The Writing Life. (The essays included weekly in this section are taken from a series of articles & notes from my seminars on the creative process.)
Here’s another one:
“AS WORDS GO BY…” by Bill Mallonee
I’ve probably written near 2000 songs in my life. Honest.
80albums & counting have made it to light, anyway….
The various nuances of each hopefully lend some credibility to these following observations…
As a songwriter, I often just write to see what the words feel like as they go past.
No shuck & jive, no “hoo-doo,” no angle to work, no goal to achieve, no agenda to parlay, no propaganda to disseminate.
Just a search for the raw beauty of words unlocking or sealing up; revealing or disguising; inspiring or wrecking one’s philosophic house of cards.
It’s all fair game; all brought to the table when I’m writing lyrics. One word leads to another…
…and then the song’s done.
I’ve learned to not disturb the “space” between one thought to another or the “thought prompts” words are bound to conjure. One can have content & intention and not negate the joy & beauty of spontaneity.
It always feels like whatever the results are, those words, lines, verses are “spun” with gossamer-like materials. I find I’m a bit superstitious about breaking any part of thread;
Words can be like bombs; maybe more like a mine field. You read and it’s like picking your way through dangerous terrain; Anything could happen…and who knows where you’re heart will wind up?
With every word that goes by, you may have barely “survived” a near death experience.
They can also be “near-life” experiences.
And that is why I write at all.
When I’m writing lyrics I often don’t have a topic or theme in mind.
I’ve forgotten many of them. Many of them are languishing on cassette tapes, never to be dusted off or listened to again.
So, how has any of that worked out in the day-to-day of doing what one does in order to survive?
I think I found out early on that the “Music Industry” (whatever it was then or is now) wasn’t ever set up to release even 30 songs a year by one artist. For me, it was too much to try and acclimate to. The constant ritual of write, record, release, rehearse & tour just inspired too much in me to be content with 12 songs every 2 years.
Hence, my gravitating back to “indie” status.
To me, “Indie” in today’s commercial-tweaked, consumption driven climate, has been like the breath of fresh air for nearly 20 years now.
It’s like Gospel. Sure, some of it seems scary;
But, it’s with that “gospel” that you’re freely given a grace to be what you were meant to be; free to make mistakes, free to mature, free to find others on the same path, free to grow up into the full stature of something templated deep inside the universe.
But, the “music biz?” (yawn)
If it’s not the good news of liberation, grace & freedom?
Then it ain’t “good news” at all.
Of course breaking out of such a prison often comes at a certain price. The “lady poverty” (whom St. Francis often spoke of) and I are on a first name basis.
I usually buy the first round…
We go back a long way, you might say.
Still, you should know, there are at least 2 plus sides of such an arrangement; At least there have been for me anyway.
1st plus side of the arrangement?
Well, the songs keep coming, real & unfettered…
I sleep well at night.
No compromises. No surrender.
I suspect, withdrawing from illusion (in this case the “music biz) always manifests itself in such a fashion.
Back to the writing & rendering of lyrics.
Most folks who know my work have heard me say that I try not to “over-think” it.
There is a certain freedom in letting whatever is within just “show up.”
Or, perhaps, it’s “something out there” asking to gain admission; requesting an audience; demanding a hearing.
On a side-note?
I find it of passing interest that I wrote a lot of songs in my “Vigilantes of Love period” with the idea of an “end” in mind. My songs had a certain forgone conclusion. I don’t think that invalidates the song.
I always tried to “dirty them up a good bit;”
Let them “live on the streets” a few years, before recording them.
But, now if I hear foregone conclusions coming on too strong, I tend to tune it out, if not dismiss it entirely.
I certainly don’t disown any of my songs. But, artists (the good ones anyway) grow.
If I wrote it, rehearsed it and recorded it? It means the song was “good to go.”
And that I stand by it, heart & soul.
In the writing process, back then, I may have double checked them a few times (for things like brevity and internal cadences); but, I almost always went with my gut-level initial impressions and initial renderings.
Here’s my point:
When an artist “finds his voice,” I think it has more to do with that trusting of one’s gut, turning off the blare of radio, not reading the bought & paid for “Best of Lists” compiled by townies & blogger journalists.
Who cares what others think?
No,it looks more like a lonely taking of the road less traveled.
It can also be a stumbling but unrepentant forging ahead on that path where nomenclature gets wobbly if not outright fails altogether;
An ear to the ground and nose to the air, an attempt to catch a scent of things unseen;
Things that might just feel like (on many days) kissing (or being embraced by) Something or Someone transcendent.
And here’s the thing:
When that occurs you will feel like you have heard your soul speak something you heretofore knew not.
And that’s all I want to say about that.
I just write to see what the words feel like as they go past. And you hope & pray that they are pulled from a deeper well; one for which you are eternally grateful…
~ Bill Mallonee c.2017