Created with Sketch.
The Honest Songwriter
35 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
Song Structure as Story Plot
Season 2 Episode 14 Song ideas can come from anywhere. We've talked a lot about this before on The Honest Songwriter, and I truly think it's one of the beautiful things about songwriting. As songwriters, we can take in inspiration from whatever is currently engaging us and turn it into emotional fuel for our writing. The same goes for the more technical side of songwriting. We can look into places outside of songwriting (like other types of art) and borrow the tricks and techniques we see for communicating emotion. It can all be worked back into songwriting. Recently I've been on a kick of learning about screenwriting. I've always liked films and I find the writing aspect of movies fascinating. So I've been watching a lot of interviews with screenwriters and reading some books on the craft of writing for film. It really is a unique medium for writing and I'm starting to understand that really good screenwriters have a unique view of how stories work. They have to provide this extra layer of depth to the overall structure of a good film story. This needs to be there because film projects (even smaller productions) have so many moving parts of different people doing different things. To make sure everything works well together, writers need to make sure every piece of the puzzle – every character, every setting, every line of dialogue – serves some sort of bigger purpose within the story. Writing solid screenplay requires a solid understanding of story structure. And looking at stories through this type of lens is really intriguing to me. Learning about this stuff feel reminiscent of the first time I really started to grasp music theory. Like I got to see the workings inside the machine instead of just the outside of the final product – this time for stories instead of for music composition – and, to me, that's such a cool feeling. I love seeing what's going on behind the curtain, I think it's so cool. The comparison between music theory and some of the story structure stuff I was reading about got me thinking. I think there's some ways that the art of writing good stories can inform the art of writing good songs. And that's what we're talking about on this episode of The Honest Songwriter. In the episode we're just starting to scratch the surface of this sort of cross-discipline conversation. I decided to focus on story structure because that's what has been most interesting in what I've recently been reading. We talk about using stories as a starting point for writing songs (even for tunes without a obviously stated narrative). And then we talk through three big ideas of how story structure techniques can help us structure out our songs. 1. We discuss the importance of strong conflict in good stories and what this means for including conflict in our songs. 2. We talk about different structural techniques of varying up the conflict throughout a song – ideas like switching between contrasting emotions for verses and refrains, or superimposing a more traditional story arc like the hero's journey over a song structure. 3. We talk about having some sort of mapped out conflict structure for your song and/or the story behind it can help guide your decision making during the writing process. Ultimately, songwriting and story-writing (whether for prose or screen) are two different media. They both function in specialized, different ways. But I do think techniques from each discipline can inform the other. Story structure can become just another tool in your arsenal of songwriting techniques to help you out when you need it. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to write a song. What's important is that you keep writing! And maybe you can find some inspiration to keep writing in the stories you love.
22 minutes | May 14, 2021
How to Find Your Voice as an Artist (The Simple Way)
Season 2 Episode 13 What is your voice as an artist? “What is my artistic voice?” “How do I find it?” “What type of statement am I trying to make with my art?” “How do I find out who I am as an artist?” These are all big questions for us artists that we'll probably deal with at some point. They're all high stakes questions because they all deal with issues of identity. And they can be difficult to answer, especially when we're starting out in our artistic craft. The early phases of artistic careers are where these questions tend to crop up a lot. Or, at least, I know that's where I really started wrestling with it. When I first started as a songwriter, this question of “What is my artistic voice and how do I find it?” was a huge block for me. I felt like I couldn't write until I had this figured out first. My songwriting suffered during this time. And so did my mental health. I remember going to concerts for other artists and becoming overwhelmed with extreme jealousy. I'd get pissed, mostly at myself, because these artists seemed to have something I didn't. It felt like they were in touch with something inaccessible to me, simply because they knew who they were. What felt like it was missing from my writing was some sense of clear identity. The anger and jealousy I felt stemmed from wanting to create meaningful art, but feeling like I lacked the tools to do that in a cohesive fashion. I didn't know how to go about making art that represented me. I didn't know how to say “this is who I am” through my songwriting. I didn't know who I was as an artist. And I felt like this meant I didn't have anything meaningful to say. What I didn't realize at the time is that finding your voice as an artist is a long process. It's something that will keep developing throughout your entire life. As you grow and mature and change as person, so will your art. Change is just part of being human. And as artists I think we need to embrace that. It's kind of silly to expect musicians to keep making the exact same music over and over again. Of course the songs you write when your fifty are going to be different from the ones you wrote at age fifteen. At least I hope they are! As you get older you accumulate all these life experiences that change your perception over time. And these new experiences should be making their way into your art. I think we need to let go of viewing “our voice” as this one, stationary thing. Something that needs to be decided upon before we can begin to create. Our artistic voices are ever evolving. And it's only when we look back through the pieces we've made we can start to identify common themes. I think viewing our voices as artists in this manner is a much healthier approach. It can inspire you to try new things and keep creating instead of being this toxic block to your art. So how do you go about finding those common threads in your art? How do you find your artistic voice? Especially if you're someone in a position like I was: stuck. Not creating. Blocked because you feel like you won't have anything to say until you figure this out. Well the answer that worked for me is simple: start making your art, right now. You find your artistic voice by making your art. A lot. The one thing that got me out of this stuck phase in my writing was simply that: writing. I had to set aside all this anxiety that I had worked up around figuring out who I was as an artist, and simply get down to the business of creating. And you know what? It worked. It wasn't overnight, but... With each song I wrote, I gained just a little more strength in my artistic voice.
