Change is the only constant

Throughout my writing career I’ve been very careful to confirm something by putting it in writing, if I don’t feel it is the absolute truth. I feel the written word is such a powerful energy that I only want to write what I know to be the truth. Nowadays, when writing lyrics, this has become a truth with some shades of grey, because since I have started to write for other people and follow their visions, my collaborator’s wishes becomes my first priority.

 
The other day, after having written my blog “Focus and Happiness”, one of my early lyrics popped up in my head. The lyric is called “Broken”. It is quite gruesome, even though it lifts to a more positive vibe in the last two verses. At the time when I wrote “Broken” I quite often used my own real experiences in my lyrics. I think there were many reasons for this. One was the fact that I was so used to putting only the truth down on paper, so that came with me into my lyrics. Another reason was the old familiar saying; “write what you know”; especially when starting out. A third reason was that I knew I couldn’t be the only one having lived through what I had, or who was walking around with these kinds of feelings. From all this, I thought that someone out there might feel comforted by hearing another person having had experiences reflecting their own.

 
When thinking of “Broken”, five years after writing the lyrics, I realised I couldn’t write those lyrics today. My life has moved on so much since then and the last thing I feel these days is broken. Becoming aware of this, I also realised my fear of change which had been one of my weaknesses in life, has subsided substantially. What someone scared of change does not realise is that change doesn’t have to be negative. The chance for a positive change is just as plausible since everything around us is neutral until we put our own interpretation onto the situation. I suppose I could go back to those broken feelings that feel so distant now, if someone I collaborate with would need something to paint hopelessness, but I am rather pleased that the music world rarely has the demand for sad thoughts on that level. The only reason I wish they would, is that I am sitting on the lyric “Broken” and, for once, I feel it actually deserves more than being hidden away in my personal dropbox.

 
One of my collaborators, Fredrik Holm, wrote a melody to “Broken”, which gives the song another curios angle. Fredrik’s main instrument is Bassoon, and he had never, ever heard a bassoon in any kind of popular music. He felt he wanted to rectify this in the melody of “Broken”, so he actually included a bassoon solo just before the bridge of the song.

 
This was at a time when we were first starting out writing songs, going with our instinct and feeling rules were there to be broken. A few years down the line we have learned that the right to break rules are earned by those who first learn and become good at following those same rules. If you don’t know the basics in both song writing and lyric writing and build your improvisations and “rule breaking” on those basics, very few people can understand what you are trying to say. The outcome is that the messages are too mixed up for the general public.

 
Fredrik and I made a CD, meant as a demo really, out of a dozen of our early songs. One newspaper critic was very positive and kind. It was one of those rare moments when you notice that someone really took their time to understand what we were trying to say and do. He said that all the twelve songs were like separate mini-musicals telling different life stories.

 
Our song “Broken” definitely has the drama of a musical number in it and yes, it also includes a bassoon solo.

 
If you feel like something different, have a listen. I have to admit I’ve got a soft spot for this one but I’m so grateful it doesn’t paint a correct picture of my life anymore.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Broken 

I’ve been fighting for survival
for many, many years.
Bullies, drink and violence
have broken all my gears.

Chorus
I’m broken!
Whichever way I turn,
I’m broken
I’m asked for more than I can give.
I’m broken!
No fuel inside to burn,
I’m broken
stop the demands and let me live!
Reversing is no option;
there’s nothing there to see.
But starting on the road ahead
takes more than what’s in me.

Chorus

Bridge
Burnout is the modern way of saying; I am lost.
We’re falling by the side lines because of every must.
The hunt for something better and bigger drives us on.
Each day we join the rat race, but all the joy has gone.
I would like to stop and listen
and smell a fresh cut lawn.
Sit out by the ocean
until the break of dawn.
I know life could be better
if I had time to look,
and find myself somewhere again;
claim back what life once took.

Chorus

©2013 Åsa Sandberg

 

It’s that time again!

It’s that time of the year again! For the 63rd time the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is upon us, with semi-finals tonight, 8th May, and Thursday 10th May with the big final on Saturday 12th May. This time the event is held in Portugal, following the country’s first victory at the 2017 contest in Kiev, Ukraine.

 
For a long time, ESC was a very good platform for singers and bands and many went on to have brilliant careers thanks to having a win in the contest. One of those bands was ABBA, which sort of says it all. These days the contest has changed shape and form and very few people remember who won it a week after the event. Coming up to its 63rd year you could argue it is time to retire the whole thing. ESC has become more of a cult-happening than a real competition. The platform for hopefuls has brutally been torn away from the ESC stage and been replaced with the spotlights of “The X-factor” and other programmes of that kind.

