How to choose a subject or story

I like getting asked questions, that makes me find out more about how I react and why I react as I do. Yesterday, I was asked if I would be prepared to change the angle of a song lyric of mine and have the song the lyrics features in, redone and reproduced with that new angle. I have heard brilliant productions form the place the friend that asked me, is using, so obviously I would have been curious to find out how the result from a production like that would sound, but still I never even considered the change. This particular song lyric is so very special to me and I know that it can be interpreted in many different ways already, the way it is written, so changing it is not an option for me. The only change I could do, and feel both the song and lyric could gain from is to add a bridge, but we’ll see what happens.

 
Sometimes you must just follow your heart and even more importantly your gut. I can still remember how I felt when this particular lyric came about. It just appeared, late one evening and what I wrote about has become even more important to me during the last twelve months, so to change the whole meaning of my lyric would be absolutely impossible. Even the thought of it made me feel sick in my gut. I did change the chorus quite a bit when the lyrics became a song, and I can totally see why those changes were necessary. I can also see how those changes made the chorus much better, but that is not the same thing as changing what the story is about deep down.

 
I sometimes wonder if I would need to use my head more than I do when writing, so I would write lyrics more user friendly for the business. I have already reined myself in an awful lot since I started. Back then I was out to prove that it is possible to take any subject matter and make it into a popular song. I still feel it should be like that, but I have also learned that in reality that isn’t so. Still, if it is a lyric, where I know the words really touches people, I will stand my ground, because if the words in a song can move people to tears in the right way, it must be right whatever the story. This also means it will work as a song in some genre. Maybe not for the younger listeners, but I’m not sure I’m able to write lyrics for that generation anymore anyway. Some things maybe accidently written sometimes, but not consciously or planned. I can only draw from my own experiences through the years when writing and logically that means that my kind of writing and my way of thinking should appeal better with middle aged people.

 
Going back to this particular lyric I was asked if I would consider changing, I have to say I am so grateful for the experience the collaboration gave me the first time around. It forced me to accept that changing my lyrics can be a good thing and this started a totally new journey for me from where I now have changed a lot of my old lyrics and, in my opinion, made them better thanks to that change. None of the changes have been about changing the story though. I’ve just changed words. While writing this, I’m realising that I don’t think I ever would change the angle or storyline in my lyrics, because most of them come from my gut and personally I never override what my gut tells me to something my head wants to do. At least not when writing. I much prefer to write a new lyric with the story line in question if that ever would be the case.

 
I don’t know how you, out there, choose your stories when writing lyrics. Do you just write from your gut or do you let your head rule what comes out on the paper? Which ever way, I wish you all a good, creative week.

 

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

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Drawing blank

I’ve been sitting in front of my screen for almost an hour now, staring at the cursor on my empty page. It happens now and again. Sometimes something really good can come out of the fear and panic a blank pace can stir in me. Because if my mind is equally blank, it is the ultimate challenge. Other times I just know it is one of the days when all my creativity has left the building and whatever I write will end up in one bin or another as trash.

 
I think the reason I’m drawing blank at the moment is because I’ve taken a step forward. I have found a new formula to my lyric-writing and now I’m trying a bit too hard to repeat the process. Sadly, I can’t find one single topic that feels right to write about in the easy flowing way I’ve just discovered. My old habit to complicate things isn’t yet broken.

 
At the same time, I’m annoyed with myself, because since my recent breakthrough I’ve noticed that I feel a bit ashamed over a lot of my old work which I was quite proud of only twelve months ago. This feeling is something I have to get past, because at that point in my life those lyrics were my best. I wrote to the best of my ability, and because I did my best I should not carry this feeling of shame around with me. Instead I should be grateful for my earlier work. Without all those lyrics I wouldn’t have had any kind of development. All my previous lyrics are steppingstones on my way to where I’m at now. If I’m lucky (in a not too far away future) where I’m at now will also become a steppingstone towards something better. This is why I have to get back to my sense of pride over my earlier work. They are a big part of me and I’m starting to learn that we all must value ourselves before we truly can value someone else. It’s not ego, it is a healthy mind.

