Can I be a songwriter please?

I listened to Gillian Welch a lot this week, including her song One Little Song. It’s about song writing. I saw Declan Sinnott live and heard him sing a song about songwriting. And I heard a friend of mine playing some songs he’d written himself that were really, really good.

So why the fuck do I struggle so much with it?

When I listen to the likes of The The and Nick Cave, I’m moved to try. They make it sound so easy. And I feel like it could be.

There’s a big ball of pain and fear locked inside me. I used to talk it out when I was drinking, but that’s no longer an option. Probably just as well. Sometimes it went okay, but usually not.

Playing music helps to get the fear out, simply because it puts me in the present. That’s a place I’m seldom in.

My head was buzzing all over the map at the concert last night and not always to good places. I was left wondering at times what have I contributed to the universe lately? There’s so much music I want to learn, songs I want to sing and it just felt over fucking whelming, you know? I find myself thinking that if I could just master this, figure out that, I’d finally have arrived and my self expression would suddenly have a valid artistic outlet. But all that happens is that I get angry at life’s getting in the way and preventing me from following my path, and that’s just wrong. I know that.

By contrast, this morning, I found the tired-with-too-little-sleep me sitting on the bus thinking about how joyful I am that there’s so much out there for me to learn musically and that each half-hour of playing live or twenty minutes of watching a video about thirds and fifths is adding to the whole me. I’m hungry for it, but I still get down that there’s no creativity and that it’s all just copying. And do people really care?

The [Tweet I posted earlier] was what I was thinking as I stood at the bus stop.

I have to play music for my own enjoyment first and foremost. If others enjoy it too, so much the better.

Watching these fantastic musicians last night had me feeling down that I can’t play those licks or sound that good or write my own stuff and it’s really not like me to think that way. I often hear musicians’, after seeing an amazing player, saying things like ‘I might as well just quit’, but it usually inspires me to go and pick up my guitar and learn the fuck out of it. Maybe I was just tired and low last night.

So how does the sober me get the pain and, yes, sometimes the joy, OUT into words without being explicit about what’s really on my mind? I tried poetry a few months ago and it actually went well, much to my surprise. I started with some of the loose random words and sounds that are constantly in my head and lines just appeared fully formed. I’d heard that that can happen but never really understood. In fact it felt bloody great.

So maybe I’ve just got to sit down and fucking do it; take the headphones off for a bit and see what silence can bring; be alone with the cacophony in my little head and see if I can get some of the noise out into words. Maybe that will make the noise a wee bit quieter and I’ll stop hating the world so much.



  1. Simon Thorborn says

    Right bonny lad! there are at least three songs in what you have written here. Not just ideas either, fully formed lines,
    “Be alone with the cacophony,
    If I can get some noise out
    I’ll stop hating the world.”
    I don’t want to turn this into an online support group, or be patronising, but you must know that just about every musician/creative/human will have sympathy and empathise with your thoughts. We can’t know what it’s like for anyone else, living in their own head’s but I’m pretty sure most of us struggle with it! Your initial tweet and your comment about playing music to get the fear out and to live in the present says it all for me. Some of my best gigs ever have been playing alone in the kitchen, I have found myself in belly aching fits of laughter and floods of tears when playing to myself, usually the latter. We need to connect to other humans though. One way of doing that is playing to an audience, you can go blind and deaf playing with yourself too much! Playing your own songs to an audience gives you an extra, albeit terrifying connection with your listener. I don’t really think the song itself is all that important, there I’ve gone and said it. The writing is though, and so is the playing of the song and then you have the performance as a bonus.
    I also loved your comment, “So maybe I should just sit down and fucking do it” I concur. There aint nothing to lose but your dignity, and lets face it we don’t have much left to lose. Fucking do it.

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