 
Still, it’s amazing how much emotion the ESC can stir up in people; the same people that keep insisting that they “don’t care”. Personally, I would be very sad if the Eurovision Song Contest would disappear from the yearly calendar of musical events. I admit that some years I have wondered why the different countries don’t put more effort into the songs they send to represent their countries and make it a competition that contains songs of better quality, but mostly I try to see the contest for what it is; a fun thing that for one week every year, unites Europe and a lot the countries outside Europe through music. It is also a good excuse to throw a party around the telly with friends and family. If I don’t like it, I am totally aware of the fact that I can choose not to get involved in the event at all.

 
This year I’m a bit more interested than normal for patriotic reasons. Saara Aalto, who is representing my native country Finland, actually got a really strong song in “Monsters” and she is also a very good singer. So far, Finland has only won the competition once when Lordi took part with the song “Hard rock Hallelujah” in 2006.

 
Another Nordic country, Sweden, is much more used to winning the ESC. They have won six times and very often been in the top five. My favourite composer when it comes to ESC is Swedish. Lasse Holm has written five of the songs that has represented Sweden through the years. He always writes memorable songs in his genre, and Sweden has always done well with his songs.

 
It was actually one of Lasse Holm’s songs that gave me the first nudge towards lyric writing, even if it took more than two decades after that nudge, before I started my song-lyric “career”. The song I’m talking about is called “Cannelloni Macaroni”. This one didn’t take part in the ESC, but it could have done well, because lyrically it is so different. He sings about his love for Italian food. For me, as a budding writer, it was a wake-up call. For the first time ever, someone showed me that it is possible to write songs about almost anything. The original version of the song was n Swedish, but he made an English version too and I will put a link to that video at the end f this blog, should you be interested.

 
I will follow the ESC this week. If nothing else, the competition is the only opportunity in the year where I, thanks to social media, can follow an event in real time together with friends in Finland and Sweden. We put comments on FB while we watch the show and guess the winners etc. This social aspect over the borders, means more to me than who wins and I’m looking forward to it.

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6eqjNb-oyk

Keep it simple

You know how sometimes you feel so close to stepping up to a new level of awareness in a certain area, that you can almost touch it, but just as you are about to take that final leap, a veil is drawn down and the road, that a moment ago was so clear, gets foggy again?

 
Well, that is where I feel I am at with my lyric writing. So close, yet somehow so far. The one thing that is getting clearer to me is that the best thing to do, is to keep the language simple. This goes a bit against the grain for me because you could say that collecting words is a bit of a hobby of mine. I love learning new, sometimes rather peculiar, words. When I moved to England a friend and I used to play a game on longer car journeys to extend my vocabulary. We used to find a word and then try to find as many words as possible that rhymed with that word. This way I heard a lot of new words and little by little added them to my language.

 
I took a test a few years back to find out how many words I know in first, my mother tongue Swedish, and later the same test to see where I stood in English. The results showed that I have a Swedish vocabulary around 53 000 words, whilst my English knowledge of words stopped at around 32 000. That is a vast difference, so maybe it’s a good thing that I have realised that the best language for song lyrics is a simple one.

 
Then again, managing to paint an interesting story in simple words, is an amazing art form and personally I have a wee way to travel before I can call myself a master of that skill. The best thing is that the penny has finally dropped. Thanks to this I can start to concentrate my time on stories worth telling and telling well in a down to earth simple language. Instead of trying to find complicated rhymes and less known synonyms, I need to think of a good enough story that stands out even when told in the simplest of words. Somehow, I think that is the equation for successful song-lyrics.

 
I wrote a few lines with this equation in mind a couple of nights ago. It is very much a work in progress, but the first two verses go like this;

 

Destiny Calling
It was the 16th of June -91
The day when destiny knocked on my door.
The Crystal ball in my gut warned for clouds,
my need to meet you meant so, so much more.

I wore a mint coloured top and worn jeans.
I grabbed my camera, note pad and pen.
The breeze felt warm, in my highlighted hair.
I was so happy that day, way back then.

 

Before going any further with these lyrics, I have a decision to make. Shall I bubble wrap the story and contain it as a happy one-day memory, or shall I invite people in to a possible nightmare that could come further down the road? All because of this first meeting about to happen on a warm evening in June. At the moment I’m leaning towards containing the story to this one very happy day, but this is also why I’m struggling with the chorus. I suppose it could go something like this.

