Songwork is an ongoing series in which Popdose writers collaborate on the songwriting and recording process. For earlier entries, click here.
One of the biggest challenges of this project is that, for me, it’s so different from my usual writing process. Songs come from everywhere, and that’s not some flippant statement made just to shut down a conversation. Sometimes I’ll start with lyrics — an idea grabs me, or a juxtaposition of images in front of me sends me scrambling for a sheet of paper to write it down. Sometimes the start will be purely musical — in a traffic jam, I actually pulled a melody line from three honking cars and the squeal of really bad brakes (No congratulations: the bad brakes were mine.)
This time, however, I’m just looking for tempo and pads, really just placeholder chords that form the skeleton of a song. I’m not looking to sculpt guitar lines or bass lines, because I want the other participants in this project to have space for creativity. Once you’ve placed the restriction of a melody on a song, it’s really hard to drag one’s headspace away from that, and ultimately you wind up following the lead versus chiseling out your own path. That’s the difficulty, though. I’m not entirely used to collaboration on this level, so each time I jump in, I do it with the idea I’m not making an atlas here; I’m not giving directions with coordinating latitudes and longitudes. This is a loose series of directions jotted on the back of an envelope. As such, it is open to interpretation, or outright change if the person who gets the “envelope” from me decides they want to go another way.
The drum beat is clearly a loop and is monotonous as hell. It’s only there to hang the chords on, and I’m praying it’s only used as the click track, as whoever goes from here has to be able to do better than this.
The “sweet spot” I think is going to be a tune that is pure ear-candy pop. I know that if you get me humming your single for days on end without me wanting to put power tools to my temples (Pi reference, y’all!) I’ll most likely buy the album. There’s no album to speak of here, but if we produce something that you, the reader, wished there was more of, we’ve accomplished our goals.
So here’s the rundown for this track so far… Everything you hear is sort of plugged in, from the beat loop to the parts of the verse, chorus, and bridge which are found in the pre-chorus. You’ll hear exactly where I copied and pasted the parts, but this is, after all, the roughest of drafts. I have every confidence that my colleagues will take this and run circles around me.
You’ll also find, in the bridge, a vocal hook that I may or may not keep in the song, the lyric “We don’t fall in love.” I have a lot of lyric ideas and would love to incorporate a lot of rich vocal harmonies in parts where they won’t be obtrusive, but I’m not really sure this is what I’m looking for. Besides, if we go with this in the song, it will have to be much tighter than how I laid it out. If I do keep it, it will return in the final section which, in this version, fades out. Again, that fade is an arbitrary choice and if the other Popdosers can make a killer ending up, I’m all for it.
We’re on the move now. Stay tuned for the next step in this ongoing project.