27 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
Actually Finishing Songs
Season 2 Episode 12 Semi-controversial thesis: The main thing stopping people from writing songs on a regular basis is that they don't actually finish the songs they start. OK, so this isn't that controversial, but if you're someone who wants to write and is trying to on a regular basis, statements such as that can feel like a personalized attack on your efforts. In positing this thesis, I'm not trying to dismiss or belittle anyone's experiences or writing, because I've been there. I've spent a long time starting songs and not really doing anything with them beyond the beginning writing phases. For a while, I would get an idea for a tune, work on it for a bit, maybe develop a chorus or verse, and then just leave it half-finished. I never really got past that initial burst off inspiration. Even if I did miraculously somehow finish one of these tunes into a full-fledged song, most (if not all) the material I wrote during this time just sat on a hard-drive or in a note book. This stuff never really saw the light of day. So ya. The struggle to actually get material finished is real. And if you're in it right now, I hear ya. I've been there. And, while I don't claim to have it all figured out, hopefully the conversation we're having today on the Honest Songwriter can help you find some direction towards actually getting those songs finished. Recently on the podcast we've been going through a mini-series on finding the starting points to songs .Getting the dang thing started is the first major block that people who want to write songs encounter. They have the desire, but they don't know where to get started. This happens to both newbies and experienced songwriters alike. So we did a deep-dive on some ideas on how to get songs started. Throughout these conversations we built up a framework for how to find those little things that get the ball rolling on tunes. And we talked a bit about how to take those ideas and develop them further into larger song ideas. So we've spent a long time discussing that first major block to songwriting. And hopefully, if you've been listening along recently, you've got a handful of tunes started! Now is the time when the second major block to writing, (and in my opinion this is the one most writers get hung-up on): actually finishing songs. You've got the ideas percolating, you've got over the first big hurdle of believing in yourself to get songs going, but now you don't know how to put the final punctuation on the tune(s) you're working on. I've seen more writers get stuck here than with anything else. They've got a bunch of tunes in the works, but they never quite seem to get to the point of calling the songs “finished.” I'm certain that some of you reading this and/or listening to the podcast can relate. Like I mentioned earlier, I was in this place for a really long time as a writer. It reminds me of advice Ray Bradbury gave to young writers. It was something to the effect of: “Simply write. It'll get rid of all those moods you're having.” It's not rocket science in concept, but it definitely can be difficult to implement in your own writing process. Someone saying “Just write!” doesn't necessarily help when you're stuck in the middle of a tune and you hate all the ideas you're coming up with to finish them. What do you do when you're in the trenches like that? The biggest thing that has helped me has been dividing “Creating” and “Editing” into two separate actions in my head. If you think about it, they really are. These require two different mindsets to be successful. Creating is about expanding and including new things. Editing is about cutting away everything unnecessary. They are two sides to the same breath: inhale and exhale. And treating them as such, allowing each of them their own special phase in the process, has helped me move past that second block into regularly finishing the songs I've started.