 

Chorus
You were tall, dark and handsome.
It was love at first sight.
You were twice as old as me.
Could be wrong, but felt so right!
I felt destiny calling,
when I met you that night.
Yes, it was destiny calling that night!…
©2018 Åsa Sandberg

 

Something like that, for now. I have a scrappy third verse not fit for viewing yet and an idea for a bridge that has come while writing the blog, so it’s getting there. I don’t know if this one will ever get any further than sitting as a file in my Dropbox, but that’s not the point. This lyric is first and foremost me training myself to keep my words simple around a specific story, and so far I feel I’ve done that.

 

 
When I have completed the lyric, and if I feel it has turned out well enough, I promise to show it to you.

 

 
Until then; take care and happy writing!

 
Åsa

 

The core of life

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about looking forward to writing the lyrics to Peace Anthem number three out of three that I have written together with Fredrik Holm. Well, “Free at Last” is now ready, it was a lovely process writing it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

 
I don’t know how many of you who are that familiar with Paddington Bear in general, and the latest Paddington film in particular, but in that film Mr Brown, the father of the family where Paddington lives, says something like this, “Paddington always looks for the good in people, and in some strange way, he always manages to find it.” Somehow, I must have channelled my inner “Paddington bear” while writing the peace anthem, because there were times when I thought my words were too naïve and too simple. So much so, that at one point I thought about starting again from scratch with a new theme. When trying to do that I got nothing. Not one single new idea or word came to me. The shop of creative ideas and thoughts inside me was totally closed. I believe this is because I KNEW that however naïve and simple my words appeared on paper, they were the right ones.

 
I think simplicity might have been the right way forward for my lyrics to the peace anthem, if I wanted to reach the core of what life should be about. Mankind has become too wrapped up in the “game” of life. How often do we hear that we must learn to “play the game” if we want to get somewhere in life? I don’t know how many layers out from the core of life, or levels up in the game of life, or whatever metaphor you want to use, we as a species have stepped away from this core, but what I do feel is that this “game” has got us so wrapped up in getting to this “somewhere”, that we are dangerously close to totally forgetting what life really should be about. The simple things, the joy, the beauty around us, the kindness, the giving instead of the taking etc. Maybe the best way to get heard over or through the noise of this game is to strip back the layers and use simple words in a more basic way. People have started to think of the word basic as something bad, something without the most recent upgrade and therefore something that isn’t reaching the full potential of what is out there. Out where? Where does it end?

 
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we once more, instead of looking towards what “out there” has to offer, started to look in towards the core? Maybe then, we would remember what life truly is about and see that the core of life has already given us all we need, so no upgrades are needed. Basic covers it all in abundance.

 
I hope you forgive my philosophical journey in today’s blog. Maybe my thoughts are just me trying to defend a lyric where I allowed myself to write with my inner child on the front seat, or maybe I have a point. Who knows?

 
Well, no point delaying the moment anymore. These are the lyrics of peace anthem number three, by Fredrik Holm and myself. “Free at last”. I am also sharing the file with the melody played on piano which I got from Fredrik in order to write the lyrics. Without the melody, the lyrics may seem a bit strange, since there are no rhymes to grab hold of.

 
If anyone is curious about what we are going to do with our Peace Anthems now, when the suite is complete, I can tell you that we are going to make a booklet and offer them to choirs all over the world. In my opinion, there can’t be too many ripples of peace spreading around our world today.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

Åsa

 

Free at last
Dawn is here.
Darkness’s fading.
It’s a time of
hope and peace.

All is good and
we are free at last.
Earth’s rejoicing,
filled with harmony.

Every living soul,
hands and paws and fish and birds.
Building a home,
fit for us all.

All is good and
we are free at last.
All is good and
we are free at last.

Flowers, trees and grass,
whisper, as they move
in the wind;
thank you, thank you!

Earth’s been hurting.
Mankind closed their hearts,
when greed took over
from the path laid out for us all.

But…
All is good and
we are free at last.
Earth’s rejoicing,
filled with harmony.

Every living soul,
hands and paws and fish and birds.
Building a home,
fit for us all.

We’re free to start again!

©2018 Åsa Sandberg

https://www.dropbox.com/s/zco3ah89nr3rzoe/Peace%20anthem%203.mp3?dl=0

One step forward?

Yesterday I got a song I sent for evaluation returned. Today I’m going to share this evaluation with you, even though it makes me feel a bit vulnerable, due to some embarrassing mistakes. Still, I started this blog to get better in my craft and to share what happens to me with you, the readers. This is done in the hope that some of my experiences will be useful to you and your learning curve.

