Brian Fallon was talking about doing a solo album versus an album with The Gaslight Anthem and how it brought him back to why he started writing songs in the first place.
And until that moment I thought I knew why I write songs – because I’m a songwriter – and I’ve been trying to remember the reasons I started writing. Before I was certain that I’m a born songwriter.
Frank Turner said songwriting has a maddening magic quality that as soon as you finish a song you forget most of what got you there. There are some writing experiences I do remember though.
1. I wrote That Day In September 1974 because I was so sad I had to write a story that justified my sadness. I had to live out that story by singing it. And it had to have a redemptive ending so that I could feel better and go on.
2. I wrote Songs I Wish I Didn’t Have To Write to catalog a moment in my life, and I started writing it to paint my side of the story but as I worked on it I saw how shitty and selfish that was. So the second half of the song became about how I’d throw someone I love under the bus just so I could write a song about it and show how sensitive yet messed up I am.
I write songs to explore, to learn about myself rather than take my first impressions for granted.
3. I write songs to talk to myself in different time periods.
I know that sounds odd. But when I wrote Laugh Track I intentionally wrote it to talk to my older self whenever I sing it. And a song I was working on in Greystone was called I Miss Getting Stoned and it’s a disscusion between myself now and myself some of the few times that I actually enjoyed using a drug in my late teens.
I think a great song can freeze a moment in such a way that it never becomes dated but is always alive. Like a married couple that’s grown old together for sixty years and can still each other like they did on the day they met.
4. I write songs because I want things to be true. I wrote Knock’em Dead, Kid because I loved the feeling of belonging I got from Frank Turner songs. And I knew I had to write it very quickly to circumvent my self censor that stops me from being positive. I wanted to write a youthful love song that would uplift people who don’t have anything to feel uplifted about. I wanted to write a song for others like the songs I like for myself.
5. I write to escape. In a way Acceptables and Scratch & Sniff are my saddest songs. In the wake of Dean’s death I couldn’t handle anything serious or remotely emotional so that’s when my silly punk songs got written.
But I guess none of those really cover why I started. And really fronting a band was my goal from so early on that the time before doesn’t really matter. I remember my early ambitions included being a G.I. Joe and a diamond thief. Around 12 when my older sister’s friends agreed to teach me music I already was certain that Frontman was my role.
I guess I wanted people to feel about me the way I felt about Trent Reznor and I wanted the freedom he had to be emotional. That his negative emotions were valued.