26 minutes | Apr 2, 2021
Starting Songs from Pictures
Season 2 Episode 11 We've been talking a lot about starting points for songs lately on The Honest Songwriter podcast. And with good reason. This probably the he number one question I get from people when they're inquiring about my process. “I don't know where to start,” tends to be one of the biggest excuses I hear that new writers use to block themselves from writing. It's a fear of not having something to say. Or just not having enough experience with the process to know where to find that starting point. Or even if you are an experienced songwriter, maybe you sit down and feel stuck with no good places to go. This is the problem. It's not just a problem for newbies but experienced songwriters too. So over the last handful of episodes we've been doing a little miniseries on starting points. Braking down the process of finding different places to start. Going over what that look like for different people. We talked about “encounters” – getting hit with that magical “inspiration” when you encounter something that evokes a feel in you. So much so that it makes you want to write a song about it. And we also discussed the power of “generative structures.” Different constraints or rules you can build yourself to help guide your decision making. These can take the form of games, prompts, introducing random chance, or simply having some rules for your writing. And they're really helpful when you aren't running into those encounters in everyday life at the moment. In the past couple of episodes, we also examined starting songs from musical ideas (riffs, motifs, melodies, etc.) and starting songs from words. We dug into and what encounters and generative structure look like in each of these settings. In today's episode we 're wrapping up the little miniseries by talking about what it looks like to start songs from pictures. Whether that's something you're physically looking at or a mental image you have. In today's episode we also talk about the importance of creating strong visual imagery sense-bound imagery in your writing. This means creating a specific sense and feeling for a mental image in your audiences' head when they listen to your song. Whether it's through an explicitly “narrative” story your you're telling in your lyrics. Or if it's just an emotional landscape you're painting in the audience's head. Having a strong mental image in your own mind while you're writing can help create continuity in your songs. It can help you be more clear in what you're actually trying to say. Cleans up your communication by giving you direction on where to go next with your writing choices. Starting from a picture (painting, photograph, TV/Film, mental picture, something you see in everyday life) can help give you a clear sense-bound sense of what you're writing about. The same rules were were talking about with the other starting points apply here. You can have some sort of encounter with an image. Maybe you run across a moving scene in a film you're watching, or pass an interesting character on the street. And you know you just have to write a song about that. Alternatively you can set up generative structures around pictures to guide your writing. Maybe you go to an art museum and randomly choose a piece to write about. You can set a timer and hit pause on a TV show when it goes off, choose the character on screen, and write about what they're seeing or experiencing. You can play these fun sort of games with your writing and see what comes of it. As we wrap up this miniseries, hopefully you're starting to come up with ideas for starting points. You can do things to help develop more awareness to where you can have these “encounters.” And through “generative structures” you can build out a rotating arsenal of tools that help keep you writing. Even when you're not “feeling it.”
21 minutes | Mar 12, 2021
Starting Songs from Words
Season 2 Episode 10 “Do you find yourself starting more from music or words?” This is a pretty common question that people ask songwriters. And it's a question that I'm not really sure how to answer. I remember right around the time when I first started sharing my solo tunes, one of my friends (also a songwriter) and I met up to get some coffee. By the way, if you're not into coffee, you're probably not going to be a good songwriter, just saying. I kid, I kid Anyways he opened with this question when we got to talking about my new songs, and it took me a while to answer. Because in reality, I start from both on a regular basis. Recently I've been on a guitar kick and find myself starting a lot of tunes on guitar riffs. But if I were to look at all the songs I've ever written, went through, and averaged out the starting points, I think it would be pretty evenly split. When you start from the words: There's songwriters out there that won't start a song until they have the title figured out. I tend to be a bit more off the cuff than that. I definitely like leaving some room for improvisation throughout the writing and recording process, both in the musical elements and in the words. There have been times when I've scrapped all the lyrics I previously wrote during recording when I thought something new needed to happen. But even with my tendency towards improvisation, I start tunes from words plenty of times. So words or music? It doesn't really matter. I mean it does (to that individual song), and it was really sweet of my friend to be genuinely interested in my process and what I was experiencing it at that time. Starting as song can be a difficult process, sure. Words and music are both great places to begin a new tune. But at the end of the day, what matters more that your actually writing, and you keep writing. Today's episode In today's episode, we're diving into what starting a tune from words looks like. How it differs from starting with musical elements or riffs. And how it's actually really similar. Over the past couple of episodes we've been having this conversation about finding those starting points and what to do from there. You might see a similar pattern emerge between those conversations and this one. For these conversations, we've been using the model of two different types of “motions” for finding starting points: “Encounters” and “Generative Structures.” Encounters are those brilliant moments when something hits you out of the blue and you want to start a new piece because of it. Generative structures are things like exercises, prompts, games, rules, boundaries, etc. that you set up for yourself to help guide decision making. You “encounter” the first type. The second type is a “structure” that you create which helps you “generate” new material. Makes sense right? In our episode today, we go through some ideas of what those look in like in the realm of words. Encountering words in everyday interactions. Other people. Dialogue in TV or movies. Stealing words and phrases from books. All sorts of fun places for encounters with words. We discuss the importance of having some sort of system in place for capturing these encounters. We also talk about some resources for finding good generative structures with words and how to use these as part of your regular writing practice. The Honest Songwriter is a podcast with 15-20 minute episodes of open, honest conversations about what it's like to be writing and creating on a regular basis. New episodes out every 3 weeks!
