Ok we’ll come clean, here at Spinnup we’re not songwriters. Well, not successful ones anyway. If we were, we’d be offering our advice on how to come up with song ideas based on our own successes.
So as it is we’ll have to share some ideas of how to come up with inspiration from these examples of songwriters who did find ways to create and capture those sparks of inspiration. Ways like:
1. Swapping and changing instruments
Although they are by no means the only ones R.E.M. were one of the best known proponents of this method. When they started recording ‘Out Of Time’ in 1990, drummer Bill Berry played bass rather than actual bassist Mike Mills who played organ while guitarist Peter Buck played anything he could get his hands on that wasn’t an electric guitar. By the time they got to ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’ six years later the band were swapping and using over 15 different instruments between them.
2. Don’t come out until you’re done
According to Philip Norman’s 2012 biography of Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham once put The Glimmer Twins of Mick and Keith Richards in a kitchen with no food and drink and told them they couldn’t come out until they’d written a song. And apparently it worked. But if such close enforced proximity doesn’t work, you could always try the opposite approach of…
3. Staying as far apart as possible
Elton John and Bernie Taupin have been writing hit song after mega hit song for over 40 years and in that time have not written single one while being in the same room together. Even when they were little known writers working out of Elton’s Mum’s house they would write in different rooms – Bernie penning the words and delivering them to Elton who would put them to music. Today they haven’t changed their approach one bit, only now they not only write in different rooms but frequently in different continents as well. Nearly 30 albums and millions of sales later, they both still love working together.
When we fall asleep and leave our brains to their own subconscious devices we all know what mischief they can conjure up, but thankfully for a lot of songwriters the dreaming mind can still knock out a tune or two. Paul McCartney wrote ‘Yesterday’ when he was out like a light. “That was entirely magical,” he explained in an interview a few years ago. “I have no idea how I wrote that. I just woke up one morning and it was in my head.” Keith Richards came up with one of the best known guitar riffs in history, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, when he was fast asleep. He woke up in the middle of the night, sang the riff and the words ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ into a cassette recorder, and then went straight back to sleep.
5. Ignore how anyone else has written songs and just make it up
Ultimately songwriting isn’t a science, you can’t define rules or follow a template, you just have to do what feels right. When U2 started up, they had absolutely no idea how you were supposed to write songs, didn’t know how to find out, and so they just made it up. “From fairly early on it became clear to us that we had no idea about songwriting technique,” says The Edge. “Our way into songwriting was to dream it up. Instinct was everything for us, and it really still is.”
Once you’ve got a bunch of songs you’re sure are quality you may want publishing. Find out more here, Publishing Deals – Decoded.