Thursday, March 31, 2016

Andy Platts (Mamas Gun)


Andy Platts is a songwriter and vocalist best known for his work with the band Mamas Gun, a ferociously funky live act, whose sound bridges classic melodic pop songwriting with retro and contemporary soul/groove sensibilities.  The song 'Red Cassette' from Mamas Guns third album recently made the BBC Radio 2 playlist, as well as being playlisted on major radio stations across Europe and Asia. 'House on a Hill', a song from the bands debut album, was the most played song on Japanese radio in 2009. As well as his work with Mamas Gun, Andy has also enjoyed chart success working with other artists, including several number one singles in Korea, number one albums in Japan and top 20 successes in Europe. Most recently Andy has been working with Dutch singer Steffen Morrison and Korean Superstar Park Hyo Shin. Here, Andy discusses his songwriting tips. 
  1. Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? It really does depend on what else is happening at the time. Historically I'm at my most active in between albums (which is logical!). During this time I'm inspired to want to implement a daily routine. Typically during this type of period I will get up very early, sometimes as early 6am. I find this time of the day especially conducive to writing lyrics or following streams of consciousness with a certain level of clarity. I tend to try and use a day to pursue an idea as far as I can take it, as opposed to flitting between unfinished ideas but sometimes a song won't let you do that and you have to walk away.
  2. Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? No, no tricks. You just have to remain constantly interested in the process and retain a certain amount of romance (and even naivety) and be prepared to take full advantage when the really special lighting bolts strike. I used to smoke a lot of weed (not to write, specifically, just all day every day…) which certainly puts your mind into a different sphere, and I know quite a few people who won’t play a note without it, but I wouldn’t say is necessarily better for getting things started or being creative. On a basic level, you can of course foster good conditions for songwriting. Obviously listening to music can be very inspirational, but I am also a big reader. Engaging with words/language and the infinite ways it can be used to communicate or 'paint', I think is crucial. At the moment I’m bingeing on the prose of Thomas Hardy, the style of which forces you to engage with words and sentence construction in a different way.
  3. Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Ah this old chestnut. I don't ‘normally’ start with either. If you characterise yourself as 'someone who starts with xxxx ' then you are conditioning yourself to perceive and create in a certain way. You have to be open for any kind of stimuli to inform what may come next, be it lyrics, melody, chords, a lick, or simply a feeling.
  4. Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Oh absolutely crucial but not necessarily the most important aspect. The 'recipe’ of every song is different and the appeal of a song lies in how its constituent parts are balanced. And this is where the subjective nature of music and taste comes in. Yes often the melody will be the thing which sells the lyric - I always liked what Paul Mc Cartney said about songwriting. I'm paraphrasing here but it was something like 'melody is like the eye catching gift wrapping on a present that ultimately leads you to the thing at the centre of it, the lyric.' Melody and lyric are just as important as each other and to me, finding that perfect balance between the two, and it saying what I really want it to say, is the holy grail. It also depends on what kind of song(s) you are looking to write.
  5. How long does it take you to write a song? Looking back at the songs I've written - anywhere from 30 minutes to 10 years. Some ideas need to be captured, bottled and written on the spot, regardless of time, place or circumstance. But some ideas, which are best left and not forced, can develop a different context and become more meaningful over the passage of time.
  6. Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? Red Cassette: I found an old red cassette in a shoe box in the loft at my parents house on a visit a few years ago. The song tells the story of when I was eight years old and wanted to be a radio DJ. I’d wired up all my turntables and hi-fis into a scientist’s laboratory and I’d stay up late to make my own radio shows writing my own jingles and songs, recording it on a four-track player on a red cassette tape. But it’s also a love letter to nostalgia. It’s the notion of looking back in order to move forward and create in the present, whether it’s creating music or art or just life experience. The chorus refrain ‘Take me back, take me back to when it all began’, speaks to the tangible element in the song - the red cassette itself, which aside from being a great visual physical device, is also a great metaphor for nostalgia and also a cool song title. The style of the song was influenced by stuff like The Isley Brothers 'Harvest for the World', with all those nice slash chords and insistent driving 8 beat. I guess I wrote this one in about 30 mins. Pots of Gold: I’d been listening to a lot of doo-wop and vocal groups like the Ink Spots and also people like The Delphonics and The Stylistics. I wanted to write something optimistic and summery so I wandered down that maj7, dom7 progression as a starting point, and then found myself thinking