By Sharron McLeod
I am very humbled that Lesley asked me to write about songwriting for her blog.
Thanks Lesley! You are truly an inspiration to many songwriters I am sure :-)
What can I say about writing songs? That I need to do more of it? Yes definately! That said, it's not about having a vast volume of songs with my name on it that is the purpose, but the joy of creating and finishing a song that you really like. There is no feeling like it, really.
Recently I released four songs, two of them are originals. The Griot's Lament and Ballad of the Six Parables. I have written other songs, and the process for each is different.
The Griot's Lament has a harmonic motif that I really like, so it was inspired by the harmony at first. Then I wrote the words and the verses didn't really fit into the 8 bar phrase that we are accustomed to in Jazz or American songbook repertoire (which is much of the repertoire that I perform.) So I decided 7 bars worked better and it did. It was originally written in A minor and I moved it to Bflat minor because of working with saxophone players and flat keys are considered more horn friendly. It still seemed short, so I added a vamp section to go in between verses which was a suggestion from a friend and colleague that I worked with.
Ballad of the Six Parables was an entirely different process. It is much more bluesy in it's structure and I spent more time on the chords. Lyrically it has a chorus and verses. Six verses to be exact and that's why the word 'six' is in the title. The chorus is a series of chords that move up via half steps and then a leap of a 5th. It was really something that I stumbled upon, with a very simple melody worked to fit over the lyric. Then I put it between the verses and a structure started to emerge, and I just followed it. I used that structure and finished the words and then it was done. The song started to write itself. It's kind of cool and mysterious because one can't know where the muse will take you.
So ask yourself what inspires you. Is it the lyric? Is it a melody? Is it harmony? And yes, I forgot to mention...rhythm! Perhaps a rhythm or groove might inspire a melodic idea or lyric.
Sometimes writing a song is influenced by many things you wouldn't have thought of otherwise. So when you are writing, don't be afraid to drop bars here or add vamps or sections there. Maybe even section without words. Or some words without music. Don't be afraid to try different things. Also asking questions of the musicians you work with and trust is a good idea. Whose work do you admire and respect and why? And then start there.
Best of luck and have fun!
Current city: Nice
Songs featured: The Griot's Lament and Ballad of the Six Parables, by Sharron McLeod
with Philomene Hoffman
Interview By Lesley Young