I’m in the semis!

The “mid-term” results from UK songwriting Contest (UKSC) are now starting to drip through. I have had the judge’s decision on three out of my five entries into the first session. My lyric called “Destiny Calling” which was given the best evaluation I’ve ever had from SongDoor, did not get through to the semis. That didn’t surprise me, because so far, the judges at UKSC and the evaluation team at SongDoor have always been sitting on opposite sides of the fence. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Instead it is almost comforting that this difference of opinion continues.

 
My collaboration together with Fredrik Holm; – the song “Alone” in the jazz and blues category, didn’t go any further either. Well it will, just like “Destiny calling”, be considered for the lower prices, which are “Special mention award”, “Higher commended award”, or “Commended award”, but however nice that is, anything below a semi-final place really means that the entry has come to the end of the line in this year’s competition.

 
The third entry of mine that already has been seen by the judges is the lyrics to “Alone” that I entered into the “Lyric only” category and I am very pleased to announce that it has been given a place in the semi-finals and still lives on in the competition. The strange thing is that it wasn’t the version of the lyrics I was going to enter. I made a rooky mistake with both the song version and the lyric version of “Alone” and entered an earlier one where I still hadn’t made my final correction. Since I’m in the semis with this version I suppose I could leave it, but I also know that my final version is flowing much better, so I will enter both the song and the lyrics again for the autumn session. If I don’t I will always wonder “what if”.

 
I’m still waiting for the results of a “Lyrics only” entry I’ve called “Sad to waste it” and a song collaboration, again with Fredrik Holm as the composer, entered in the “Open category” called “Mad World”. I did enter an earlier version of “Mad World” in the “Lyrics only” category in 2015 and it was given a semi-final place. Since then I have refurbished the chorus and changed the verses a bit and added a bridge. I will enter the new version of the lyrics into the competition before the deadline on 30 September, but I thought I’d wait and see what happens to the song first. The song is a bit different, so I’m pleased that UKSC have an open category these days. It gives songs that fall between the standard categories a chance.

 
I will share “Mad World” with you, both the lyrics and the demo of the song, while I’m waiting for the results. Hopefully it will inspire some of you, who are still sitting on the fence about entering your lyrics or music into the competition, to actually enter. Writing lyrics can be a lonely thing to try and make a living out of, so finding places to talk to other, likeminded people can help to keep the motivation going. Competitions are one of those places where you can do just that, and you may also be lucky enough to find collaborators, if you, like me, don’t write music or if you are a musician that prefer not to write your own lyrics.

 

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

 

Åsa

 

Mad world
I’m scared of being sued
and sick of getting screwed.
The world is going mad
and everybody’s blinking rude!

Chorus
Mad world, Bad world,
most of all a Sad world!
Where can I get off?
Rough world, Tough world
Through and through a Bluff world.
When can I get off?

I wonder why I’m here
when all I sense is fear.
I hate to feel alone
but know the cost of getting near.

Repeat Chorus

Bridge
I know that I’m moaning.
So, what! Don’t we all.
It’s my way of coping,
fight back when I fall.
Repeat Chorus

I’m tired and I’m worn,
regret that I was born.
I need a new way out,
‘cause deep inside I feel so torn.

REPEAT CHORUS x2
©2014/2018 Åsa Sandberg

 

Advertisements

At peace with the journey

Two days ago, I entered into the UK Sonwriting contest one additional lyric and one song where I have collaborated with a composer, making the tally to the first part of the competition three new lyrics and two song collaborations.

 
I mentioned this on UKSCs Facebook page and another competitor that I “talked” to quite a lot last year via the same FB page, asked me how I had been doing since last years results and if my musical dreams had come true? When answering, I got very surprised over what I said, but it is in a happy way. This is what I said: “I feel I am on the right track when it comes to my lyric writing and I’m at peace with the journey!

 
I’m at peace with the journey! How incredible is that! I think I will allow myself a pat on the back for being able to say that and mean it!

 
I suppose you could ask me if I suddenly have lost all my aspirations? If what I want for myself in this creative job has faded? No, is the answer to both those questions. I still burn for the day when I once again get a result I personally can look at as a successful one,. I still want to be able to earn money from writing lyrics, but what I have learned is that those dreams won’t be handed to me on a silver plate from the outside. At least not until I have done the legwork and completed my inside journey and, in all honesty, can say that I have done everything in my power to become as good a writer as I can be.
The reason I’m at peace with my journey is that I am working on becoming better as often and as much as possible. I know I have a few miles to go yet, but I have also travelled a few miles already and done a lot of learning lately. If my efforts so far are rewarded with good marks in the competitions this year, I will be very happy, but the best thing is that I have no expectations what so ever.

 
I think I got a bit spoilt in 2015 when I scooped home 8 semi-final places from UKSC. I thought lyric writing was easy, and the next two years I expected the results to mirror my debut year, especially since I did exactly the same thing. Well, so much is wrong with my last two statements. Firstly; -lyric writing is not easy. Not if I want to aim for good lyrics. Secondly; – I did exactly the same thing! How arrogant and ignorant was that? I never bothered to learn anything new. I thought that I, out of the blue had got the perfect formula for lyric writing and kept hammering down lyric after lyric out of the same old mould. Thank goodness I’ve had some sense knocked into me since then.

 
Another thing has also happened since the UKSC competition 2015. The judges have raised the bar. If I were to enter the lyrics I entered in 2015 again this year, I can’t see many of them making the semis. This doesn’t take anything away from either my lyrics or the 2015 competition. I played in a playing field where all were judged by the same standards, on which ever level the standard was that year, and among those entries mine were thought of as good enough to get awarded 8 semi final places. My mistake the following years was that the competition moved on to new heights and I didn’t.

 
Still, I hadn’t realised that I was feeling as good as I was about where I’m at with my writing, until I was asked the question. I’m sure, a year from now, my goal will be on a higher level, if I can continue to see and feel development, but for now it is all good!
I am obviously very curious about how my entries to this first part of the UKSC will be received, and I can’t wait to find out within the next week or so, but it is a wonderful feeling not to have any expectations what so ever. It gives me a great feeling of harmony from where I can continue my journey.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Fed up of social media

I know my headline may be a strange one for a blog that is supposed to be about song-lyrics, music and writing, but sadly there is no getting away from the effects of social media anywhere today. Whether I want to or not, the constant reminders and fleeting comments about how “you can’t make it without social media today”, strikes a fear in me and I somehow feel I will be left behind even more than I am today if I don’t develop my social media pages, and also increase the number of platforms I’m using.

 
My problem is that I am so bored with and fed up by everything that has to do with social media. I am getting to the end of a social media marketing course that, admittedly, has been fairly interesting, however I have also realised that it is not relevant for me and my situation. It doesn’t matter how many collaborators I could lure to my, at the moment, non-existing website via clever tweets or wonderful Instagram pictures of my cats, dog or the local nature. I really don’t have enough success stories behind me to keep someone interested of my lyric writing, as things are today. Why would I then waste time writing clever tweets or come up with the right hashtags and also the right number of hashtags to my Instagram pictures? I’ve learned through my social media course that 13 hashtags per Instagram picture gives the optimal number of clicks to my picture.

 

Personally, I find it a horrendous waste of time figuring out 13 different hashtags to every picture. Especially since I don’t think 17 semi-final places in UK songwriting contest and one good placement in the SongDoor competition will make that many composers believe in my potential. In my experience most people looking for collaborators are searching for someone that already has had more success than themselves, or is showing more potential.

 
This social media course is also telling me that the worst thing I can do on my FB business page is to sell. Instead I am supposed to build up a relationship with my followers and make them trust me via my organic posts. If I advertise, that has to be done in a clever way too, so that people don’t think that I am advertising. I’m supposed to do it via a “Click to action” advert. “Like this”, Click here”, etc. that then takes the person clicking on my link to my website or wherever I want to take them.

 
Since the FB algorithm recently changed and only 1% of my followers on my business site will actually see my organic posts, it seems like a terrible waste of time to spend energy trying to build up a relationship in that way. My normal FB page looks more and more like a dumping place for all the junk mail that use to come through the letterbox. At least I had the choice to put a notice on my mailbox opting out from receiving junk mail but getting rid of the constant flow of adverts on FB would be a fulltime occupation.
Yesterday evening I watched the programme “Panorama” and an episode called Smartphones: The dark side. All I have sort of known about how we are manipulated to spend more and more time on our phones through the pings when someone is messaging us and the red colour on the number of messages we have, made me feel both stupid and angry. All companies crating various apps and social media platforms have people working for them who are well educated in how to control people’s minds. They know exactly which buttons to press, pardon the pun, to make us spend more and more time on various pages, – all this so that they can show a growth in their quarterly financial report and keep their sponsors happy to invest in them again.

 
One of the app developers even showed that he kept his smartphone in monochrome colours, to prevent some of the addiction the use of our smart phones creates via colours carefully chosen by developers to make our brains behave in a certain way.

 
Mark Zuckerberg, creator and CEO of Facebook, today “owns” two third of the worlds population, because that is now how many of us who have a FB account. These days he also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. He maintains that social media is good for us, because connecting with people is a good thing. Is it only me that feels like no one is connecting with anyone anymore? Not for real. IRL (in real life) has to be added these days, if we say we have been talking to someone, because most people think that “talking” mean chatting or facetime or anything but real life. The space awareness on the streets has become ridiculous. No one looks where they walk anymore, because the street isn’t where people are at, even when walking. They are in what ever world they have chosen on their phones whilst getting from point A to point B. It infuriates me, when I have to shout out “be careful”, watch out” or “excuse me” numerous times when I am walking my dog, because people are about to walk in to me or have stopped in the middle of the street to check out a bit more carefully something on their phone. And these “drones” don’t even say excuse me anymore, because they are so within their own bubble, that it doesn’t even enter their minds that being polite “in real life” still is a good option.

 
From today I will take away FB and Instagram from my phone. I only check them by habit anyway and take part in the conversation less and less. I would cancel my accounts, and it still may come to that, but the fear of getting left behind is sitting there, nagging me. Therefore, I will do the next best thing and only give myself access to these platforms when I’m on my PC.

 
I can’t help but draw parallels between “The Borg” in Star Trek and FB. “We are Borg. We will assimilate you. Resistance is futile.” While I still can, I will refuse to become a drone and a slave to the way FB and other big platforms want me to think. It may be an illusion, but I choose to evoke my right of free choice!

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Kill your darlings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

What is your favourite story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 
In “The Gambler” the first two lines are;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

How to fight negativity

Believe it or not, but I was born with a very positive outlook on life. For a long time, I thought that telling people when something good had happened would make them just as happy. Oh, bless my little cotton socks, how naïve was I? Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I’m a persistent individual. It took a long time before I started to keep my good news to myself after having had my happy face slapped one time too many.

 
There are very few people that can take good news that doesn’t include themselves and be genuinely happy about someone else’s success. Sad but true. The little green-eyed monster called jealousy lives nearby for most of us.

 
I’ve noticed that sometimes all it takes to annoy someone is to look happy. I don’t even have to open my mouth. If I have a day where I can’t stop my inner happiness shining through my eyes; this can be enough to really frustrate someone. So, how can we fight negativity? Personally, I try to ignore it as much as possible and tell myself it isn’t my problem. A person that can’t stand happiness or be happy for someone else must live a very unhappy life, so the best thing is to leave them to stew in their bitterness and continue on with my own journey.

 
Sometimes this is easier said than done though. For instance, only yesterday I got a very acidic comment about something I’ve written. It was about my lyric writing. I had written about how learning my craft has help me improve my writing this year and the comment from this person said, among other things, that they had never tried to write what others might want to hear. In the end they said that they never have had any kind of success either, but they preferred that than writing to please others. Anyway, the whole thing was said in a way that made it clear that this person felt I had sacrificed my integrity to become successful.

 
For a moment that comment hurt a bit. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I don’t sacrifice my integrity for anything in the world. Yes, I would love to write really successful lyrics, and yes, because of that I have taken various steps to get better. The one thing I wouldn’t do is to write a lyric that doesn’t have anything of my personality in it or that I’m not happy enough to put my signature under as an original lyric from me. In all fairness, if what I’ve been doing this year is to leave my integrity behind to write what I believe to be possible cash cows in rhyme, I’m really not doing a very good job, am I?

 
Any craft out there has got rules. The first thing we’ve got to do in order to get good at something is to learn these rules. It doesn’t’ matter how much talent we have. Without rules we will sooner or later hit a brick wall, where pure talent doesn’t give us the answers needed to get any further. Learning the basics and the theory behind the craft of our choice will help us climb those inevitable walls. They give us a solid foundation to fall back on, and after we become really comfortable among those rules, we can happily start to improvise.

 
If anything, I wish I had taken this truth to heart sooner, instead of spending years shuffling furniture around on a sinking ship, but better late then never. It’s just sad that someone has to take my efforts at getting better as selling out. I have put that hurt behind me now and moved on. Maybe the person writing that comment doesn’t believe in their abilities or are unwilling to put in the effort to improve. Whichever it is, it really isn’t my problem. I will continue my journey, because I know where I’m heading.

 
Sometimes the negativity from an unexpected source is so enormous and takes so much energy that we finally have to cut the ties, so not to drown in the acidic lava constantly floating our way. This happened to me with a close family member that I now haven’t seen or spoken to in five years. If I would have known how peaceful my life would become after that cut, I would have done it much earlier, but when it’s family you tend to hang on much longer than you would for anyone else.

 
Anyhow. I wrote a lyric about my relationship with this person called “I’m a Survivor”. Fredrik Holm composed a big band style melody for it and Tine Sylvest lent her voice to a demo for us. Have a listen if you feel like it.

 
Take care until next time and happy writing!
Åsa

 

I’m a survivor! 
Born the runt of the litter.
Never to be picked.
Heard it far too often,
for the wounds to get licked.
Aimed too high for my talent.
Just moderate at best.
Never had much substance.
To compete with the rest.

Chorus
Suppress me, depress me, as much as you want.
Pardon me, I will continue to reach for the front!
I’m a survivor!
I’m a survivor!
Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
Oh Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
It’s the last key on the chain that mostly opens the door.
I will keep my dreams alive and turn up for so much more!
I’m a survivor!
Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
Oh yeah!
I’m a Survivor!

Chose my own way of living,
just outside the norm.
It woke the green eyed monster,
in those stuck in a form.
Aiming high as a challenge,
all good fun to me.
The stars, a valid option.
Or the top of a tree!

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

Doubts

After a few years of writing it is inevitable that the doubts will creep in. You do your absolute best and you try to get your product noticed in every way you can think of, but nothing pays off. Sometimes it is very hard not to take the rejections personally, because song-lyrics are personal.
Last Christmas, when I got the results from the UK Songwriting Contest, I took it very personally. This time, the wound wasn’t from the rejection of my entries. because no, they weren’t rejected. I had one semi-finalist and the other four just under, but I felt that what I saw as a development in my writing had neither been noticed or appreciated. Instead the results made me feel like I had gone backwards. Not a nice feeling after having really worked hard on my craft. My wounded pride bled so badly that I totally lost faith in my writing skills and stopped appreciating my finished song lyrics stored in various files.
I’m not saying this was all together a bad thing. I admit having been way to possessive about my lyrics but being me, an all or nothing person, I became very close to kicking all my old work into touch and start again or, the other option, quit totally. It was all hanging in the balance for a while.
Looking back at this time with a few months perspective and with the wounds healing, I see it as a good learning curve and something that taught me to take constructive criticism in a way that wasn’t personal. As I showed you last week, I have now even changed one of my lyrics after an evaluation I felt was fair, and I had decided to start to go through all my old lyrics with the intention of making radical changes to most of them.
Then, a couple of days ago, I received a little miracle in the form of an SMS. A person I’ve known for a year now and who’s professional opinion I both respect and trust, wrote to me to tell me to consider carefully the feedback I’m getting from people and make sure I believe in my heart that it is right before starting to make big changes in my lyrics. The SMS also said that my lyrics are impressive and that I have a unique style which is something that is sadly missing in the music industry today.
It is impossible to describe how much that SMS meant as well as the amazing timing of it. It felt like some kind of divine intervention. Yes, I have heard people close to me say similar things before, but even if I obviously respect and trust people very close to me, it is hard to really take in praise from that bunch of people. First of all, they all know me so well that they always know what I mean when writing, because they know my back story. They also have got used to my personal way of expressing myself, so it may sound ok even if it isn’t always grammatically correct. Secondly, they are somehow supposed to think that what I write is good and even if they don’t’ always think that way, they may still say so out of kindness.
To get feedback like I got in that SMS from an unexpected source, with such good timing was amazing. It gave me back my drive and belief in my writing. It made me feel that there actually is room for my kind of writing too, and one day someone is going to want to sing my words, exactly as they are or with a few tweaks.
Talking about my long-suffering friends that never tire of reading my work and always are there for support, I have to say it would be a very lonely journey without their support and feedback. I never take it for granted and I am always grateful that they take time to read my creations.

A very special friend of mine for over thirty years happened to have a big birthday the first year I was writing song-lyrics. I wanted to do something different for that birthday and asked my writing partner at the time, Fredrik Holm, if he would write the music if I wrote some lyrics to my friend for this birthday. Fredrik was happy to do so, and the result became a song called “Safe” (Ulla’s song). It is one of the first lyrics I ever wrote, and I will share it with you today. Tine Sylvest is singing.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Safe (Ulla’s song) (Semi-finalist in UKSC 2015)
I had a violent start
which broke my heart.
It made me scared and shy
and wondering why?
I believed it was me
and wanted to flee.
Kept my dreams deep inside,
and continued to hide.

Chorus
You made me believe it was fine to be me.
I’ve always wondered what it was you could see?
No judgement, just patience, a place I could grow,
rest and recover from life’s every blow.
I was safe!

Bridge
I was hurting and repeated mistakes for years on end
On the surface, my life became so hard to defend.
Many turned their back, gave up and shut their door.
You saw behind the hurt in me and stayed, just like before.
I was safe!

You gave me a voice
and I found a choice.
I’ve left my past behind
clearing my mind.
I have a long way to go
but the strength to say no.
Having you as a friend,
has helped me mend!

Chorus
© 2013 Åsa Sandberg

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