Wrestling with the kraken, joys and frustrations of songwriting

I often talk about the process of writing songs as like “wrestling with the kraken” in that its at times a joyous and frustrating experience, but one that with some perseverance can yield great results. I’m a big fan of original songs and creative ideas can of course appear in many forms at any time. Sometimes a set of lyrics might appear and sometimes a musical idea might emerge. In my experience its always best to have some “data capture” tool, whether this is an audio recorder, phone or simple pad and paper. For this reason I am often armed with all the above items, especially as once an idea starts to emerge, it can be like a full data download.

Songs songs can be inspired can be inspired by real life events or people and some just appear out of nowhere and don’t come from any conscious reference point. With my own band “The Small Change Diaries” tracks like “Rona” and “Birdman” were inspired by specific people I had met. Other songs like “Draw you out” were inspired by the Paris terror incidents. In all cases its as it a song want’s “to get out” and as an artist I’m simply the channel for making this possible. The reason why I call it “wrestling with the kraken” is that it can be an equally exhausting and inspiring energetic process. Its then somewhat surreal to hear a track on the radio or being well received at a live festival. Sometimes a song can appear really quickly and is fully completed. Other times it can be a real battle to get something that “feels complete” and usually this means literally walking away from it and returning later. Its a bit like a sculptor gradually creating their work. There’s IMO a definite sense when its finished and a definite sense when its not quite right,,,

Working with a band is also very different to working solo. With The Small Change Diaries there are four distinct personalities so the end result has some of all of us both metaphorically and literally in the mix. Its an absolute delight to work in this way and of course the more we play as a band, the more I write with the band in mind. This November we release “Lullabies for Cynics” the second Small Change Diaries album which has a number of guests including Phil Doleman on lap steel, Laurent Zeller on violin and Sleepy Kev Bishop on Harmonica. We also have the excellent Carl Rosamond as producer ensuring we get the best possible sound.


Photos by Karen Turner Photography

2 Responses to Wrestling with the kraken, joys and frustrations of songwriting

  1. Richard Cisneros 16th May 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    Your experience is quite similar to mine. I would add only this- there comes a time to “let go” of something that just isn’t working. It’s easy to get a little to close to what you’re doing and lose sight, and over work a song or to just do too much. I remember Clint Eastwood talking about his “spagetti westerns” and how he was always try to cut out as much of his dialogue as possible. For those particular projects, less was definitely more.

    • nick cody 17th May 2017 at 7:56 pm #

      I heard the same thing in Nick Cave’s excellent 20,000 days on earth!

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