 

The lyric I got back yesterday is one that has done well for me in competitions. In the UK Songwriting Competition it was what they call “a border- line finalist” with 8 points, obviously this makes it a semi-finalist. Nothing more and nothing less.
The evaluation wasn’t bad, but it brought up similar issues from before; I don’t put enough meat on the bones when it comes to my story. The positive thing the evaluator said, was that I have a real talent when it comes to describing feelings. These were the exact words: “That said, you do have a penchant/talent for capturing heartbreak in the simplest of lyrics. That is a gift and not a learned talent, and you should nurture that.”
One thing that hit home and sank in from yesterdays evaluation was being told to get rid of the clichés or things that no one really would say in person. The evaluator said: “I know you are clever enough to find different ways to say these phrases in a way that has your own stamp on them.” I know this is going to sound really stupid, but yesterday was the first time I had ever realised how much more fun it would be to find my own clever ways of saying something, rather than use expressions so well known that they feel tired, even though they are very easy to reach for. I obviously, now and again, do find my own original expressions. That I’m very happy about. A lot of the time, though, I am too quick when writing, and use the first expression that pops in my mind. This is one thing I need to change.

 

When it comes to things no one would actually say when talking, I think I’m at a bit of a dis-advantage due to English being my second language. Sometimes some expressions sound better to me, then it does for a native. As I translated my expressions to Swedish I recognised that I would never say anything like that, so from now on that will be a pattern of mine. I will be saying the same thing in Swedish and if it sounds ridiculous there, I will know the same goes in English. The problem for people like myself who use English as their second language, is that most things, in our ears, sound really good in English. Whether or not it is good practise to use some expressions, they still sound so much better in English than in Swedish.
There were some grammar mistakes in the lyrics too, which is quite embarrassing. Especially surprising was the fact that no one before this evaluation had picked up and commented on my using the word “weary” when I meant “dreary”. The weather, which I was talking about, can’t be weary. Still, no one around me or any one judging in various competitions had commented on what to me is a serious mistake. I know some grammar issues are allowed to fall under the famous “poetic rights rule” and be accepted, but the use of the wrong word with a totally different meaning is not one of those.
Yesterday I wrote a new version of the lyrics in question, as suggested. I have added a bridge, to put more meat on the bones of the story, and I have changed a few clichés. I have shown you the original version before, in a blog I called Ideas https://asasfingerprints.blog/2018/02/28/ideas/  but I will put it in again so you can compare and see what changes I made. I have to say it is much easier changing the lyric if I have the melody. Without music I seem to be stuck in the tempo of the words and it is harder to find fresh ways of expressing something. Anyway, here are the two versions.
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

Åsa
Alone (Semi-finalist in UKSC 2016)
The cold, empty feeling
when something is gone.
Too late to start over,
too soon to move on.

The joy of our meetings
has faded away.
If I’d seen it happen,
I’d asked it to stay.

Chorus
It feels like I’m standing
in the eye of the storm.
It’s cold and it’s weary,
I’m too numb to keep warm.
’cause deep down I know that it’s over,
and I’m all alone once again.

I miss being quiet
with you by my side.
Show weakness and sadness,
forget about pride.

To laugh about nothing,
to know what you think.
It’s all in the past now,
it went in a blink.

Chorus
©Åsa Sandberg 2016

 

ALONE (New version)

My life, as I knew it,
is suddenly gone.
Too late to start over,
too soon to move on.

The fun, happy moments
have faded away.
If I’d seen this coming,
I’d have tried to delay.

Chorus
It feels like I’m walking,
with no coat in a storm.
It’s cold and it’s dreary,
I’m too numb to keep warm.
’cause deep down I know that it’s over,
and I’m all alone once again.

I miss being quiet
with you by my side.
To show weakness and sadness,
forget about pride.

To laugh about nothing,
to know what you think.
It’s all in the past now,
it went in a blink.

Bridge
A few months from now, your new name will be dad.
You told me last night, with a “please don’t be mad”.
It should have been us, I should have been the mum.
We hoped for so long, but now our end has come.

REPEAT CHORUS

©2016/2018 Åsa Sandberg

 

 

Pure joy

In my opinion, one of the biggest gifts I can be given in this world is when I hear a new song for the very first time and I realise it’s got absolutely everything I need from a song to make it a favourite. It becomes one of those pearls to put in to my private jewellery box of brilliant songs.

