False Starts

Writing a song in a fortnight is hard enough, but most of the first week has passed without me achieving much and I’m starting to get a bit worried! Why did I set myself this challenge?!

I have tried to start writing Song #3 in a variety of different ways. First I thought about coming up with a cool drum beat to start things off: this was to try to counter what’s happened with the first two songs I wrote, where I ignored the drums until the absolute last minute. I came up with some pretty sweet rhythms but never actually got round to sitting down with my guitar and writing music to go with it. So that was a bit of a failure.

Next I tried writing lyrics, and then I tried using old poems as a starting point, but gave up on that too quickly as well. Meanwhile there’s the wee voice constantly reminding me to hurry up! Just write something and stick with it!

A while ago, a friend of mine suggested that I pick a photograph with interesting details and strong memories attached to it, and use it for inspiration. In fact, he told me, a number of his own songs had been written in that exact way.

So I had a go. My first attempt at it was a little depressing. I picked a collection of photos that were of, on the face of it, a happy event, but was taken at a time that was fraught with anxiety and illness. I thought that it would be interesting to think about that duality. However, it was a real struggle to coax my feelings out from the photographs. It seemed like the photos were incompatible with the other things that were going on at the time. And that’s nice: it’s good that the photos look normal and happy. It’s almost like it was always that way. But my own memories are unsettling in their sparseness. I feel like I must have erased the details of those sad memories from my mind, taking the happy memories away too. I’m not sure if it’s avoidance, denial, a coping mechanism, or whatever, but it sucks.

My second attempt was a little better. I picked a set of photographs taken on a family holiday in Mexico, where my big sister lived at the time. It was a fair while ago now – five, six years? – but the photos are so colourful and intriguing, with volumes of positive vibes attached to them.

A photo of my parents caught my attention, just for its simplicity and colouring. It shows them relaxing on a green, white and yellow bench in a sunny garden in Cuernavaca, aptly nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring”. When I picked up my guitar, the synaesthete in me went straight to the sunshine-yellow and grass-green notes on my guitar. And that’s how I started writing attempt number fifty at song number three. Inspiration is a funny thing.


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