Wednesday, 11 November 2020


 Hey Friends, Brothers, Sisters, who love justice and equality:  I've just had the huge honour of a whole radio programme devoted to my songs being broadcast in my beloved Aotearoa (NZ). Here's the link:

Just wanted to say a bit about songwriting, which, musically, has been my life since I first started writing songs, in about 1964, I think. This isn't meant to be any kind of 'workshop' or anything,  just a bit of insight into what the experience of songwriting is for me.

People will tell you it's a cathartic process and that's very true.  It can be a way of getting stuff off your chest - stuff that's been bothering or haunting you.  In fact it's very true that when you use songwriting to try and express that 'stuff',  the sense of relief when you've actually got a song that has dealt with it -  is very real.  After many years I finally wrote a song about my own origins - or what I knew of them - (some of them are very shrouded) - I felt as though I'd had a massive emotional release, so strong was it. The song in question, although not recorded, is called "In the Mist of '45". I do hope I'll record it one day, at least for posterity.

And that word posterity is important.  Although your songs may not always be biographical in the literal sense, they nevertheless will inevitably feature biographical elements, and those will sometimes only be apparent when you've finished writing the song and sit back, as an observer, and look at it.  It may not be until you look at a larger crossection  of a songwriter's output that you can get a feeling of that "biography", for want of a better expression.

For me, songwriting is a journey of discovery.  Some may be surprised at that - assuming that if you set out on putting your thoughts on a subject into a song, you would know what you were going to end up with.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  What comes into your mind as you're fossicking around for the inspiration, or the idea, or the catalyst that will move the song on, can be truly surprising.  It may be a phrase, or a catchy riff, or a tempting bit of melody, or something you find totally baffling - that makes you say - where on earth did that come from?

It's true that these happenings sometimes come from the instrument you're using, but certainly not always.  In short, it's unpredictable, but don't be surprised if it happens to you - it could even occur in something as simple as when you're trying to think of a rhyme.  The allure of this unpredictability can be quite addictive.

I usually start with some sort of verse or chorus that I've just thought of in my head, because I've often found that  those words, that verse, can suggest a tune or melody to me simply because of their pattern, rhythm, or cadence. 

Just one more thing - be patient.  If it's not working, forget it for a while and go do something else, and come back to it later.  The thing is, you see, that your mind/brain will, without you being aware of it, continue to tussle with the challenge while you're off doing the more mundane things of daily life.  I once wrote a song, called "Daydreaming", while I was hoovering the living room.  Some activities seem to require so little concentration that there's room for your mind to do all sorts of thinking about something that's occupying your thoughts more.  (The downside of that is that the activity you're supposed to be doing, suffers from lackof concentration, as my faithful partner, Pauline would confirm.

Well, friends, I'm stopping there, before this really does become a songwriting workshop!  The main thing for you aspiring songwriters is- don't fret - don't worry about it!  Good luck!

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