ASK JOHN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: This is where I will occasionaly post answers to questions submitted by YOU.
KATIE CARABINI asks: I often think a certain poem would make a great song. Then I hear music without vocals & think that someone should write lyrics!
I've asked other people about how their songs "happen." It seems to be different for all songwriters.
Do you find that a subject interests you or you feel a certain way (sad, happy, thoughtful, you read or hear about something etc) & the lyrics start to form? Or do you find that the melody comes to you & you write a song "around" the tune? I hope that makes sense!
Or do you have lyrics & music in your mind together & write sings like that? Or perhaps something totally different...?
JOHN M's ANSWER: Wow, Katie! What a great question! And thank you so much for the compliments on my music too! Much appreciated.
I'll try and give you a short answer. I have written songs in most of the ways you describe at one time or another. Sometimes I'll be emotionally struck by something and will feel that I simply "have to" write something about it. On rare occasions the music has come first, or a few lines of lyric.
MOST OFTEN, though, what happens is I'll get a lyric and music together, but only a "nugget," as I like to call them. A line, maybe, or a phrase. Like, "They were speaking different languages, though the words and the letters were the same..." I woke up one morning with that in my head. But that's all I had. So that was my first building block, and I just built the song out from there.
Once I have a thought or an idea like that, I just start asking questions. Where is this going? What's the next line? What is it leading to? What kind of melodic line would compliment the first one? What am I trying to say? (Or what is my heart really feeling? Or what is "the muse" trying to tell me?) Sometimes it's a very slow process. Sometimes not. I've had songs that "pop out" in the time it takes to play them. But I've had others that take months to write. I've learned not to try to force it or rush it. That almost always leads to compromise, or settling for something less than the best. I've learned to wait, and to listen, and in the meantime I just keep playing over and over what I've got so far. Eventually each step leads to the next, and when it's right, I know it.