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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

I wrote my third song about New York yesterday, but its the first one that says “New York City” in the lyrics, and the first happy song about the place.  Days that I finish songs are feel good days.  I usually record songs as soon as I can because they leave my short attention span just as quickly.  Some of my most Grammy worthy fish have gotten away in this manner.  As I was recording the song in my apartment with my USB mic and garageband, Starbucks called me in to work early.  From so high to so low.  Nonetheless, I put what I had done so far on the web anyway.  Its on myspace, if any of you actually still use myspace.  Cool or not, as a musician I am forced to maintain such a page, so there it is to your left on the blogroll.  

I always write the music first.  I try to write music that could stand alone, which means it takes a while to get it arranged and under my fingers before I can even think about singing.  Its not that I start and don’t finish things, but there are several compositions that I keep in my head’s holding pattern and sit and play everyday to my annoyance.  They’re like 25 year old kids that won’t move out of their parent’s house.  Some artists like Stevie Wonder write 100 songs and pick the best 10 for the album.  I don’t do that; I only finish a song that I want to keep.  I need to hurry up and record an album though, or I’ll soon have 100 songs I want to keep.  

So while my fingers are busy learning, I am apparently busy sabotaging myself to have experiences worth sharing.  I squeeze emotions out of myself like wringing a wet rag or pulling the handle on the mop bucket.  Good songs are about the music and about the lyrics.  You can tell when someone is just banging out a chord progression under a catchy melody, or rambling abstract gibberish over a great riff.  The only trick I know to doing both is to be as technically competent a musician as possible, and to write everyday.  After that, you either find inspiration or you don’t.  I don’t know how to find it for sure, or there wouldn’t be unwritten songs in my head. It was Picasso who said “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”

Another thing to remember is to be brave enough to let something go that isn’t good.  You can’t polish gravel into anything but smaller gravel.  Stash the duds in notebooks for when you are past your prime and your fans will buy anything.  Or keep a writer’s block junk yard.  Or try and sell them to pop singers.  

Songwriting is guessing, really.  The songwriting business is even less tangibly understood, which is why I work at Starbucks.


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