 
Anyway, back to my blank page. Something I’ve done in the past, when I’ve struggled with topics is to ask friends to give me a word and then I’ve written a lyric around that word. Once I was given the word “Airport” by my good friend and collaborator Fredrik Holm. From this word a song lyric developed called “Starting from scratch once more”, which made the semi-finals in UKSC in 2016. Fredrik later wrote a melody to the lyrics and I will share both the lyrics and the demo with you today.

 
This is sadly my only blog this week, because during the night I’ve come down with a nasty cold that has placed itself in my ears, so I will have to take a few days off to nurse my ear ache. See you all in a week’s time.

 
Take care and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 


Starting from scratch once more (Semi-finalist in UKSC 2016)

Two empty chairs by a table,
forced them together one day.
A busy lounge at an airport,
connected them straight away.

He had a ring on his finger,
a set life to live somewhere.
She had a bag full of nothing,
and wanted to feel and share.

Chorus
As soon as their eyes met they knew,
they’d found a soulmate out of the blue.
It felt like they’d met before,
had so much they wanted to explore.
But he was soon leaving for Rome,
then returning for duties back home.
She was heading to Singapore,
where she was starting from scratch once more.
Now feeling anything but sure,
she was starting from scratch once more.

One more gin and they were leaving.
Didn’t share email or phone.
Both wondering as they were parting,
how they could feel so alone.

Doing the “right thing” as people,
knowing deep down it was wrong.
Wanting to follow their instinct,
the feeling that they belong.

Chorus
As soon as their eyes met they knew,
they’d found a soulmate out of the blue.
It felt like they’d met before,
had so much they wanted to explore.
But he was soon leaving for Rome,
then returning for duties back home.
She was heading to Singapore,
where she was starting from scratch once more.
Now feeling anything but sure,
she was starting from scratch once more.
©2016 Åsa Sandberg

 

Finally, the best evaluation ever!

You know those times when you want to stop yourself, because you don’t want to become disappointed yet again, but still you can’t help thinking that you are on to something good?

 
Well, this was me with my latest lyrics. Deep down inside I knew that all I had learned so far this year came together in these lyrics. Everything I have been able to figure out by learning to listen and act on advice from people that know what they are talking about, plus forcing myself to write, write and then write some more. Also at times when there hasn’t been one ounce of inspiration anywhere near me, all of a sudden made the pieces fall into place and FINALLY I took a big step forward on my personal lyric writing journey.

 
To find out if what my instinct was telling me was right, I sent the lyrics for evaluation to a company called SongDoor. I’ve used them many times before and trust them to be harsh but fair. So far when I’ve used them, I’ve had one good evaluation back, a couple of okay ones, and quite a few where my work has been seriously trashed. To suddenly get an excellent evaluation back felt better than any words could describe. This is the summary I was given as part of their evaluation;
“We heard “Broadway” or “West End” all over these lyrics. We could all imagine some woman alone on a stage, in the spotlight, just singing her heart out, like in “Waitress” or something similar. Great imagery and a delightful cadence to the lyrics. Not a lot to criticize here, very well done. We’d love to hear the accompanying music. These are well-written words with serious commercial potential.”

 
Obviously, it all has to be put into perspective. In the end it’s only one single evaluation, but after working hard and trying my best for a very long time without feeling I’m getting anywhere, I’m going to enjoy this for a while. The same lyrics have now been sent to three different competitions, and in a couple of months it will be sent to a fourth one. I do hope this is the lyric that will unite the judges on both side of the Atlantic. Sooner or later, if I manage to write a good enough lyric, I should be able to get positive feedback from both America and the UK. I will have to wait and see if it could possibly be this one.

 
For those of you that missed the blog post where I shared the lyrics in question, I will give you a second chance. The lyrics are called “Got to let this woman be strong” and according to the evaluators at SongDoor; “the girl finally did good!”

