Every song I write emerges with an initial feeling.
Sometimes, it seems like songs just materialise out of thin air and I am just their vehicle into this world.
Other times, it takes a lot of concentration and piecing together of a puzzle to complete a song.
For nearly 10 years now, I have been writing down snippets of words, songs, song titles, books, concepts, poems, movies - noting down what they made me feel.
And then, when the time is right, a melody comes into my mind, or a chord progression, and I go back to my notes and retrieve that line, concept, or feeling.
It usually happens at the most inconvenient times, like when I'm driving, on a packed train in peak hour, driving home from work, and sometimes even at work. There have been times where I have gone to the bathroom just to record a quick voice memo on my phone so as to not forget the idea I've just come up with.
My upcoming single, 'Breathe' originated from a motif I was messing around with when I was in Europe. The motif began in Lebanon, and then it developed into a tiny idea when I travelled through Italy and France, and by the time the trip finished in Barcelona, I had a whole idea ready to go. I vividly recall walking through the little town of Pisa in the South of Italy, (think "leaning tower of Pisa") with my mini acoustic guitar hanging on my back (we couldn't leave valuables on the bus). And at some point I pulled out the guitar and hit record on my phone, playing the motif through enough times to remember it. I still have a picture somewhere on my instagram page where I'm holding that guitar next to the leaning tower.
Months later, sitting in my lounge room back in Sydney, I started playing that motif, thinking "this song really needs to get out of my head and onto paper". Once I started playing the motif, I realised that a completely different concept came to life with the same guitar motif.
Natural v Manicured
In songwriting, there is a certain danger of creating something that you think is original, only to find out that you've already heard it before. This is the very reason that I can never record one of my favourite songs that I've written to date, because it is VERY similar to a song written by a role model of mine. I was living in Lausanne, Switzerland at the time, and wrote the song in the tiny apartment I was living in, sitting at a beautiful old mahogany piano. Then, when I got on the train to go to uni, and listened back to the song, it was only THEN that I realised I had heard part of it before, in a slightly different way. I suspected it came from a certain album that I used to listen to religiously. I sifted through 12 songs in that album, until I found that one that I had copied, unconsciously.
In this case, I have a lot of work to do before I can actually release that one!
My Debut EP
My debut EP is made up of a combination of songs, some old (the oldest is about a year old) and some new. I mean very new. As in, I wrote the newest song a week before I went into the studio for recording. And finished it the day we recorded it. That one's called 'Movies' and I can't wait for you to hear it. It's interesting to think that 2 years ago, I thought I knew which songs would make the EP. A year ago, a good friend and experienced musician gave me some solid advice - when you've written a good song, record a demo and listen back, fiddle with it, play it live, with a band, without a band. for around 6 months (minimum) before you make any permanent decisions on what to do with that song. As they say, every time you write a new song, THAT'S your favourite song. Until you write another. And there are some songs that just never leave that "favourite song" category.
Even 6 months ago I thought I knew. But by the time it came to recording, I knew what I needed to choose.
What Do I Write About?
For the most part, my music navigates the process of growing up - and I don't mean physically (ha). I mean more specifically, the huge shift that occurs in our roles on this earth, and in our relationships with our family, friends, and society, when we move between childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, into adulthood. For me, a huge part of this has been empathising and understanding the process parents must go through when they give their whole lives to their children, for 20+ years, and then suddenly everyone moves on and the parents, either in a couple or single, must build their own life again.
My songs also navigate the processes of heartbreak, discovering who you are as an individual, and learning to accept the concept of human existence - living, loving, sickness, loss, dying, and everything in between. For any songwriters out there who are unsure of what direction to take with their music, my advice is this: write what comes naturally and don't do anything just to fit in. You won't please everyone anyway so you may as well just be yourself.
My uncle Fred used to be a DJ and producer, and has always had a passion and a talent for reading his crowd and selecting the right song for the right moment. His brain is literally a music library, updating by the day as he constantly listens to new music, and stays up to date on what's hot and what's not. Every single genre, both English music and Lebanese/European music. He is incredible. Over the years I have picked up a few important messages from him:
1. Don't wait too long to catch your audience. I.e. you usually have a 10 second window to CATCH your listener, otherwise they're out the door, (metaphorically or literally) and listening to another song, another playlist, another radio station. This means your first lyrics AND music are super important to define your song. Like the front cover of a novel, or the summary of an article online.
2. The most successful songs throughout history have been about something purely and rawly human. The more relatable you can be, the more successful and timeless your music will be.
A general piece of advice i've learned along the way is this:
Choose your genre (and therefore your audience) and don't be disheartened if not everyone would choose your genre as their first pick. In the same way that some people might like acoustic music, while others love EDM or jazz or heavy metal.
Well my friends, I'm about to hear the mixes of my recordings in the next few weeks and I just can't wait to share them with the world.
In the meantime, I have a couple of shows coming up before the release, followed by my EP launch show which is TBA. Stay up to date on the socials or via my website!