These gifts are quite rare these days, which is why they are so special when they appear. For those of you that have seen or heard about the Graham Norton Show, a talk show on BBC, Roger Daltrey (The Who) was one of the guests last week and he preformed his new single “As long as I have you” on the show. The performance totally absorbed me from the word go when I saw it last night. The band was out of this world, Roger’s voice is amazing, even more so considering he is not a sprig chicken anymore.  Maybe the lyrics didn’t reach any NEW poetic depts, but they were amazingly perfect, and they stuck immediately.

I don’t know if it’s possible, but I think I dreamt in the tempo of the song last night. If so, it must have been happy dreams, because it is a happy song. What I’m certain of is that the song was the first thing on my mind when I woke up and I just had to put it on immediately. I am still totally absorbed by the song and it has been playing on repeat a lot of the morning.

Thinking back, the last time a song hit me this hard was when I heard Adel’s “Rolling in The Deep” for the first time back in 2011. Then I actually started to cry of joy when hearing it for the very first time, because in my opinion it was THAT good, and it is still a very bright shining pearl in that jewellery box of mine.

I sometimes wonder if I’m normal or very, very abnormal when it comes to how I react to music, or what music makes me do. A really good song with certain elements built into it can totally take over my life for a while. One example happened in 1987, when it comes to doing silly things. This was way before the time of smart phones or computers for personal use. Instead it was during the days of MTV and thanks to that the golden days of music videos. Back then I was studying to become a Pre-school teacher and had rented a flat 3 km from the university. One evening I saw the video of the Bee Gees “You Win Again” for the first time on my parents old black and white telly that I had borrowed so that I had a telly in my flat. Again, this was a song I absolutely adored, and I soon figured out at what times the video was playing on a certain MTV show. One of those times was around midday, and for a while I cycled the 3 km home every day around 12 noon, just so I could listen to the song. Granted, it was around lunch time, with a fairly long break from lessons, and I wasn’t that keen on my studies anyway; still, it was quite extreme!  However, it was something I just had to do. There was some kind of hidden life force in the music that I needed to absorb the same way some people need to absorb various vitamins to feel better and more alive.

It is only while writing this that I, to my utter surprise, have notice that my three music examples are very closely related. Especially when it comes to the tempo and the drums.

As a new blogger, when it comes to blogging in a more serious and regular way, I try to follow hints and tips on how to be more successful. One of the things I have learned is that adding a lot of links to various pages in a blog, actually detracts readers, rather than pull them towards your site. I’ve also learned that it is very rare that someone actually click on the links recommended. 

Anyhow, since I am writing about lyric writing and music it is very hard not to link to various songs I am writing about. Therefore, I am going to include links to the three songs I’ve been talking about today as an example to show how similar the drums and the tempo are in the three songs. I’m putting these at the end of the blog.

Music is magical, and it can do magical things to the listener. Having realised the similarities in the drum beat in three personal favourites of mine through the decades, I’m starting to wonder if that precise beat possibly is emulating the beat and tempo of my soul’s unique life force? Who knows?

Take care until next time and happy writing!

Åsa

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmotaD4kILY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2QKLemuiik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xviuC-0FwQ0

 

