Looking for a sign

Last week I wrote about being at peace with my lyric writing journey. This hasn’t changed, even though I’m prone to sudden mood swings, but apart from my lyric writing I am at a loss when it comes to figuring out what to do with most things in my life.

 
I have told you that, since a couple of months back, I am working two jobs to keep afloat. This new situation has put me in a catch 22 situation, because without keeping both jobs for a very long and foreseeable future, I will sink financially. On the other hand, by keeping the jobs for a very long and foreseeable future I will deny everything inside me that is me, which sooner or later will kill me no matter what my financial status is. To begin with it will kill me on every other level than physically, i.e. it will zap my energy, kill me emotionally, it will numb my mind, my spirit and my soul will starve. When it has gone that far, my divine spark will dim down too. There won’t be much point walking around like the zombie I will be, at that point.

 
Why do I feel my future is looking this dark? Well, after only seven weeks in this new situation, I am forced to leave more and more of my creative work behind, just to have the energy to go to work and do things that need doing at home. Some of you may have noticed that this blog already has started to suffer a bit. Last week I only managed one blog post, because I have been too tired to find any kind of inspiration to write.

 
For most people, two jobs wouldn’t be a problem and for most people continuing with creative things after work wouldn’t be a problem either. Sadly, I’m not most people. I belong to the 20% in the world that lives with the title Highly Sensitive Person HSP https://hsperson.com/ and therefore the situation I’m in is slowly destroying my life.

 
I feel totally cornered and all I can do is look for a sign of some sort to help me out of this predicament. I would never walk out of any of the jobs, because the world doesn’t look kindly upon people quitting jobs needed to keep them paying the bills. In all fairness, I wouldn’t look kindly upon myself if I did. Sadly, there may come a time when the choice isn’t mine anymore if this is how I feel after seven weeks. In what shape will I be in after twelve months? How much of the real me will still be around?

 
A few years ago, I wrote a lyric about how it can hurt when people only see what they want to see when they look at you. Anything inside you that frightens them or is too different from themselves, people tend to ignore. This is fine if we are talking about strangers. Less so if we talk friends or family. At the moment the lyrics also fit in with my biggest wish; that someone out there would recognise my strengths which can be in any of my creative ventures, i.e. graphic designing, baking, writing etc. so that I could be able to make a living from something that vitalises me, instead of what is happening now and is slowly killing me.

 
The lyrics is called “Love the real me”.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Love the real me!
I’ve been a big disappointment,
in every which way to you.
That is what happens when trying
to change what is red into blue.

You want me to fit your settings;
So what, if I lose my wings?
As long as I live your picture;
Who cares if my soul fails to sing?

Chorus
You say that you know me
but don’t have a clue.
You never took time out
to find what was true.
I’d so much to offer,
but outside your mould.
You saw what you chose to,
and missed all I hold!
Why couldn’t you love the real me?

It would have been good to tell you
of all the dreams that I’ve had.
But somehow, they were to different,
your fear made me mute and so sad.

Chorus
You say that you know me
but don’t have a clue.
You never took time out
to find what was true.
I’d so much to offer,
but outside your mould.
You saw what you chose to,
and missed all I hold!
Why couldn’t you love the real me?
©Åsa Sandberg 2014

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Imagine

Imagine the world without the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. It isn’t easy however hard I try.

 
I have gone back to my favourite website at the moment, www.songfacts.com and found that “Imagine” is the number one lyrics of today’s top 10. I will share the song facts about this wonderful song with you. One fact that I found amusing, since this particular fact makes me realise I wasn’t totally off the mark doubting the English grammar of that sentence when I heard the song as a teenager back in Finland. This is the fact; “According to Yoko Ono, who controls the rights to John Lennon’s music, the most frequent request she gets comes from musicians who want to record this song but change the “No religion, too” lyrics – a request she has always denied.”

 
A good thing to keep in the back of my mind if any critics or judges tells me off for not being grammatically correct!

 
Enjoy the song facts!
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

 

Lennon was asking us to imagine a place where things that divide people (religion, possessions, etc.) did not exist. He felt that would be a much better place.

 
This song is a strong political message that is sugar-coated in a beautiful melody. Lennon realized that the softer approach would bring the song to a wider audience, who hopefully would listen to his message.