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Got to let this woman be strong

You’ve been moving
in my circles for a while.
Oh yes, I’ve noticed,
you’ve got a certain style.

You’ve been asking
all about me; yes, I’ve heard.
You want to know me?
This complicated bird?

Chorus
You can buy me a coffee.
You can cook me a meal.
You can sing me a song
that tells me how you feel.
But this girl’s been to hell and back.
The journey made me strong.
If you can’t cope with that,
then we won’t last long.
You’ve got to let this woman be strong!

Bridge
You got to be secure enough
to love the strength in me.
If you’re the controlling kind,
we’ll never share a key.

Chorus
You can buy me a coffee.
You can cook me a meal.
You can sing me a song
that tells me how you feel.
But this girl’s been to hell and back.
The journey made me strong.
If you can’t cope with that,
then we won’t last long.
You’ve got to let this woman be strong!

I’m no pick-nick,
there are calmer ways to live.
But if you’re certain,
this girl got lots to give.

Chorus
You can buy me a coffee
You can cook me a meal.
You can sing me a song
that tells me how you feel.
But this girl’s been to hell and back.
The journey made me strong.
If you can’t cope with that,
then we won’t last long.
You’ve got to let this woman be strong!
©2018 Åsa Sandberg

Writing is healthy for us!

Today I feel I want to share this blog below with you all. I saw it on the UK Songwriting contest’s homepage and it confirms what I have instinctively known for a long time. Writing makes me happier and healthier. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write. To me it doesn’t matter if the health factors are proven by science, I would continue to write even if that wasn’t the case. Still, maybe these scientific findings will give someone out there the nudge to finally pick up the pen and just let the words flow.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

 

Åsa

SCIENCE CONFIRMS THAT SONGWRITING IS GOOD FOR YOU

The act of creative writing, and songwriting in particular, has more benefits than most people realize.

The benefits are far reaching, affecting us both physically and mentally, and the interesting thing is that the quality of the writing has nothing to do with it. Just the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits and it doesn´t matter if anyone else reads your lyric or hears your composition, or if it is a commercial success or not. Just writing it is enough. The many benefits documented by researchers include long-term improvements in mood, reduction in stress levels, a reduction of depressive symptoms, lowered blood pressure, better lung and liver function and an improved immune system with fewer illnesses.

A major study at the University of Sidney (by Karen Baikie and Kay Wilhelm) on emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing discovered just how much time spent writing is needed to make a big difference. And its not that much. They say that although the more time spent writing the better, just 15 to 20 minutes of writing on three to five occasions over the course of their four-month study was enough to make a real and noticeable difference.

Another amazing finding is that writing can even make physical wounds heal faster. A study in New Zealand found that if medical biopsy patients wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes for three days in a row before the biopsy their wounds healed more quickly than the people in a control group. Other studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t, AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts and cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

So what exactly is it about writing that makes it so good for you? Well, researchers are generally agreed that the important thing is to express your own personal, traumatic, stressful or emotional events in your writing and composing. It seems that this is the key and it is this expression of personal events and trauma that leads to improvement in physical and mental health.

One well known researcher in this area is James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas, Austin, USA. He is a leading authority on expressive writing and health and he says; “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.” Pennebaker and others believe that the act of expressive writing distances people from the upheaval and trauma in their lives and allows them the space to creatively step back and express and evaluate their personal dramas and tragedies. They stop obsessing unhealthily on those events and instead they focus on turning this into a positive creative outcome. This leads to lower stress levels, a more positive outlook and an improvement in general health.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a famous or successful songwriter to get these great benefits. You just need to write! As a songwriter you probably already know that writing songs goes deeper than, well, just writing songs. We all instinctively know when we write that there is more going on at a deeper level. But now it has been confirmed by science. Every time you write a lyric or poem that expresses your feelings and your inner self, or compose a piece of music that expresses and contains a part of you, you are acting as your own personal therapist and doing your physical and mental health a huge favour. If you are a songwriter you are certainly doing something right. Keep on writing!