Free at last

In my opinion, I am sitting in a very enviable place right now. I’ve been given the music for the last of the three peace anthems for choirs that I am writing together with Fredrik Holm. It is so much fun writing lyrics to music. To have the pleasure to do precisely that in front of me once again, feels amazing.
At least now I know how lucky I am. In other situations, I haven’t always been aware of how very special something is. For instance, I would like to go back in time to have the pleasure to read all the Harry Potter books again for the first time, and this time really treasure the moment of getting to know that magical world for the first time. The same goes for the TV-series “24”. I would give anything to be able to go back and watch the first four of those series again for the very first time. I can’t say, I didn’t appreciate how good that series was the first time around, but it is so rare that something comes along, that is so good it would be nice to relive the feeling and experience.
I got the music to this, final, peace anthem a couple of days ago. With the two others, the titles came to me the first time I listened to the melodies. Because it’s been a while since the last one, I didn’t know if the same thing would happen again, or if I would struggle. Luckily, I was able to feel that special joy when the words just appeared. “Free at last”, is what this third part is going to be called. The first one, which I shared with you a while back in the blog post “What counts as success” https://asasfingerprints.blog/2018/03/19/what-counts-as-success/ is called “It’s time”, and the title of the second one is “So alike”.
My process, when setting words to music is to listen to the music once to see if some words or a sentence comes to mind immediately. If they do, I have a couple of days when I listen to the music just to get to know the melody really well and without making any more writing attempts. I just listen and keep the words I initially got, when hearing the melody for the first time in my mind, so that my subconscious can come up with a story around those words. (I really love writing lyrics to melodies, instead of just writing lyrics without musical inspiration, so if anyone reading this is sitting on a piece of music in desperate need of words, I am happy to give it a go).
The melody I’ve been given from Fredrik is so very beautiful. It has got a very appealing sensitivity running through it, and at the same time it is very strong. I will have to match those opposites in my choice of lyrics, which will be a wonderful challenge.
I feel it would be a bit unfair to talk anymore about this precise project at this point in time, since I’m not sharing the music or any more of the lyrics with you right now. Instead I would like to say a few words about a Swedish legend within the entertainment business that sadly passed away very recently.
Jerry Williams was a Swedish singer and actor. Personally, I will always remember him because he stayed true to his art. During over five decades on stage he stuck to rock and roll, blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a black leather coat. He had his own unique style and he never disappointed his audience and fans. Off stage he lived a very private life with his family. Jerry Williams sadly lost a short battle with cancer on the 25 of March this year.
When I heard the news of Jerry William’s passing I commented on it like this on Facebook;
“I can still remember how happy I felt when I heard this song for the first time. It reminded me of summer, sun, warm weather, ice cream, sea, sand and most things that are positive and happy. The fact that I still can remember that joy and feel it again today, almost 30 years after the song was released, means that Jerry Williams did the right thing with his life if anyone was wondering. Thank you so much Jerry, for all your happy rock n’ roll songs, plus the more serious ones too. R.I.P.”
This is the song I was talking about.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OxwhClCx0o

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Enjoy each walk

I had a conversation about dogs and puppies at work yesterday, because my colleague’s daughter had got a 6-week-old pup. I don’t know how many of you reading this are dog people, but bear with me, there is a point to my story.
Three years ago, I got Columbo, a black Cockapoo puppy. I was brought up with cats and have had cats around me all my life, but something inside me had always told me that one day I would be a dog owner too, I was just waiting “for the right time”. Well, there is no such thing as the right time, so in January 2015, I decided to welcome Columbo as a family member.

2017-03-26 17.06.06
Columbo has made paw prints on my heart.

Little kittens are house clean and independent at 7 weeks old, so having a puppy was a shock to my system. Realising that it would take at least 6 months of my life in almost 24/7 “Columbo-mode”, I’m ashamed to say that at one point it made me regret my decision to get a dog. Today I am so grateful I persevered because I cannot imagine life without Columbo anymore, and I am so grateful that Cockapoos have a very long life expectancy. Obviously, life never gives you any guarantees, but chances are that Columbo and I can still enjoy many years together.

 
However, this background story brings me to one special day when a song lyric came to me from a very unexpected place. I went to the vets for Columbo’s first jabs. As we drove up to the vets, a lady who was parked next to us was helping a very old dog out of her car. The dog was walking very slowly, and I waited to help the lady with the door. Well inside, we both sat down in the waiting area. Columbo, being only a few months old was very eager to talk to this old dog and the lady’s eyes teared up as she said that it felt like only yesterday when her dog was a pup. Then she told me that this visit may be the last one for her dog but if not, they were talking days or weeks, not months.

2016-09-12 13.26.38
Columbo, enjoying his walk.

The old dog was lying down on the floor very calmly. It had such wise, old eyes and I think it knew it was time to go and had accepted that fact, but the dog was prepared to wait for its owner to accept it too. Columbo was very curious, but at the same time I sensed he felt something “bigger” was going on and for a while he was just sitting by the side of his new, very old friend.

 
After a while we were called in for our appointment, and when we came out again the lady and the old dog weren’t there anymore, so I don’t know if they got anymore time together or not.

 
This visit to the vet was a very powerful experience for me in many ways. I felt so sorry for the lady and I felt a great love for the old, wise dog. In some stupid way I also felt guilty that I had a brand-new pup and had Columbo’s whole life ahead of me, while the lady was at the end of her dog’s life. This was especially true as, at that particular time, I didn’t appreciate Columbo as much as I should have. The bond wasn’t there yet.

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If possible, the bond still grows stronger every day.

