Empty

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written even the first line of a song lyric. As always, at this time of the year, that puts me in a bit of a panic. Well, I have written down a line now and again, only to delete it immediately, because I’ve felt what I’ve written has been too much like the old me. I prefer not to write at all, rather than to go back to something I don’t feel works anymore.

 
The feeling I get when I haven’t managed to write one single new lyric for months is a big feeling of emptiness mixed together with feelings of fear and failure. Today these feelings had become so hard to live with that I decided to force myself to write a new lyric. Forcing something down on paper is not an approach I recommend, but I did have a few ideas that had been lingering for a while. I felt I wanted to write a lyric called Empty, because of how I felt, even if the Empty in the lyric was a different one to the one, I carry around with me when I’ve got writer’s block.

 
I won’t explain my lyric, because if I must explain it, I have failed already. All I will say is that I sort of glued together three different song ideas into one and used a few metaphors that had been hanging around for a while and in that way, I managed to get a finished lyric. Well as finished as a lyric ever is.

 
As I said, todays effort is called “Empty”. Whether it has taken me forward, backwards or nowhere what so ever as a lyric writer isn’t mine to say, but the lyric does have a beginning, the story is moving forward and it does have a conclusion of a sort so, so far so good. I have to say I would like to hear it put to music.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Empty
Can I ask you a question?
Said a lady on the train.
Sure, I answered, nothing to lose
can’t promise no gain.

I’m writing a love song, but
I’ve forgotten how it feels.
When my heart is beating faster
and I feel weak at my knees.

Chorus
Instead I’m empty, just empty, like a closedown mall at night.
Empty, just empty, like the word from a drunk, high as a kite.
Empty, just empty, like a beach on a freezing winter’s day.
Empty, just empty, like a phone call, when there is nothing left to say.

I’m not sure I can help you,
I told the lady on the train.
We’re sort of in the same boat,
and my life is very plain.

I did know that feeling, but
then something just went wrong.
After that I told myself
to stay single and be strong.

Bridge
I want to feel the flutter of a thousand butterflies.
I want to be so happy, I don’t care if I’m told lies.
I want to be unable to work or eat or think.
I want to feel so much in love, I might forget that I hate pink.

Chorus
Instead I’m empty, just empty, like a closedown mall at night.
Empty, just empty, like the word from a drunk, high as a kite.
Empty, just empty, like a beach on an ice-cold winter’s day.
Empty, just empty, like a phone call, when there is nothing left to say.
©Åsa Sandberg 2019

A Million Dreams is all it’s gonna Take

Sometimes it’s a good thing to be interrupted. Yesterday was such a day. I had written half of my blog when I had to stop and after that I never got back to it. Today I realise how lucky that was, because yesterday I was on the brink of giving up and what I had written before having to take a break, was anything but fun.

 
Yes, I do despair because I can’t see any doors, windows or even a small crack of light anywhere that could be the one thing to bring my lyrics closer to anyone that will see some sort of potential in them and give me a chance. Yes, I do despair when people who have promised to do things, never fulfil their promises and do not even bother to communicate the reason why this is. I really don’t understand that kind of behaviour.

 

Equally I cannot understand that people don’t answer a simple question like; “Do you compose music to other people’s lyrics?” I asked that precise question recently of someone born in the same neck of the woods as I am, but I was totally ignored. Actually, It made me feel quite stupid. It felt like I was punching way above my weight and should know better than thinking that someone with this person’s skill should ever need to bother with someone like me.

 
Add to that the horrors about the competition that I have recently realised was nothing but a family business, filled with people who are now busy buying villas in exotic environments and building a life in warm and sunny places from money they’ve stolen from people’s dreams. Still, what I find even worse is that there seem to be so many individuals that, even after knowing this about the competition, are willing to continue to fund this family’s life of leisure. They continue to send in their songs and lyrics “for the fun of it”. That really makes me angry. Because while that is going on, there is no way of stopping this scam.

 
Anyway, putting all of that aside, I woke with a much brighter outlook on the world this morning and was very pleased that what I had written yesterday will never be published in this forum. Since Friday is a day when I don’t need to go out to work, I started my day by watching “The Greatest Showman” yet again. I absolutely love that film and can’t get enough of the songs.