about the sun, the sky, then onto rainbows and then the elusive pot of gold. I immediately thought this had legs as a visual image as well as a great metaphor. The song kind of wrote itself after that and is basically about chasing your dreams at the expense of the things which are most important in life. To me, those things are family and the close personal connections we form with friends, lovers etc, without whom life would be utterly meaningless. In other words: re-define the notion of success and put your happiness first. Long Way Back: I'm proud of this one. This is a song I wrote from the perspective of my Grandfather at his wife’s bedside just before she passed away. The tempo, space, harmony, melody and lyric all combine powerfully to create a feeling of reflection and nostalgia, but in a way that is not obviously hammy or cheesy. (I hope….).
  7. What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? Just a few of my favourite songs (not necessarily recordings)… Lennon/McCartney - She's Leaving Home , Lennon/McCartney - If I Fell, Lewis Taylor - Damn, Queen - You're My Best Friend, Andrew Gold - Lonely Boy, Kate Bush - Mother Stands For Comfort, Prince - When You Were Mine, Joni Mitchell - Free Man In Paris, Irving Berlin - They Say It's wonderful , Elton John - In Neon, Jeff Lynne - Strange Magic
  8. Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I don’t think it’s important at all. Look at people like Bob Dylan. 3 chord tricks with exquisitely crafted lyrics and just the right amount of melody to carry them. Same with someone like Noel Gallagher who wrote simple working class anthems that resonated with a whole generation. As long as you are being yourself and being true to yourself, you should (with a bit of luck and elbow grease) find your voice regardless of your level of music theory.
  9. Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? Absolutely. Especially ones that you know have something special about them but haven’t been elevated to where they could be. You have to draw a line at some point, (otherwise you’ll go mad) but songs can always be better, in a number of respects, but just as important is knowing when to draw that line to not do any more work on them.
  10. Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? I find that I naturally write with one ear towards being commercial or accessible. It’s what I like, I grew up listening to the radio after all! I find that I don’t care about trends. I make myself aware of them but it certainly doesn’t dictate how or what I write. If I’m writing for another singer (a Japanese balladeer, for example) I may take into account the hallmarks of the genre ( certain chord types and progressions ) but I will still tend to write something which I like and from which I get something back.
  11. Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? Yes done plenty, with people all over the world. There’s def something to be said for co-writing. If you have a synergy with someone then you can really hone in on something quickly and ensure the quality level is kept high. Creative tennis if you like. Someone else will almost have a slightly different take on a lyrical theme or chord progression, which can be invaluable. I’ve also I’ve found that one person tends to (has to?) ‘lead’ in these sessions otherwise things can lose focus. Nowadays I'm more selective about with whom I co-write. If a writer is suggested to me by my publisher, I will do all I can to research the writer's body of work, their style etc.
  12. Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically / lyrically? Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone), Prince, Joni Mitchell, Scott Walker, Andy Sturmer, Kate Bush, Brian Wilson, Jeff Lynne, Elton John / Bernie Taupin, Andrew Gold, Stevie Wonder, Rod Temperton, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin….
  13. Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? Ok getting personal! Yeah I’m sure conflict is at the heart of the creative condition. I’m pretty sure that I became a writer not just because I love music. I would offer that creating art, music, paintings, sculpture, drama…whatever….goes some way to exploring what’s at the heart of that conflict. On a deeper, more permanent level, the fact that we are all a genetic product of two different sources means that a certain conflict exists within us all, as a starting point. Personally - being of mixed race with parents from opposite sides of the Earth has definitely left me with irreconcilable issues of identity which I’m convinced feed into the music I write. It’s not like I’m sitting in a shower crying screaming ‘who am I?’ everyday - it’s more subtle than that. But indeed writing songs, for me, is a form of self-therapy and crucial in providing some kind of stability and an outlet through which I can process and make sense of things.
  14. Do you have any idea where your ideas come from? If I knew that then I probably wouldn’t be doing it!
  15. Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Just keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. Writing songs is about developing a knack for knowing what’s good, what could be good and just as importantly knowing which ideas aren’t worth pursuing - the red herrings! And don’t settle for okay. Remember that you’re going up against the very best songwriters who have ever lived. You will become part of that body of work and that musical conversation so try to make what you do as special and memorable as possible.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