28 minutes | Feb 19, 2021
Starting Songs from Riffs
Season 2 Episode 9 Each song wants to be written in a slightly different way. Songs have personalities of their own, and that personality shows up right from the beginning of the writing process. Every time you write you'll have new puzzles to solve. For every song you finish (good, bad, or ugly) you come out of the process a different writer. In the last podcast episode we started a conversation about finding the starting point for songwriting. This is probably the thing I get asked about the most. “Where should I start??” is a question that all writers deal with whether their new to writing or have been doing this a long time. It's a scary question. And honestly, there's no real direct answer. That's what makes it so tricky. Because each song wants to be written in its own way, there's no silver bullet answer that will make that question go away. You need to approach every piece on its own terms and meet it where it is. That's all fine and dandy for a kind of meta-discussion of creativity, but how does that actually help write songs? Personally, when I'm stuck, I just want practical direction to get unstuck. Thankfully, although I really do think each song has it's own unique journey to follow, patterns emerge through the creative process. There are some places where songs like to start from, and we can keep going back to those places for more songs. In today's episode we're talking about starting songs from riffs. Using musical ideas as the fertile ground for beginning a new tune. It might be starting with a single musical phrase. Maybe a chord progression or a melody. Maybe you've got a big sexy hook cooking. You might even start with just a couple of notes strung together. In this episode: Using the structure we set out in S2E8 of “Encounters” and “Generative Structure” we specifically dig into what those look like when applied to the musical aspects of song. We give some real-life examples of musical encounters (like stumbling across a cool chord progression when you're noodling around on guitar). We also go over some handy tools for creating musical generative structures (like retrogrades, inversions, borrowing chord progressions, etc.). After we go through the examples of what these look like in practical songwriting, we discuss some next steps to continue following the threads started by these initial riff ideas. Hope this episode helps give some direction on starting songs with musical ideas (even if it's something small). We'll be continuing this conversation about finding the starting points to songs over the next couple of episodes. Diving further into starting songs from words and starting songs from pictures. We'll wrap it all up by talking about actually getting around to finishing songs. So be sure to check back in 3 weeks to keep the conversation going!
23 minutes | Jan 29, 2021
Finding the Starting Point
Season 2 Episode 8 If there's one comment that I hear more than any other from my fellow songwriters, it's “I don't know where to start.” Whether they're kind of new to writing and don't know what the process looks like. Or they're still dealing with some of those imposter-syndrome type issues. Maybe they're just plain old stuck. Yes, that happens. Even to those of us who have been writing for a while. Sitting down with a blank page, or an instrument without ideas intimidates even the best song writers sometimes. I've found that the key to conquering that type of block for me is to just sit down and write. Trying my best to hit mute on what I like to call “editor-brain.” Meaning trying to just write the words and notes onto the page without judgment. I can always tidy them up later. This is much easier said than done sometimes, but I've gotten better at it with practice. Even with working on building those types of habits, there are still times where I sit down to with my guitar or piano and find myself asking, “Where do I start?” That's what we're talking about in this episode of The Honest Songwriter. Reflecting on the process of getting started so that we get over those blocks and make decisions about where we want to go next with our writing. I feel like there's two main different 'motions' when it comes to starting songs. They're related to one another, and sometimes look like one another. But the main difference between the two is the direction in which you build your song. One I'm calling 'encounters' and the other I'm calling 'generative structures.' These might seem kind of arbitrary and theoretical, but hang with me. How this helps you get over some of those blocks will make sense in a minute. 'Encounters' are what a lot of people generally think of when they hear the term 'inspiration.' The whole idea of you see, hear, taste, touch, or feel something (you 'encounter' it with your senses) and it impacts you so strongly that you want to write a song about it. These are great when they happen! The process of writing a song from this feels very organic. You start with a seed of an idea and build outward from there. Kind of in ever increasingly larger concentric circles. Think ripples in a pond after you drop a stone in. For example, you overhear a turn of words from somebody in front of you in the grocery line and that sticks with you the rest of the day. Maybe you turn that into a lyrical hook and start to build out the rest of the song around that. Or maybe you're noodling around on a guitar and stumble across a riff that strikes you in a particular way. You like it, play around with it and start to craft a song around that riff. But what happens when those encounters aren't happening? This is where the 'generative structures' come in. They function in the opposite direction of encounters, and they might feel a bit awkward to use at first. But they are equally valid and inspiring ways of finding that starting point for your next tune. If encounters work like ripples, generative structures act more like a funnel. Still concentric circles, but now you're decreasing the size as you go. The way these work is you set up some sort of ground rules to help guide your decision making for that song, and then refine your choices further and further. If you're stuck, take a look at what your starting points for your last few songs have been like. Are you just waiting around for the inspiration to strike? Or are you being proactive and working on developing habits that make your songwriting something sustainable? Do you have places where you can find new 'encounters?' Do you have a plan for what happens when those encounters don't come?