 
Lennon took the sole songwriter credit on this track, but later said that his wife, Yoko Ono, should have been credited as well, as he got the initial idea from her book Grapefruit, which is a book of instructions with things like “Imagine the sky crying…” or “Imagine you’re a cloud.”

 

“I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution,” he told the BBC. “If it had been Bowie, I would have put Lennon-Bowie… I just put ‘Lennon’ because she’s just the wife and you don’t put her name on, right?”

 

On June 14, 2017, the National Music Publishers’ Association announced that Yoko would finally be added as a songwriter for “Imagine.” This took place at a ceremony where Yoko was given the Centennial (song of the century) award for her contribution, which was followed by a Patti Smith performance of the song.

 
Some people have wondered if Lennon included a message in the video for this song as well. In the video, Lennon is dressed as a cowboy and Yoko Ono is dressed as an Indian squaw. This could be a kind of message about all cultures getting along.

Suggestion credit:
Adam – Dewsbury, England, for above 2

 
Lennon wrote this on a brown Steinway upright piano. In 2000, George Michael paid over $2 million for the piano that Lennon wrote this on, and then returned it to the Beatles museum in Liverpool. John’s piano has since been “on tour” to various world locations promoting peace.

 
Churlish listeners had a problem with the “no possessions” line, finding Lennon hypocritical since he was so well-off. Yoko Ono addressed this in a 1998 interview with Uncut, where she stated regarding her husband’s intentions: “He sincerely wished that there would be a time when all of us could feel happy without getting too obsessive about material goods.”

 
A sidewalk mosaic spells out the word “Imagine” in a section of Central Park dedicated to Lennon. The area is called “Strawberry Fields,” and is located across from Lennon’s apartment where he was shot.

 
This was not released as a single in the UK until 1975, when it hit #6. Shortly after Lennon’s death in 1980, it was re-released in the UK and hit #1. It was replaced at #1 by Lennon’s “Woman,” marking the first time an artist replaced himself on top of the UK charts since The Beatles followed “She Loves You” with “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
This is credited to The Plastic Ono Band, the name Lennon used for some of his recordings after leaving The Beatles. Ringo Starr played drums on this and Klaus Voorman played bass.

 
On September 21, 2001, Neil Young performed this on a benefit telethon for the victims of the terrorist attacks on America. Almost 60 million people watched the special in the US.

 
At a 2001 tribute special to Lennon, Yolanda Adams sang this with Billy Preston on organ. Preston played keyboards on some Beatles songs, including “Get Back.”
Oasis used the piano intro on their 1996 song “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”

 
In 2002, this came in #2 in a poll by Guinness World Records as Britain’s favorite single of all time. It lost to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

 
This has been covered by many bands, including Our Lady Peace, and a vastly toned-down version by A Perfect Circle. Jack Johnson recorded it for the 2007 compilation Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
Suggestion credit:
Jeffrey – Victoria, Canada

 
This song plays a role in the movie Forrest Gump. Gump (played by Tom Hanks) appears on a talk show with Lennon, talking about a place where there are “no possessions” and “no religion.” It’s implied that Gump gave Lennon the idea for this song.

 
Some speculate that this song contains backwards messages. With a keen ear and large imagination, you can barely make out the words “people war beside me” when reversing the line “Imagine all the people.”
Suggestion credit:
Spencer – Los Angeles, CA

 
On September 13, 1980 Elton John did a free concert in New York’s Central Park, ending it with this song. This performance was three months before Lennon’s untimely death; before playing the song Elton said, “This is for a dear friend of mine who doesn’t live too far from here, so let’s sing it loud enough for him to hear it” (Lennon lived only a few blocks from that part of Central Park). The flamboyant Elton performed the song wearing a Donald Duck outfit.
Suggestion credit:
Chris – Philly, PA

 
Lennon said this song is “virtually the Communist Manifesto.” That’s usually the last we see of the quote, but Lennon added: “even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement.”
Suggestion credit:
Adam – Mechanicsburg, PA

 
This song returned to the Hot 100 three times in the late 2000s, thanks to cover versions by Jack Johnson (#90, 2007), David Archuleta (#36, 2008) and The Glee Cast (#67, 2009).
The jazz musician Herbie Hancock recorded this as the centrepiece to his Imagine Project. His version features Jeff Beck, P!nk, Seal, India.Arie, Konono N°1 and Oumou Sangaré.