Being such a powerful and emotional experience, it obviously stayed with me. And it didn’t take long before I knew I would have to transform the experience and my emotions into a song lyric. I chose to give the old, wise dog the lead role in the song, and give Columbo a lesson born out of the wisdom only a long life can give via the chorus. I called the song “Enjoy each walk” and there is one sentence in the chorus that still brings a lump to my throat, because I so often fail miserably, when it comes to remembering this important piece of advice;

 
“Eat every treat life lets you have,
don’t ever feel they’re plain.”

 
I don’t always remember to appreciate the little treats life constantly gives me, because I am too busy trying to make a living for myself, my mind is on tomorrow’s problems, or I take out worries in advance. Because of all this, I forget to stop and be thankful for being alive, breathing and being able to listen to the birds or to feel the warm sun in my face at the precise moment that I actually have been given.

 
The lump in my throat is also there, because thanks to Columbo, my lovely, black four-legged friend that I almost rejected, I have started to see so much more of life’s tiny, special treats. Columbo has probably taught me more about what is important in life than anyone else, and even better: – he has taught me what isn’t important at all. I have mellowed an awful lot in the three years I’ve had the privilege to share my life with Columbo.

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Columbo resting after an enjoyable walk on the beach.

“Enjoy each walk” shares the place with 7 other lyrics of mine that, so far in my lyric writing career, have scored the highest points in various competitions. Fredrik Holm made the lyrics into a song and I will share an early demo of that song with you here today if you feel like listening.

Take care until next time, and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Enjoy each walk 

They met up at the vets one day,

the pup and the old hound.

For one the days were fresh and new,

and one was homeward bound.

The old hound’s legs had walked their miles

they couldn’t do no more.

While waiting for his last goodbye

he laid down on the floor.

 

The pup sat down beside the hound

to say; come play with me.

But something stopped him in his tracks,

not sure of how to be.

The hound looked up towards the pup,

his eyes were calm and wise.

It’s all ok, just sit with me,

I’ll give you some advice.

 

Chorus

Remember to enjoy each walk,

in sunshine and in rain.

Eat every treat life lets you have,

don’t ever feel they’re plain.

Yes, chase the cats, it is a thrill,

but do it with a smile.

Be kind to all that is around,

it only lasts a while.

Life only lasts a while.

 

The time had come for that old hound,

to leave this earth for good.

The pup went on to live his life,

in time he understood.

The hound lived on inside his mind

through lessons learned one day,

when that small pup took time to sit

and help a soul away.

 

Chorus

©Åsa Sandberg 2015

 

Best laid plans…

Whichever way I look at my situation as an unsigned lyric writer, I can’t get around the fact that competitions seem to be my best chance to get noticed. I try to silence the cynical little voice inside me that reminds me of the fact that most judges in many of the competitions seem to be people that have been very influential within the music business a few decades ago, but maybe don’t have their finger on the pulse as much anymore. Another time I try to ignore the same voice, is when it asks me “when has any newspaper or radio station ever have had a clue what I’m talking about, when mentioning competitions that have been around for a very long time now?” A third time I try not to listen to this tenacious voice of mine, is when I look up people that have won any of these competitions to see what they are doing now and how much their lives changed after winning.

 
I’m not so stupid that I don’t realise that there probably is a lot of truth in what the cynical side of me is thinking. Even so, for me, competitions seem to be the easiest way to find connections and get feedback from people working inside the business. If the day would come when something I have written would get to the final or even win in any of these places, I would at least have some sort of success to my name to put on my website, thanks to the competitions. That can’t hurt.! Another very important side to taking part in competitions is that I find other people in the same boat as myself. Since I don’t write music personally, I need to find talented composers, and I know these can be found among fellow competitors.

 
Having taken part in competitions for a few years now, you can’t blame a girl for trying to guess what the judges want. One year, the majority of winners in one particular competition seemed to be very patriotic and with religious undertones. This is not my way of writing at all, but I figured that if that is what is needed I will attempt a lyric with both patriotic and religious vibes.

 
I should really be ashamed of myself for how this particular lyric came about because it started as a joke. I planned to fill my lyric with well known phrases and lame rhymes and see where it would get me.

 
Strangely enough, it only took me one verse, before anything cynical was washed out of my mind and I started to think about the words I was putting down on my paper. I started to think about the world we live in and how many families who have to live the life I was describing. The lyrics may have come about for all the wrong reasons with me starting my writing in a very strange frame of mind, but I promise you, when I had finally finished writing it I sent a silent and very heartfelt thank you to all our young men posted in various countries to keep the life we know safe. I sent an equally big thank you to all the young men that have made the ultimate sacrifice through the years for the very same reason.