25 minutes | Jan 8, 2021
My Songwriting Plan for 2021
Season 2 Episode 7 Nobody particularly likes starting the process of change. At least, nobody that I've met. Sure you might appreciate the results of taking on new habits and whatnot, but getting that process started? No me gusta. I'm the same way when it comes to change. Being a teacher (and being married to one!), I recognize what it takes to develop new skills and improve on them. I know it takes hard work to build solid habits, especially when you have to “un-learn” the old ones. I also know that putting in the time and energy works. Intentional changes (like forming new habits) usually create positive effects in your life. That's what education and all other types of self-improvement are all about. What I'm saying is, I get it. But... That doesn't mean I always enjoy the process. I tend to be especially grouchy about getting the ball rolling on new habits. Momentum builds up with old habits and whatnot and it requires a lot of gumption to reverse that inertia. I don't always have that gumption. Hence the grouchiness. Much has been changing in my world recently. A lot of people found themselves needing to pivot this past year (thanks 2020) and I'm one of them. Most significantly, I switched day jobs. This affected my life in some pretty dramatic and unexpected ways. I worked at my previous position for five years, and had (understandably) built up some habits and expectations around that work schedule and environment. But, with my new position my daily schedule vastly changed. I used to work afternoons and evenings, now I'm on a more regular 9-5. This forced me to take a hard look at my music habits (practicing, recording, etc.) and figure out how I could carve out space for them. My songwriting process isn't immune from the effects of these changes. Previously, I used the mornings and afternoons before work to write and record. My wife was away at work. I could sit at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee, my guitar, and a notebook, watching the sunrise as I worked on my latest tunes. Usually one of my cats lazily snoozed on the chair next to me. It was nice. Serene even. And I miss it sometimes when I have to now get up and on the road to work while it's still dark outside. Let me tell you, getting the gumption going to write after a long day at work is difficult. Especially since I had gotten used to such a comfortable writing environment. But I know from experience that songwriting can become a habit. The more you write (and the more consistently you write) the better you get. I know that if I'm not proactive in creating some sort of space for my music with my new day job, my music will slowly start taking a lower priority in my life. Slowly getting that ball rolling in the opposite way of where I want to be going. Knowing my personality, I work well under sort of structured deadlines. Even if these are self-imposed and somewhat arbitrary, I know I get more done if I schedule out a routine. This has worked for me in the past with songwriting. My first few albums, actually, are going to be filled with songs I wrote in an intense, year-long writing “challenge” I'm wanting to get back into a regular writing habit, but with the new job I'm needing a new structure for it. So that's what I've been working on developing. And that's what this episode of The Honest Songwriter is all about. I'm sharing what I going to be doing as a way to stay accountable to building the new habits. Plus! As a bonus side-effect of the new plan I've come up with, there will be more opportunities for you guys to hear early demos and see other behind-the-scenes stuff.
27 minutes | Dec 19, 2020
Doing What You Got to Do
Season 2 Episode 6 There's a lot of suggestions out there about what you *should* be doing with your music career. Whether it's about digging into the latest hot button business topic (hello, music licensing), or just someone trying to push their latest coaching course or method, the market is flooded with advice on what musicians and songwriters should be doing. A lot of this info is pretty decent, some of it is garbage, and some of it is actually really good. But the thing that really ties the whole of it together is everyone's got a slightly different vision of what your music career should look like. Not a lot of it focuses on the truly important question: "What is it you actually want to do with your music?" In this episode we continue our conversation from Episode 5 (Your Weirdness = Your Magic) with a practical business applications of your unique identity as an artist. We talk about how it's really up to you to decide what you want out of your artistic career, if you leave it up to others to decide (or worse, never really think about it in the first place) you will probably wind up in some sort of toxic relationship with your artistic work. That is the exact opposite of what we're looking to do! So putting in some time to strategize what your main priorities are as an artist can be incredibly empowering. Everybody's music "game" is different. We want different things out of life and out of art, and that's a GOOD thing. The key is recognizing what it is you want to do be doing right now. If you can get that straightened out in your mind, you can start to make well-informed decisions about how you're spending your time, energy, and financial resources. So maybe your "game" right now is licensing, so that means you can make choices about whether you should be networking with music supervisors/filmmakers/etc. or working on new live gigs. Maybe your "game" right now is writing and recording a new album, If you recognize that's your game, you can wisely choose whether you're spending all your time trying to get Spotify streams or spend it writing and demoing new songs. Starting to see the picture? It's mostly common sense stuff, but a lot of artists (myself included) can get easily distracted by the latest, greatest, shiny new way of making money or notoriety in the art world. But just because something is important and working for someone else, that doesn't mean that it will work for you or being important, meaningful work for you. No matter what you do, you've got a limited amount of resources just like everybody else. Figuring out what you're "game" is and looks like to you is one of the most powerful ways you can start to move forward with an artist, because it helps you allocate those resources in the places that are most important to you. It's not necessarily a sexy, exciting conversation, but it's an important one. One that, if you get this stuff figured out, can really help grow your career as an artist. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
22 minutes | Nov 28, 2020
Your Weirdness = Your Magic
