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Songwriting: Sometimes There Is Fear

Not everything about the act of songwriting is all cuddly and cosy. There are times when the topic of a song is such that the act of considering it deeply enough to write several verses about it makes me feel distinctly out of sorts. This feeling is usually reinforced by whatever tune accompanies it which, if I’m doing it right, increases the unease. That’s not to say that the lyrics need be so overtly direct about a subject – on the contrary: a lot of the work is concerned with couching the lyrics in such a way that most is unsaid and merely inferred or implied. But that again means that what is unwritten still has be fully formed and chewed over in the head before writing it down in a more “artistic” way. The net result is that I can feel quite drained as if I have experienced the events described in the songs again (if they recount personal experiences, present or past) or by proxy (if they do not).

When I was younger I used to enter the fray with bravado being concerned only with the end product – the song – and how an audience might take to it. But in recent years, I’ve noticed, I’ll hover around certain proto-songs, putting off that act of actually sitting down to compose the final music and lyrics until I feel my frame of mind – or mood – is robust enough for it not to be a too enervating an experience.

So when it’s done and dusted, what’s it like to perform or record? Well, it’s OK because by the time it’s all written up and practiced and revised, I will have become inured and distanced from it and can treat it like a piece of “art”. I can try to conjure up a performance hoping to stir up some empathetic response from the audience while leaving me pretty well unscathed…

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