion and narrator of the story from then on, makes it even better. This, because in some way it gives the old gambler eternal life through his words. Being someone that works with words, this really talks to me.

 
In the final example I’m going to give you four lines or the whole first verse of “When you leave that way, you can never come back” It goes like this;

 
“I remember waking in the morning
To the sound of a rooster’s crow.
Mama cooking in the kitchen
And Arthur Godfrey on the radio”

 
Immediately in my mind I can see the dry grass and dusty road outside the window. A net curtain swaying in the wind and red geraniums on the veranda. I can smell bacon and egg and I just sense idyllic country life. That the story then carries me to a life totally destroyed to the point of no return, makes it the perfect story for me, because I’m given my struggle between good and bad.

 
So, as you can see my preferences in what, for me, are perfect song lyrics echoes my preferences in books and films too. Maybe that is another thing to think about if you struggle to find stories for your lyrics. Think about what kind of stories you like to read and go from there.

 
I am determined to write a song lyric around a train journey where I get some great words of wisdom from a person more advanced in years than I am. Up until last week I hadn’t thought of something profound enough to give this character to say, but now I know, so hopefully this goal of mine will soon be fulfilled and leave me with one less thing on my bucket list.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Stuck for ideas?

The best policy when having writing as a job is to write every day. Some days this is a joy, others not so much. For those of you that follow my blog, you may remember that I invested in a course a few weeks back, to help me with those more difficult days; the days when your creative side has gone on holiday. The course I’m talking about is called “Success for your songs” and is put together by a man called Anthony Ceseri. http://successforyoursongs.com and today I’m going to share an exercise with you from that course.

 
What feels best for every writer is every time you get a really good idea from out of nowhere that you know you can build a solid song lyric from. The days this doesn’t happen, it is very nice to have a structure as something to fall back on, so that you can methodically work your way to a decent new lyric. I did this exercise the other day and found it an interesting way to work.

 
Step 1. Get Ideas from Other Songs
List three songs with overall ideas or concepts that you like (you can also throw in a movie or book as well). Next to each title, write out the big idea, or overall concept, of that song in a sentence or two. What is each of those songs about?

Once you’ve done that, write out a modification you could make to each of those three ideas, the same way I did in the examples in this Module. For example, you may apply the concept of altered perspective inspiration to the original concepts.

 
One of the songs I chose for this exercise was Anastasia’s “Cowboys and kisses”. I have always loved the lyrics to that song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEWNU3FI4-w . When it comes to an altered perspective to this story, you could write a story from the cowboy’s perspective and how he feels when he leaves the girl for new adventures. Is he feeling free/sad/relieved. Is the relationship starting to feel like a chain around his ankle or is he starting to feel like it’s time to kick off his wondering shoes and make a decent woman out of this girl? There are many different stories that could be born from an altered perspective of this lyric.

 
The story could also be told from the perspective of another man carrying a torch for this woman and looking for ways to make her see him and make her realise that this cowboy never will change. Or, it could be told from the perspective of a girlfriend to this woman, trying to make her see sense and understand that this relationship of hers with the cowboy will never lead anywhere good.

 
As you can see, I have already sorted out a few hours of very productive work for you, and that is only step one of this exercise. After you are happy with the angel of your story of whatever favourite song you have chosen, this is how the exercise continues;

 

Step 2. Find Potential Titles
List three words or phrases off the top of your head that could become a potential song title idea. Don’t think too hard for this part. Almost anything can work here, just keep it simple. For example, “surfaces” or “tire tracks” would be two ideas I could use for this exercise.
Then try to attach emotion and a potential story to these random ideas by asking questions about them. These were the questions I suggested you ask in this Module:
Who sees it/him/her?
Who interacts with it/him/her and in what way?
What emotions does it/he/she make people feel?
What are its/his/her characteristics?
What makes it/him/her unique?
What else has similar characteristics?
When no one else is around, what’s it/he/she doing/thinking?
When people are watching, what is it/he/she doing/thinking?
Come up with a few additional questions that will help you bring to life your simple ideas.

Next, have a conversation with someone, or listen to one (either in person, on TV, or online). Extract three new words or phrases from your conversation that could be used a potential title for a song.

 

Step 3. Plan Out Your Sections
Choose one of the potential titles or ideas you’ve come up with so far, and plan out a song with it. Assume your song will have an ABAB structure. Write down the song sections I’ve listed below, then write down the overall idea for each section to the right of the section name, similar to the example I showed you in this Module.
Overall Song Idea or Title:
Verse 1 Idea:
Chorus Idea:
Verse 2 Idea:
Chorus Idea:

 
Step 4. Create a Character Avatar
Based on the sections you planned out in the previous step, create a character avatar for this story. You can start filling in the information for your avatar that I mentioned in this Module:
Name:
Sex:
Hometown:
Age:
Education:
Occupation:
Annual Salary:
Marital Status:
Kids:
Hobbies/Interests:
Personality Traits:
Lifestyle Traits:

 

Also, add a picture of your avatar. And you can keep adding more information about your avatar if you’d like. You don’t have to stop with the categories I listed above.

 
Finally, allow yourself to actually feel some of the emotions this character may be feeling throughout this song. That will help you decide what the mood of the song should be for your lyrics and music.

 

I feel this is a very good exercise to work through, for as many times as it takes, until this way of working becomes natural. It may be an obvious way to work for a lot of you out there, but if it, like for me, was a new way of tackling the craft of song writing, it will definitely help you to wake your dormant creativity and produce lyrics you might not have thought of without this structure.

 
This example is only a tiny drop in the ocean of what this brilliant course gives you. True value for money in my opinion.
Good luck!

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa