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

 

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The perfect day

This morning the world welcomed me to another warm and beautiful summer’s day. Since I absolutely adore sunny and warm days, it isn’t a huge leap to feel the urge to put down on paper something lyrical about this glorious season. The only problem is, very many people have had the same thought and done it very well so how on earth do I go about writing a beautiful song about summer in a new way?

When having had lyrics evaluated, I’ve learned that originality and new ways of writing about an old, well known subject is something that gives the lyrics higher rating. Somehow fortunately, this is one area where I tend to do well. I never consciously set out to be different, but somehow my lyrics seem to end up a bit outside the box. Still, I can’t see how I could write a summer song in an original way.

Therefore, I have decided to give myself a challenge through a little exercise I use and while I’m at it I decided to share the process with you. I will write down a very typical four-line verse and then try to rewrite the same verse three times, to see if I can make it appear original in some shape or form.

OK, what do I want to say;

The perfect day
The seagulls woke me at 5 AM.
Not one cloud, could be seen in the sky.
The scent of the lilacs filled the air.
It was hazy, very warm and dry.

Well, I hadn’t prepared this. I am writing “live” so to speak, and I have now changed my mind. I don’t want to change the first verse at this moment in time, instead I will change the exercise and try and write a simple summer song about simple things. Therefore, I will now continue with verse two.

The kettle had boiled, I’d fed the cats,
I took my cup and a book outside.
The sound of the early morning train,
echoed softly down the street and died.

I will wait a while with the chorus and go straight to the next verse. But before I do I need to decide whether to stay in the small timeframe of this perfect morning or make the timeframe bigger to make room for a verse about the afternoon. My only reason for wanting to step into the afternoon is because I have a sentence about ice cream I really would like to finally use, but if I write about ice cream in a time frame only including breakfast, most people will find it strange and that is not the kind of “original” I’m after.
So, I took a five-minute break and while doing so the chorus decided to present itself in my mind. So here is the chorus;

Chorus
It was a perfect day!
Filled with wonders and sensations
of a special kind.
A perfect day!
One where nothing bad could reach me,
it was left behind.
A perfect day!
One to keep inside my memory
and easy to find.
It was a perfect day!

 

Thanks to letting the chorus talk about the day and not only the morning, I can now happily move on to the afternoon.

To cool off I took my dog swimming.
Met some strangers and talked for a while.
Then a friend turned up on the door step.
With fresh strawberries, cream and a smile.

Sometimes you don’t know what works before you try it out. My fancy sentence about ice-cram didn’t work at all, so now I can let that one go. I will give this perfect day an ending in a fourth verse and then we’ll see if it all works.

The warmth of the sun never left us.
The day I never wanted to end.
A cool glass of wine made it perfect.
A good day among pets and a friend.

I think I leave it there for now. I will ponder over the need of a bridge in the lyric at some point. This wasn’t my normal way to write a blog, but I went with the flow and showed you one of my methods when writing song lyrics. I assume it is safe to say it hardly ever goes as planned. I will collect all the pieces now to be able to look at it as a whole.

The perfect day
The seagulls woke me at 5 AM.
Not one cloud, could be seen in the sky.
The scent of the lilacs filled the air.
It was hazy, very warm and dry.

The kettle had boiled, I’d fed the cats,
I took my cup and a book outside.
The sound of the early morning train,
echoed softly down the street and died.

Chorus
It was a perfect day!
Filled with wonders and sensations
of a special kind.
A perfect day!
One where nothing bad could reach me,
it was left behind.
A perfect day!
One to keep inside my memory
and easy to find.
It was a perfect day!

To cool off I took my dog swimming.
Met some strangers and talked for a while.
Then a friend turned up on the door step.
With fresh strawberries, cream and a smile.

The warmth of the sun never left us.
The day I never wanted to end.
A cool glass of wine made it perfect.
A good day among pets and a friend.

Chorus
©2018 Åsa Sandberg

Well, the end result may not be original in any shape or form, but it was a good writing exercise on a day that has been the most beautiful day of the year so far.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

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

Finding Avenues to Grow

I’ve known for a while now that I’ve come as far as I can on my own with my lyric writing. Yes, listening to critics and reading evaluations has helped a lot. If nothing else, those avenues have shown me where my specific weaknesses lies, and they have also given me enough encouragement to be able to strengthen my belief that I’m not wasting my time in my pursuit of writing descent song lyrics. Still, descent isn’t quite the level I want to remain at. I would like to get to a place where it is possible to create something that is good.

 
After having tried to follow suggestions from evaluations and still having new evaluations coming back pointing out my old mistakes, I’ve known I need to look for help through some sort of course or education. The problem is that there are many people out there who, without any shame, like to use “wanna bees” to fill their pockets. People that shower praise and promises over unsigned musicians and lyric writers with a dream, but who give very little substantial help in return for their big fees. Luckily, I have finally grown wise to that kind of “help”. There are obviously serious people out there too, and they offer genuine opportunities to learn from their hard-earned knowledge. The problem is that these courses very often come with a price tag that is way beyond my wallet.

 
Yesterday lady luck knocked on my door, and I found a course that was within reach for what I felt I could invest, to get another couple of steps up the ladder from descent towards good. At first I was worried that the offer was one of those that says one price in the first instance, but as soon as you have paid that, instead of being taken to the product you thought you bought, you are redirected to a new page telling you that to get all that you were just promised, you have to pay for this too etc. To my utter joy, this course wasn’t one of those. It was the real deal. Furthermore, it came with a 60 day money back guarantee if I, for some reason, wouldn’t like the course. This was a very good guarantee indeed, since I will easily have time to get through the course within that time span. So, if I was that way inclined, I could have the cake and eat it. As it happens, I am not that way inclined. I have already had a quick look at one of the modules, and from that glance, I have been given the help needed to start to rectify the weakness in my lyric writing which has been pointed out to me time and time again.

 
What made me trust the person that has created this course even more, was that the first thing he did was to recommend someone else’s book as the best thing to read if I want to improve my lyric writing skills. That book was only a few pounds in e-book format, so I have now added that one too.

 
When I have worked myself through all the modules of this course and if it continues to be as useful as it promises to be after a first glance, I will be happy to recommend it, because it is sold at a price manageable for most people, which is the aim of creator of the course. The same goes for the book. So, watch this space!

 
Today, I’m going to leave you with a pearl of a song by MeatLoaf, featuring Marion Raven, with music and lyrics by the brilliant Jim Steinman. It is difficult to choose just one song from these gentlemen’s collaboration, but today I will pick a song that has been recorded by many artists, but I still really prefer MeatLoaf’s version. The song is “It’s all coming back to me now”. There is a specific line of that song that resonates so well with how I think when I look back at my life; “There were things I’d never do again, but then they’d always seem right.” Oh well, I suppose that is how it should be.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

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

 

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

 

 

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