Season 2 Episode 5 So I don't know about you, but I'm a pretty weird dude. And that weirdness definitely shows up in my songwriting. Whether its in the thematic content of my pieces (for some reason a lot of my songs tend to have this feeling of being an "outsider" someone looking for a sense of home), or in the compositional techniques I use (I'm into a lot of weird music, and even some of the more avant garde influences slip into my writing from time to time) my personal weirdness gets reflected in my work. Do you have things like that for you? That's what we're talking about in this episode of the Honest Songwriter. I've recently been doing a fair amount of prep work for starting a bigger marketing push behind my solo singer/songwriter stuff and that's been bringing up a lot of questions about identity. It started out as shoring up some of the branding ideas, but because my solo work is so personal in nature, this quickly started getting me to ask the big questions about who am I as an artist, and why I'm making art in the first place. These can be intimidating questions to deal with, but they are so important for focusing your work, and I'm glad I've been working through them. One idea that kept coming back up is that, when you look at artists you respect, they all have something that makes them unique. Their individual voice (not just singing voice, but artistic voice) is evident throughout their body of work and they are somehow able to hold true to making the types of artistic statements that they want to make. This is inspiring, for sure, but tends to be pushed to the backburner when you're worrying about things like marketing and how you're going to make a sustainable income off of your music (especially if you're someone like me who's kind of a weirding making kind of weird music). It's easy to forget those things that make you unique as an artist when you're focused on how you're going to pay the bills. And that is absolutely a legitimate concern! We talk a lot about sustainability here on the podcast, and we totally get the necessity of dealing with the day to day of life while carving out some space for you to create your art. It's in moments like these where taking a second to remember why you're making art in the first place to help you refocus on doing what you need to do so that you are able to sustainability keep making your art. That's what this episode is all about: remembering that (even when other worries are on your mind) the most important thing about making art is being able to be fulfilled by the work your doing. That you are having honest, human experiences with your pieces. If you're able to do that, you will always be able to find someone else who connects with that experience, and the other stuff will start to sort itself out. So be honest with yourself, and don't shy away from those things that make you weirdly and uniquely you. That's the strength of your artistic voice right there. Your weirdness = your magic. They're the same thing. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
25 minutes | Nov 7, 2020
Balancing Sustainability with Daily Practice
Season 2 Episode 4 You ever get to the point in your creative work where you feel like you have so many things you need to get done, yet, no matter how hard you try, you can't quite keep up with your ever-growing todo lists? That's where I've been at for the past month or so, and figuring out how to balance that stress with small daily practice habits to find some kind of sustainability in your creative work is what we're talking about in today's episode. It's been a bit rough the last few months for me, and my creative work has definitely been affected because of it. Creative practice habits that I previously developed are starting to slip, all while I'm trying to get back into the zone for recording some new tunes and preparing them for release. Stress has been starting to build up and compound, so "re-finding" that sense of sustainability and balance has been very much on my brain lately. In this episode, we discuss some of the things I've been trying to do to get back to some sense of homeostasis in my creative work. I definitely don't have all the answers, and it's pretty obviously in the episode that at the time of recording this I'm still in the midst of figuring it out for myself, but I think I'm onto a good starting point for getting back to regular, sustainable work. Some of the ideas we go over in the episode are the power of small, consistent habits; the importance of being kind to yourself; and the importance of sustainability as something to value in your own creative life. Hopefully this episode helps spark some discussions that get you started thinking about how you can developing some sense of balance and sustainability in your own creative life, and sometimes, just knowing that other artists have rough days too is a great place to start. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
20 minutes | Oct 14, 2020
What Stories are Your Songs Telling?
Season 2 Episode 3 You ever get stuck on the song you're writing and you're not quite sure where to take it next? Or you've just finished a new tune and it doesn't quite land in the way you're wanting it to? Been there! I think every songwriter has at one point or another, and that's what we're talking about in this episode of the Honest Songwriter. In today's episode we talk about getting into our "editor's brain" as songwriters when we hit a roadblock on the song we're working on, and how we can use the question "What story is this song telling?" as a way to guide your artistic decisions and focus your choices into something that communicates what you're going for with the tune. We review the concept of prosody and talk about how this question lends itself to making prosody-based choices. We also go through a practical example of how I've used this method of being in "editor's brain" as a way to help my own songwriting process. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
35 minutes | Sep 23, 2020
How to Start Songwriting as a Complete Beginner
