There’s a point in the writing of any song when I hit a wall of frustration and I wonder how the hell I did this the fifty or so previous times. So I’ve become a bit self aware of my own processes for songwriting. You may have noticed a new song on soundcloud, titled Sad Spanish Songs, I started working on it Friday so it’s all fresh and I can remember the details.
Not surprisingly the inspiration for Sad Spanish Songs was a sad spanish song. On Criminal Minds (there are a lot of little inspirations from CM and even one song specifically about one episode. Other shows too, Bones was really good for that.) a dying woman, a spanish nanny, was singing to a baby and it was an amazingly sad piece of music. I thought maybe I’d look into some spanish stuff for some more tools to put in my box and I thought of the phrase Sad Spanish Songs. And hears where coincidence comes in, the next morning at work, this would friday morning, we listened to some Flogging Molly including two of my favourite amazingly sad songs The Sun Never Shines On Closed Doors and Grace Of God Go I, If I could tally up all the ideas that never got out of the idea phase for lack of reminders and secondary inspiration I’m sure it would be in the thousands. Anyway it’s during Grace Of God that the idea became much more realized and I came up with a rough version of the opening lines and the theme of the song. Unfortunately I was at work and we were busy so I drew an S on my arm and sang silentishly to myself for the rest of the shift.
When I got home I pick up the guitar first and tried to find the melody but single note melodies sound thin on a guitar and playing guitar doesn’t cause me to experiment so I went to the piano. A few times recently I’ve been able to find the melody I’m thinking of with my right hand and then figure out the chords with my left. It’s a new tool in the box so to speak. So that’s what I did and that’s how the verse chords came about for Sad Spanish Songs. So I went back to the guitar and played them over and over and over improvising lyrics and jotting down the good ones. The other chord progression in the song grew out of that time. Ball park I worked on it for 4 hours Friday night. Weekend mornings I always close myself in the studio with a notebook, all my instruments, and a pot of coffee. Probably another four hours and the lyrics were done. I demoed it on my Boss BR80 (which I call Tom Brady) and that’s the version people could hear online Saturday afternoon.
I don’t feel like this has a place in Greystone Gardens, it just feels like an Alastair Robertson song. For it’s celticy roots, lack of drums, and the fact that it feels so personal, so literally and specifically about me. It’s me talking to my close friends. There’s deeply personal stuff in the Greystone writing, Songs I Wish I Didn’t Have To Write, is the most personal and specific thing I may have ever written but it feels like it’s not for any exact listener, in fact I feel like it’s best listened to by someone who doesn’t know me. Whereas other songs feel like they’re part of my eulogy and while not totally private they do require a lot of prior knowledge to have an impact.
The purpose of songwriting for me is to better know myself and share that in the hope that the sum total of my life can be known to someone else.