 
According to Yoko Ono, who controls the rights to John Lennon’s music, the most frequent request she gets comes from musicians who want to record this song but change the “No religion, too” lyrics – a request she has always denied.

 

 

So, does this mean you can record any song, but you need special permission to alter the lyrics? Essentially, yes. Alex Holz at the music licensing and royalty service provider Limelight explained to us: “Artists can be afforded ‘some’ leeway in adapting a track to your band’s style (so long as you don’t alter the fundamental character of the work), though lyric changes/alterations typically require direct permission from the publisher as a derivative work. Every songwriter/publisher/song is unique and requirements vary.”
This was the last song played on WABC before they switched from a Top 40 format to talk radio. Based in New York City, WABC was for decades the top AM radio station in the country. They debated long and hard to decide which song should be their farewell.
Suggestion credit:
Rob – Minneapolis, MN

 
A moving rendition of this song took place in Paris on November 14, 2015 at the Bataclan theater, where 89 people were killed by gunmen in terrorist attacks the previous night. The German pianist Davide Martello brought his grand piano to the theater, and played the song while crowds mourned outside the venue.

 

 

Over the next few days, Martello brought the piano to every location in Paris where the attacks took place, performing the song in tribute.

 
When Nike used the Beatles song “Revolution” in 1987 TV commercials, Yoko Ono joined the surviving band members in suing the company. In the court proceedings, it was revealed that Yoko appeared in a Japanese TV commercial for a telephone company where “Imagine” plays. According to court documents, she authorized use of the song and was paid about $400,000. The “Revolution” case unified the Beatles in their opposition to having songs used in commercials, especially since they didn’t control the rights – Capitol Records and Michael Jackson did.

 
At the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, four singers from that country performed the song, with each taking a verse. The singers represented a range of genres, including K-pop, with Ahn Ji-young of the duo Bolbbalgan4 performing along with Ha Hyun-woo of the rock band Guckkasten, Jeon In-Kwon of the rock band Deulgukhwa, and the solo artist Lee Eun-mi.

 

 

The theme of the ceremony was “Peace in Motion,” with a message of unity as athletes from North and South Korea entered under one flag.

 
Ben & Jerry’s, makers of “Cherry Garcia” and “Phish Food,” named an ice cream flavor after Lennon’s hit song in 2007. Retired since 2013, “Imagine Whirled Peace” was a caramel ice cream mixed with toffee cookie pieces and chocolate peace signs.

 

 

Lyrics your listener can easily relate to

You can never get enough good advice when it comes to lyric writing. Today I will share some very good advice with you, given by Anthony Ceseri on how to write lyrics that our listeners can easily relate to. The advice comes from Anthony’s course: “Success for your songs”. Enjoy!

 
Specificity in your lyrics can be a great way to pull your listener into you story and make your lyrics relatable. It may seem counterintuitive, but typically the more specific, detail oriented, and personal something is, the more universal it is. We’ve all had situations like the specific ones we hear about in a well written song, even if the situation isn’t exactly the same as what happened to us. The similarities in the details enable us to relate to well written stories. It lets us see ourselves in them, which bring us into the story emotionally. Alternatively, saying vague things like “I’m happy” tends to create a disconnect, because they’re so general, no one knows what they’re referring to.

 
A great way to be detail specific when delivering your story is to engage the senses.

 

When we remember things, we tend to remember what they looked like, what they sounded like, what they smelled like, how they felt and how they tasted. That’s why incorporating sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste into your lyrics can help drive your specificity by tapping into your listener’s memory banks. Let’s look at some examples.

Sight
Sight can be the most instinctive one to start with. Here’s a line that engages the listener’s vision.