Season 2 Episode 2 Do you have an interest in songwriting but zero experience and zero clue where to start? This episode is for you!! I was in your shoes (everyone who's a songwriter was at some point!) and I've worked with a lot of students who feel the same way. I've seen too many people who want to write music give up on it because they don't really know how to start. Or (what I see more often) they try for a little bit and their stuff doesn't sound quite like the music they're hearing on the radio, so they get discouraged and stop trying. This is a problem for beginning songwriters! I know I felt the exact same way when I was starting out, and I honestly gave up on the idea of songwriting for a while because at that time I thought I just didn't "have it" like the songwriters I looked up too. And, more importantly, there was no one there to show me the ropes or encourage me to keep at it. Eventually I came back to songwriting, and committed myself to learning the process through trial and error. I made a lot of mistakes (some good ones that ended up on the recordings, and some bad ones that I hope no one ever hears). But more importantly, I allowed myself to learn and get better instead of thinking that songwriting was something that you either had or you didn't. That's what this episode is about, getting your mind right to allow yourself to start songwriting wherever your skill or experience may be, and then walking through a broad strokes overview of the writing process. It runs a bit longer than most other episodes so far, but this is something I'm very passionate about because I didn't have experienced songwriters having these types of conversations with me when I was starting out. So, if you're a beginning songwriter (or an experienced songwriter looking to get back into a beginner's brain), check it out. I hope that this conversation can help give you a little bit of guidance on those first steps, but more importantly gets you out there writing your music!! The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
18 minutes | Aug 31, 2020
How to Get Your Writing Mojo Back
Season 2 Episode 1 Have you ever taken some time off of your songwriting and when you come back you feel like you've lost all the mojo you had built up prior to the break? It happens a lot to writers, myself included! In fact, I find that getting over that initial writing hump after some time off (or if you've never spent time writing before) is what keeps a lot of people from writing on a regular basis in the first place. At the time of recording this episode, I was just starting to get back into my regular songwriting groove after an extended break. I had just wrapped up my year-long songwriting project where I was writing, recording, and releasing new music every three weeks and I wanted some time to catch my breath. So I took a couple months off, and when I came back to it, I definitely felt rusty. So that's what we're talking about in this first episode of season 2. What to do when you find yourself in this "mojo-less" space as a writer. We discuss some of the practical strategies that I've been using to get the juices flowing again to maybe help spark some ideas of your own. Ultimately we talk about the best way to get your mojo back, which is just sitting down and writing without judging what comes out on the page. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
21 minutes | Jun 26, 2020
My Past Year in Songwriting
Episode 20 You ever finish a big writing project and just need to take some time to reflect? That's where I was at when I was recording this, so I decided to do something a little bit different. In this episode (our last one for season 1!) we spend some time talking about my past year in songwriting and discuss some of the big lessons that I learned over the year. In June of 2019 I decided to challenge myself to write, record, and release new solo singer-songwriter songs every three weeks, and this podcast actually started as a way to share some of my experiences as the year progressed. At the time of recording this episode I had just wrapped up mixing my final song in the challenge and felt like I needed to reflect on the past year. So in this episode we talk about a handful of the big lessons I learned about creating art on a regular, sustained basis. We talk about the importance of risk in growing your creative process and we discuss how essential honesty and intention is to making good art. This wraps up Season 1 of The Honest Songwriter, Season 2 will start up after a short Summer break (about a month), so keep your eyes peeled for info on new episodes! Thanks for joining me on this past year, and thanks for listening! I'm excited to see where next year takes us. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
26 minutes | Jun 5, 2020
Reviewing and Curating Your Songs
Episode 19 You ever feel like you have a bunch of songs piling up on your computer but you're not sure what you want to do with them? Or maybe it feels like you never get around to actually finishing your song ideas because you just keep polishing old ones? Or maybe you have dozens of scraps of ideas strewn across various notebooks, or phones, or computer programs all in different forms? I know that's me for sure. One of the things I really need to improve on in my writing process is dealing with organization on the front end (all the little song starting point ideas that you gather up as you write) and on the back end (what do with songs after you've finished them). That's what we're talking about in today's episode: the process of reviewing and curating your songs, both in the idea phase and in the finished phase. We discuss how everyone needs some sort of curation in their creative process and we go over some examples of things that have worked for me as a songwriter. We also talk about how having these things in place can help you actually finish songs because it gives you an external system for weeding out the not-so-good stuff (i.e. you don't just keep working on the same song over and over because you know you can deal with any problems in the review process). If you're looking for a secret weapon to help make your writing process sustainable, this episode is for you! The review and curation processes we talk about today is the type of stuff that's really helped make my own process more sustainable. Even though I still need to be more organized about it at times, building space for reviewing and curating my songs has made me a better songwriter. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
30 minutes | May 15, 2020
The Parachute Model Part 3
Episode 18 Are you someone who's always looking for tools to help your creative process? I know I am! I do my best to continue developing my creative toolbox as I grow as an artist. One of the things I've recently been working on, as I've started writing more consistently, is developing a theoretical model of what the creative process looks like. This has helped me approach my songwriting with new eyes. It has also given me a more solid foundation for my conversations with my students who are looking for a deeper understanding of what goes into creating art. In this episode we wrap up our multi-episode discussion of that theoretical model, which I refer to as "The Parachute Model." The concept is simple: using a skydive jump as a metaphorical lens through which to view the creative process. Like any good metaphor, the imagery allows you to elucidate some new parts of your subject that may not easily seem apparent. I wanted to have something that would scale easy to both beginners and professionals having discussions about the creative process. The image of a skydiver precariously dangling beneath a parachute seemed an apt depiction of an artist in the midst of creating, so the metaphor stuck. In this episode we take the model through some pragmatic examples of how it can be used in the process of creating art. We use one of the songs I'm currently working on as an example of for discussing how the model can guide your artistic decision making. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