 
One especially stuck with me this morning, because it really describes me and how I am as a person.

 
“Cause every night I lie in bed.
The brightest colours fill my head.
A million dreams are keeping me awake.
I think of what the world could be.
A vision of the one I see.
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take.
A million dreams for the world
I’m gonna make.”

 
I’ve always been a dreamer. It’s the best and the worst part of me at the same time. It was the part of me that helped me keep my sanity as a child, but it has also been the part of me that has made me crash and burn so many times, when one dream or another has either materialised, or has been so close that I could almost touch it, only for it to be taken away from me again. Those times being a dreamer is very hard, because it means that I crash and burn to a point from where I almost can’t find the strength to stand up, dust myself down, and start all over again.

 
What I thought of when hearing this song this morning was that I’ve been dreaming for over fifty years now and I’ve been dreaming a lot, so I can’t be far away from my million dreams. Therefore, I can’t stop now, because if I do all my accumulated dreams will roll over to the random person that is next in line for having their dreams realised, but who dared to dream for a bit longer than I did.

 
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take!

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

Åsa

 

 

In with the new

Since last week’s blog there has been some new, even more disturbing discoveries about the competition that has turned out to be nothing but a scam, but I won’t spend anymore time pondering over that. I’ll just wish that good, old “Mr. Karma” catches up with the individual in charge of the scam, sooner rather than later.

 
From now on I will concentrate on the new instead. A very nice and somewhat unexpected thing happened a couple of weeks back, when a song I wrote together with Fredrik Holm (www.2b-intune.com) a few of years ago won an “Honorable mention +” in SongDoor’s yearly competition. The plus stands for “deserving special recognition”. The SongDoor competition receives tens of thousands of entries from all over the world and the Country category, in which our song was entered, is one of the largest. Five finalists were chosen, one entry got an honorable mention ++ which means that the song was seriously considered for the final. Then there was one other entry ahead of us, but to land in eight place in such a big category is something I feel very proud about. Specially since this competition is the real deal. To enter their competition is very economical and they are very clear about what you can win, and you actually get the prizes and a fair amount of exposure to the media and the music industry.

 
It is the same company that I send my lyrics to for evaluation and they have always done everything they can to help me develop. They have sent me things I haven’t even asked for and they are always so happy to help me with any questions I might have. The response is always instant as long as my question arrives during working hours in their time zone.

 
The last couple of days I’ve been fiddling with something new to help my lyrics to get noticed. Well, new is a big lie. I was working with video a very long time before I ever wrote one single song lyric, but this side of my working life has been dormant for many years now. It has just been sitting there waiting for the right time and a reason to come alive again. Getting this honorable mention gave me the push to do something more with our song and since I want to help my lyrics along in any way I can, a lyric video felt like a good option. I have to say I really enjoyed being back at the editing table. Writing will always be my first love but editing and creating film is a very close second. Therefore, it is an amazing feeling when these days you can produce good quality products without being a millionaire. Especially since my videos, (yes, I’m planning to do many more) focus on the lyrics, so I can do them on a shoestring budget. The one I’m going to show you today didn’t cost me anything but my time to produce.

 
Working with video again has also reminded me about the fact that no knowledge and nothing we learn to do is ever wasted. If we are so interested in something that we take time to learn all we can about the subject, there is always a reason why we want that knowledge. It may not be obvious immediately and, I have asked myself many times why I keep training and learning stuff when nothing seems to come of it in a useful way. Getting back to editing a video this week, realizing that the knowledge is still there and that the love for the craft is still there too, has been absolutely wonderful. Especially since I now have a useful reason to dust off that knowledge and use it in a practical way again.

 
Before I go, I also want to mention that the Grand Award winner of SongDoor 2018 was Simon Finn, with whom I wrote the song “Before” a couple of years back. Simon is a very deserving winner and if you haven’t listened to his music yet, please do so on https://soundcloud.com/simonfinnsongwriter
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Never be the same

How many out there actually write most of their stuff sitting in front of a computer? And when I say write I don’t mean putting the words down on paper. To me that’s not writing. It’s just transferring the finished product onto paper; the final non-creative stage of the writing process.