The old paint is cracked and curled as it barely clings to the wall

In this example, we’re getting a nice visual of old paint that’s pretty easy to see in our mind because of how specific it is. It would have been much less effective to simply say “the paint was old.” That doesn’t “paint” the picture for us. Here are two more:

The rusty copper and brown pipes formed domed beads of dew

The jagged edges of the broken glass met at a sharp point that looked like a knife

You can see how in both of these it becomes very easy to picture these objects in our minds, because of how they were described to engage our vision. Everyone will picture these items differently, based on their own past experiences with them, but the important thing is that the listener is able to clearly visualize them in his own way.

Sound
Describing what can be heard is another great way to create a scene for your listener. Look at this line:

The leaves are crunching as they play in the woods

The sound of leaves crunching is a specific sound that everyone can relate to because it’s most likely a sound that everyone has experienced hearing. Now look at this piece of lyric:

My pen furiously scratching as it digs into my page
So many thoughts come to mind about you

You can see how much more descriptive this is than simply saying “I write about you.” Now, we can hear the pen tearing into the page. It’s putting us in the scene. Let’s look at one more:

The volume of her footsteps lessens as she walks away
When it’s silent I’ll know I lost her

Here we’re seeing sound being tied into the idea of loss. This is a good time to mention that the sense of hearing is an important one, since music is an audible-only medium. As a result, it can give you your best opportunities for moments of prosody in your song.

 
For example, in this last example the idea of the volume of footsteps lessening as she walked away could get played out in the music. Maybe the beats of the music resemble footsteps and they start to fade when that line is sung. You can have some fun when mentioning sound in your lyrics to develop prosody in your song.

Smell
Smell seems to be a less thought of sense to engage when writing, which is why it can be effective when used. Take this line as an example:

A musty odour fills the old, vacant home

That musty smell puts us there in the house. Combining senses can work well too. Look at this one:

The aroma of incense accompanied the dark atmosphere in her room

Here, we’re given the visual of a dark room, but it’s added to with the smell of the incense. Now we have a good feel for what it’s like in that room. Let’s look at one more:

The smell of rotting food invaded my nostrils

Rotting food is impossible keep out of your nose. Here smell is being used with metaphor. We’ll talk more about that shortly.

Touch
Touch can be a powerful one too. Have you ever walked by a stone wall, or a fountain and couldn’t stop yourself from touching it, just to see what it felt like? That’s why sprinkling those moments into your song can work nicely. Look at this example:

My bare feet against the cool, moist grass

That’s certainly one our minds (and feet!) can relate to. How about these two:

The steam from my coffee warmed my chin

Her cold, hard skin felt like porcelain

You can see how these moments place you in the story better than lines like “the coffee was hot,” or “her hand was cold.” These lines are descriptive by talking about how they feel. That makes them much easier to relate to.

Taste
Taste is another one that’s easy to forget about, which is why it can be powerful. Look at this line:

His nerves get the best of him as he tastes the dryness in his mouth

Or this:

The saltiness of her skin on my lips as I kissed her neck

This one taps into what you taste and see:

I can taste the chalkiness of the dust as I watch him drive off
Leaving nothing but a brown cloud behind

We can see the brown dust cloud as we tasted it too. Descriptions hitting multiple senses can be a great tool, as we saw before.

Organic and Kinesthetic
In addition to the standard five senses, you can also discuss the organic and kinesthetic senses. Your organic sense is your awareness of what’s happening in your body, like a heartbeat, the tense feeling in your fingers and forearm as you clench a fist, or sore muscles.

 
Kinesthetic sense is your relation to the world around you. When you spin around you see the world as a blur, while you get dizzy. An astronaut looking down on the world would certainly have his kinesthetic sense engaged as well. So would a snorkeler looking out into the vast ocean.
An example of a line that relates to the organic sense would be this:

A felt a jolt in my chest as if lightning struck my heart

It explores what panic could feel like, since it hits us from the inside.
These lines are speaking to our kinesthetic sense:

I gripped the handrail of the roller coaster so tight
It was the only thing around me that didn’t appear blurred

It’s relating us to the world around us. These next two lines take into account both organic and kinesthetic senses:

The bad news seemed to slow time around me
As my heart decelerated to what felt like a beat per minute

The world slowing is kinesthetic, while a reference to a heartbeat is organic. These two senses can be great tools to use to create specificity, in addition to the standard five senses.

So far Anthony Ceseri.
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

Åsa

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

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