33 minutes | Apr 24, 2020
The Parachute Model, Part 2
Episode 17 Are you someone who's always looking for tools to help your creative process? I know I am! I do my best to continue developing my creative toolbox as I grow as an artist. One of the things I've recently been working on, as I've started writing more consistently, is developing a theoretical model of what the creative process looks like. This has helped me approach my songwriting with new eyes. It has also given me a more solid foundation for my conversations with my students who are looking for a deeper understanding of what goes into creating art. In this episode we continue our multi-episode discussion of that theoretical model, which I refer to as "The Parachute Model." The concept is simple: using a skydive jump as a metaphorical lens through which to view the creative process. Like any good metaphor, the imagery allows you to elucidate some new parts of your subject that may not easily seem apparent. I wanted to have something that would scale easy to both beginners and professionals having discussions about the creative process. The image of a skydiver precariously dangling beneath a parachute seemed an apt depiction of an artist in the midst of creating, so the metaphor stuck. In this episode we flesh out the model a bit more, talking about different things you can do to change the outcome of your piece in the midst of the creative process. We talk in terms of four main "conversations" that are going on while you're creating: a conversation with the audience, a conversation with the content of a piece, a conversation with the context surrounding the piece, and a conversation with yourself as you are creating. We talk about different ways to lean into these conversations to help direct your piece towards your desired target for it. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!
20 minutes | Apr 3, 2020
The Parachute Model, Part 1
Episode 16 Are you someone who's always looking for tools to help your creative process? I know I am! I do my best to continue developing my creative toolbox as I grow as an artist. One of the things I've recently been working on, as I've started writing more consistently, is developing a theoretical model of what the creative process looks like. This has helped me approach my songwriting with new eyes. It has also given me a more solid foundation for my conversations with my students who are looking for a deeper understanding of what goes into creating art. In this episode we start a multi-episode discussion of that theoretical model, which I refer to as "The Parachute Model." The concept is simple: using a skydive jump as a metaphorical lens through which to view the creative process. Like any good metaphor, the imagery allows you to elucidate some new parts of your subject that may not easily seem apparent. I wanted to have something that would scale easy to both beginners and professionals having discussions about the creative process. The image of a skydiver precariously dangling beneath a parachute seemed an apt depiction of an artist in the midst of creating, so the metaphor stuck. In this episode we go over the basics of the theoretical model, talking about risk in art, having a target (either broad or narrow), and making choices to help you move towards or away from that target. In the next couple episodes we will be fleshing out the model with some more specific nuances of creative process, and then take the model through some practical examples of how it can be used in when making art. The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks! Sign up to stay up-to-date on new music and podcast episodes here: http://bit.ly/sign_up_kedwardsmith By signing up for the email list you'll get early access to new music, exclusive behind the scenes looks at writing process, and stay in the loop on new videos and podcast episodes. You can hear the latest songs released as part of my year-long songwriting challenge at this link: http://bit.ly/kedwardsmith_indie_releases
23 minutes | Mar 13, 2020
Episode 15: Song Mapping Ever wonder why certain songs have more impact on the listeners than others? Ever get stuck in the middle of the writing process and you're not sure where to take your song next? Maybe you've got a great title or hook and you've started the first verse, and then you hit the second verse and there's immediate writer's block. Or maybe you're still new to songwriting and aren't sure about how to get started with putting your ideas into song form. I've definitely found myself in all those situations before. In Episode 15 we talk through a specific songwriting tool that has helped me personally when I've faced those types of writing challenges. The tool is "Song Mapping," essentially viewing your pieces from the listener's perspective and building out the structure of your song based on how the listener is moving through the piece. We talk through the process of mapping out a song using a recent example where I was helping out a songwriting buddy of mine with one of his songs. This episode is more nuts and bolts songwriting than some of the more recent ones, but I do think the concepts we talk about today can be applied to other art media. If you are an artist looking for techniques to help you in your creative process, this episode is for you! For more info on song mapping I recommend the books "Writing Better Lyrics" by Pat Pattison and "Song Maps" by Simon Hawkins. These where I was introduced to these types of writing tools. Links below Writing Better Lyrics: https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Better-Lyrics-Pat-Pattison/dp/1582975779/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2HG99TW9CHQBN& Song Maps: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1533592616/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0 The Honest Songwriter Podcast is 15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks! Sign up to stay up-to-date on new music and podcast episodes here: http://bit.ly/sign_up_kedwardsmith By signing up for the email list you'll get early access to new music, exclusive behind the scenes looks at writing process, and stay in the loop on new videos and podcast episodes. You can hear the latest songs released as part of my year-long songwriting challenge at this link: http://bit.ly/kedwardsmith_indie_releases
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2022