I did none of that on the Friday just gone, but according to my way of seeing things I was writing all day long. Let me tell you about my Friday in detail, and trust me, there will be a point to this in the end.

On Friday I prepared lunches and cakes for morning and afternoon coffee for a two-day course that started on Saturday. Since I was scheduled to work at my normal job outside our home both Saturday and Sunday, I needed to prepare as much as possible of the course food on Friday. So, I made a Russian mushroom soup with cream and garlic, to be served with garlic bread. Delicious, if I may say so myself. To give the people on the course a choice, I also made a tomato soup a’ la Närpes. A Town close to where I come from in Finland. That soup is to be served with olives and feta cheese, and yes, I find this one delicious too.

When that was done, I made an onion pie to be served with baby potatoes and a fresh salad today, Sunday. After that I started to concentrate on desserts. I baked four dozen mince pies for Saturday and for afternoon coffee I made a chocolate swiss roll that I filled with banana and cream and I also covered with cream. Between doing the cooking and baking I’ve also washed some clothes and vacuumed the house, walked the dog etc.

You would be forgiven if you now were wondering what this can possibly have to do with lyric writing? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a photo of a painting from a friend’s first art exhibition. I’ve seen the painting many times before and I absolutely love it. It is beautiful, sad, strong with both darkness and hope shining through in the motif. Anyway, seeing it again, I immediately got a twinge of an idea for a song lyric inspired by the painting, but that was all. The twinge made me believe there could be a good idea developing, but I also knew I had to leave that little seed of an idea to do its own thing. I couldn’t talk about it or even consciously think about it. I had to give it time.

On Friday while cooking, which is another creative outlet I truly love, the idea from that little twinge started to develop. First, I got the name of the song, and it will be called “Never be the same”. I also realised it will be a Christmas song, which surprised me, but in a happy way. After that I got the frame work and after that possible sentences of the chorus started to appear.

I suppose this writing process started, because I was so happy and relaxed whilst getting on with my cooking and baking, so I had time to communicate with my subconscious where the seed of this song lyric had been quietly taking form for a couple of weeks.

It probably won’t be that long before I can show you the finished product, because my writing process is quite quick most of the time after I have got this far.

I just wanted to share this with you, because what I’ve just describes is what I like most about creative writing. It is the weird and wonderful ways a story just appear when I’m in the middle of doing things that seem to be as far from writing as they possibly could be.

It may not be the “recommended” way of writing, but hey, it works for me and I will continue to write stories and song lyrics inside my mind while multitasking with one domestic chore or another, for as long as it works. If it means sitting less hours in front of a screen it can only be good in my book.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Christmas lyrics

I know, I know. It is only October and I have just mentioned the C-word. I will have made a lot of people shout out in disgust by doing so, but it can’t be helped. I have many reasons to start planning and thinking of Christmas in October. First of all, I have a small, seasonal home baking business where I bake Nordic biscuits which I sell in boxes containing 56 biscuits and cookies of seven different kinds. I need to start to bake these (I will need more than 3000) next week. This is something I’ve done for almost a decade now and when I start to bake I also start play all my Christmas CDs. I’m convinced my biscuits taste better if they are accompanied by Christmas music while in the oven.

 
A second reason for me to think about Christmas well in advance, is that I have got family and close friends in Finland and I need to plan and prepare my parcels for them well in advance, so they reach their destination in time for the big day. So, as you can see, my head has to get into Christmas mode about now to avoid unnecessary stress.