 
This particular lyric taught me a lesson that had nothing to do with lyric writing, but a lot to do with respect and I will never forget it. (Words are powerful). I got to the semi-final stage with these lyrics in one competition. The judges in the competition I wrote it for didn’t like it that much. I remember one thing that was said, was that my chorus was too long with a bit of over kill when it came to get my message through. They didn’t like my title and hook either, which I can understand. It is one of my stranger ones. I called it “Tomorrow at home today”. So, my attempt didn’t go to plan, but I taught myself a very valuable lesson, and I will always think about these lyrics with fondness.

 
I put in the early demo that has been made of the song. Fredrik Holm has written the music.
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

Åsa

 

Tomorrow at home today 

She was holding his hand as tight as she could,
but she knew that she’d have to let go.
She followed his steps down the friendly, old road,
when he waved her tears started to flow.

He had polished his boots a long time last night,
he was serving his country with pride.
But leaving for work was much harder this time,
because now he was leaving his bride.

Chorus 1
Out in the desert, protecting us all
from dangers so hard to take in.
Doing his duty, from spring into fall,
still failing to see who could win.
Missing his wife and new baby to come,
but knowing he had to stay.
He spoke to a God he hoped would be there,
the time that was his time to pray.
God, if you’re there and can hear me right now:
Let tomorrow at home come today!
Please let tomorrow at home come today!

She was stroking his hair for just one last time,
and she felt they’d both died in that blow.
But she followed his soul as it left the room,
he’d seen his son before letting go.

She was hugging the flag honouring her man,
as tightly as she possibly could.
Trying to explain to her God up above,
needing to be understood;
He was;

Chorus 2
Out in the desert, protecting us all
from dangers, so hard to take in.
Doing his duty, from spring into fall,
still failing to see who could win.
Now he’s with you, and we’re here on our own,
I’m wondering if there’s a way?
Our son needs his dad and I need my man,
could you show us a way to pray?
God, if you’re there and can hear us right now:
Let tomorrow at home come today!
Please, let tomorrow at home be today!

© Åsa Sandberg 2016

 

 

Progress

The results of last year’s Great American Song Contest (GASC) came through over the weekend. GASC has a different system to, for instance, the UK version of the competition. They don’t have semi-final placements at all. There are 11 winners, one per category, and 100 finalists spread between the categories. This year there were around 1800 people from all over the world entering. Most people enter multiple songs, so a modest estimate would be that they had a minimum of 5500 entries.

I kept it very modest last year, with only two entries. I entered “Before” the song I wrote together with Simon Finn into the “Adult Contemporary” category. (You can listen to the song to the right on this page, under the title “My aim with this blog”). I also entered a lyric called “Said and Done” that I wrote about in a blog a few weeks ago.

https://asasfingerprints.blog/2018/03/07/opinions/

None of my entries reached the final, but when the evaluations came through I could see some progress. If GASC would have semi-final placements the same way as UKSC does, both entries would have made it to that stage. They both averaged a score around 7.5, which isn’t bad. This is what the evaluation sheet says about the rating system;

“Judges rate the components of each song on a scale from 1 to 10. A rating of ‘1’ suggests a need for major improvement, ‘5’ is average and a rating of ‘10’ signifies excellence.”

Considering another evaluation, I got for “Said and Done” in America, I was very pleased with this one. This is what the judges said;

“There’s a potentially powerful message in this lyric, but it needs to be clearly communicated and well-focused. The singer’s inner musings could apply to his personal dilemma – or to terror in the modern world. When the singer says “…this war can still be won…” what is the intended reference? The idea here is compelling but needs additional development. Two verses and a chorus seem too basic to effectively communicate the meaning. Try adding a bridge section to bolster the song’s power. Keep working on this one!”

I have decided to change the lyrics, so that it is clear to everyone that I am talking about the terror in the world. The hints I’m getting from both GASC and UKSC are that this song lyric is very close to becoming really good, so I would be stupid not to take their advice and make the structure more focused. A bridge and a few tweaks in the lyrics that are already there, could perhaps give me that sought after final place in this year’s competitions.

What makes me really happy is that I was given 8 points for “Imagery/poetics” and “Originality” for both my entries. Those are the areas of my writing into which I always put a lot of conscious effort. What I have to start to remember is not to let that effort cost me in other areas that are just as important.

I liked the encouraging comment ending the evaluation of “Before”. It said; “Keep writing and learning the craft.”

That is exactly what this year is about. Learning the craft and listening to constructive criticism and take on board the parts where I know I need to do better.

Take care until next time and happy writing!

Åsa