The International UK Songwriting Contest is now open for entries at www.uksongwritingcontest.com

Best wishes,
The UKSC Team

Growing and changing

This morning I have been looking through lyrics I’ve written this year, to pick out a few extra to send to various competitions. By doing so I realised something which made me feel a mixture of both happiness and sadness. I have moved on! When reading through some of the lyrics that I wrote in the beginning of this year, I didn’t recognise myself in that way of writing anymore.

What I personally feel has happened, is that I have grown and therefore what I write as a lyric writer has changed. I have taken a couple of significant steps forward and because of this I see no point entering earlier lyrics anymore. I don’t think the lyrics I looked through would make the cut for the semis in any competition and, even more important; they don’t represent me anymore. Realising this, I might as well count this moment as ground zero for my lyric writing. From now on I will draw a line under what has been and start afresh from the level I’m writing from today.

Whether or not I am right in what I’m sensing, will hopefully be confirmed or rejected very soon. One of the lyrics I’ve written since I took one of these steps forward is still waiting to come back from the judges at the UK Songwriting Contest (UKSC) Most “half term results” were presented last Wednesday, except for some “Lyrics Only” entries that also were taking part in the “Lyricist of the year” competition. These was said to take a “few” days longer because they were having to be seen by two different panels of judges.
Eight days on and I’m still waiting, but UKSC has put a message on the dashboard where the result will appear. The message reads; “If your result has not appeared above yet do not worry, some Lyrics Only entries are delayed slightly because of our arrangement with The Lyricist of The Year Awards. It will appear soon. If anything, this might be a good sign.”

The second lyric I’ve written, where the writing process itself, and my style of writing, made me feel I had reached a new level of development is sitting at an evaluator in the US at the moment. Hopefully the evaluator will notice the same thing that I feel, but even if they don’t, I can’t really do anything anymore anyway with my old lyrics. Personally I feel both me, and also time, has passed them by.

There is a slight difference in how I feel about my lyrics if I go back to the first couple of years of writing. In some of them I can still see a glimmer of hope. With some adjustments and a few word changes, I may still be able to revive some of them.

Just the other day I did make adjustments to one of my very early lyrics that for some reason always makes me smile, because I feel it describes today’s world fairly accurately in an ironic sort of way. It didn’t make the cut for the semis in its original state in 2015 but was awarded a commended entry. If I feel I want to spend money on a wild card this season, I might just give this one a second chance with its adjustments, because the subject matter is even more topical today than it was three years ago. The lyrics are called “Me, myself and I”, and I will share them with you today, maybe this can be a bridge between the old and the new as I hopefully continue to grow and change as a lyric writer.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Me, myself and I
I don’t know when people,
became obsolete.
We all were replaced by
a service elite.

The service in question,
ain’t bought from no shelf.
We all have it in us
it wears the name “Self”.

it’s all about “Self” now,
who could ask for more?
To think of another,
can be such a bore!

From now, all that matters,
is me, myself and I.
A self-contained unit,
from birth ‘til we die.

Chorus
So, me, myself and I
will have to wave goodbye.
We can’t waste time on you,
since we’re a single crew.
Don’t tell us how you feel,
it isn’t a big deal!
What doesn’t involve us,
can’t make us give a toss.

Bridge
Self-service, self-centred,
and selfies galore.
Woohoo
Self-service, self-centred,
and selfies galore.

Don’t think that I’m selfish,
I share all day long.
My thoughts and my pictures,
point out what is wrong.

The world can be stressful,
for me and my lot.
But we got us covered,
when all goes to pot.

Chorus
So, me, myself and I
will have to wave goodbye.
We can’t waste time on you,
since we’re a single crew.
Don’t tell us how you feel,
It isn’t a big deal!
What doesn’t involve us,
can’t make us give a toss.
©2015/2018 Åsa Sandberg