 
I am a big fan of Christmas music, and I think I am so very lucky to have been brought up with Christmas songs that have both Swedish and English lyrics. A lot of Swedish Christmas songs have been translated from English, but there are also plenty of original Christmas songs written in Swedish. I have been collecting Christmas music on both LP and CD for as long as I can remember, and I am always on the lookout for more unusual Christmas songs or unusual arrangements of the more well-known songs. My dream or should I say, one of my goals as a lyric writer is to write enough brand-new song lyrics on the theme of Christmas, to make up a Christmas CD. It’s not an easy task, because most things to do with Christmas has been said and described so many times before in such beautiful ways, that it will be very hard to find a unique spin on the theme. So far, I have only managed one Christmas song lyric and it was written in 2013, which was my first year as a lyric writer. I gave the lyrics the name; “The modern way”. It reached the semi-finals in UK Songwriting Contest in 2015. Again, it was a lyric that divided the jury in England and America. In Great American Song Contest, they didn’t like that I had named my song “The Modern Way” and then never used the title in any kind of hook or Chorus. I can totally see their point and today this lyric is sitting I in a file on my computer that says, “Needs working on”. So far, I haven’t found a good solution for a change, even if I wouldn’t write like this anymore. Maybe I will leave this particular lyric to stand proud as the semi-finalist it is and concentrate on a new seasonal lyric instead. I will leave you with my first ever Christmas lyric, so you can judge for yourself, if you feel like it.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 
The modern way 
I planned to write a brand-new song,
which painted Christmas well.
It was to have a take so new,
that you could really tell.

I wasn’t gonna write one word,
describing starry eyes.
But circling around the core
was ending up in lies.

Chorus
Christmas
A multitude of joy for over 2000 years.
Christmas
A time when inner peace is overcoming our fears.
Christmas
A good excuse to make a lonely stranger a friend.
Christmas
A gift of love to carry through and keep until the end.

Bridge
Santa, toys and sparkling trees, abundance all around.
Our modern way to celebrate the love that once was found,
inside that tiny stable, one quiet starry night.
A love that’s kept us going, brought peace to every fight.

The world is very different now,
from what it was before.
We celebrate in modern ways
not better, but much more.
We eat and drink and buy and sell,
for months before “The Day”.
As long as we remember why,
who’ll judge the modern way?

Chorus
Christmas
A multitude of joy for over 2000 years.
Christmas
A time when inner peace is overcoming our fears.
Christmas
A good excuse to make a lonely stranger a friend.
Christmas
A gift of love to carry through and keep until the end.
Åsa Sandberg©2013

Collaborations

Today, I’m going to talk about patience, putting in the hours and how, if we do so, we sooner or later get the help we need. I’ve told you before that it can be difficult to measure progress as a lyric writer. Therefore, I try to take part in as many competitions I can find and can afford to send in my lyrics to. Having done this for a few years now, I’ve built up some connections with other musicians and writers. Even if I haven’t been a finalist or winner anywhere yet, I have had some success, and this is useful when looking for collaborators.

 
There have been times when I have doubted if I will ever find any more collaborators out there, but then suddenly, I have got three new projects on the go with as many new people. Two lyrics of mine are out there in the hands of two very talented musicians and the third project is one where I have been asked to write lyrics to a song that is being composed as we speak.

 
This obviously is a very nice situation to be in, because a lyric without a melody is like having a TV in a house without electricity. It is a nice thing to have, but not much point with having it in the long run. What I have realised after a few years of writing song lyrics is that everything takes time. I don’t think it is only people you have to convince you are here for the long run and are serious about your writing you have to put in hours of work for a long enough time to also let the Universe pick up on your pulse. If you write regularly and with a purpose for long enough, the Universe will hear this steady pulse of yours and feel that this is something you are serious about. Then, when the Universe senses your presence and commitment to your purpose, it will do everything in its power to give you what you need for your next step.

 
This is something I knew but had forgotten and because I had forgotten, I have been quite impatient at times. Especially last year when I almost gave up writing, only to realise this was something I could never do. Writing is my life, so instead of quitting I decided to get better and put in the hours and show commitment. Somehow this seems to have started to pay off, because I seem to be in a process where I am given what I need to get to that next, alluring step.

 
The absolute best thing with collaborating is to see what someone else’s creativity can do with my lyrics. I hope I never get blasé about how wonderful it is to hear a new song written around my words, for the first time, Normally the melody is totally different than I had imagined in my head, but usually it is always so much better than anything I could have imagined. It shows how differently everybody interprets words or how every person’s unique life experience puts different meanings to the words. It is a wonderfully fascinating feeling.

 
So, there will hopefully be some exciting times ahead, this autumn. Three new songs on their way and still around two months to wait for the results of my entries into UK songwriting contest. Life could definitely be worse.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

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

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