John Bramwell (I Am Kloot)


John Bramwell is the frontman and songwriter from I Am Kloot, a band who have six studio albums under their belt. They have been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, achieved top ten albums and even written the soundtrack for a BBC One series. Bramwell has also released albums under his own name, such as 'You Me and The Alarm Clock' which was described by The Guardian newspaper as 'one of the greatest albums you've never heard'. I managed to catch up with John before he heads out on his latest tour, to ask him a few questions about songwriting. 


  1. Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? Both. I sit and play guitar for enjoyment, and I don’t think of it as ‘trying to write’. Whenever I try to write it doesn’t really happen. I prefer to call it ‘making things up’ because you get a much more playful attitude that way. It’s all in the frame of mind. I play every day, and I have done since I was 5 or 6.
  2. Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? A lot of songs come to me when I’m out walking. Driving around is another good way, not necessarily going anywhere in particular. I just keep singing away and a melody will pop in. I don't think about it too much and just let 'stream of consciousness' come out. Then at some point everything starts to gel and I get a theme. The next day if I can remember it then I carry on with it. I have a mobile phone, in the old days I had a Walkman. But I don’t record every single thing, or you just end up having to wade through them all. It’s got to pass the whistle test. If it sticks with me, then I stick with it. Also, I’ve taken a chord change from someone else’s song, and just played it for enjoyment. Sometimes something comes. An early song of mine ‘Titanic’ is the same chords as ‘Lay Lady Lay’ by Bob Dylan. I also like to jam over BBC Radio 3. It gets you away from everything that’s happened since 1955 and gives you a fresh approach. 
  3. Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Because I’ve been playing for such a long time an idea tends to pop into my head, then I work out what it is on the guitar. So usually melody and words come together. But they’re not always the final words. I might spend some more time on the words and completely change them. But the best stuff normally just comes to you. 
  4. Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? I think for me it’s the power that the melody gives the lyric. I think that’s my strong point. It’s not everyone’s strong point and it’s not necessarily what makes a good song. I am probably a bit more poetic than most. That’s why I’m always waiting for a strong melody. Once you’ve got a strong melody then lyrics can come quite easily. 
  5. How long does it take you to write a song? If it’s a really good one it won’t take long at all. Having said that, I’ve had songs hang around for years because the lyric just won’t come. There’s a song called 'Masquerade' on our last album. The opening of that song is a scale. When I was a kid my mate was teaching me scales, which I never really paid that much attention to. But I started singing the scale and then developed that into the rest of the melody. And I’ve had that kicking around with me since I was about 12. We were recording something else one day and I was driving in, about an hours drive. I’d pretty much written it by the time I got to the studio. We put it down that day. So in one way in took an hour to write that, but in another way it took 32 years.
  6. What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? When you’re between 5 and 11, before you start thinking about what’s cool, you ingest music unconsciously. If you’re going to be honest as a writer that’s the biggest influence. Not because you want it to be, but because it is. Growing up I had The Beatles, Bowie, T-Rex. My mum had Sinatra on. My mum and dad had all the musicals on. None of my family could play instruments, but music was a big deal. On long journeys my dad would put music on the stereo and we’d all sing and learn the song. 
  7. Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? If you’re self taught like I am, it helps you have your own sound. I form some of the chords in a different way, so sometimes when I change from one chord to another, especially when I’m playing fingerstyle, I get different accidentals than I would if I'd learnt formally. I hurt my finger about 5 years ago so I’ve had to relearn shapes with different fingers. Just the basic ones like C and E. It was a pain at first but now it’s second nature. And now as a result of this I get different accidentals, and this gives me a recognisable style.
  8. Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I never have, no. I like to have a glass of wine and sit with my guitar and put a good film on. I watched 'La Vie En Rose' about three or four times over the course of a couple of months, and that really inspired a lot of the writing on ‘Sky at Night’. It’s got that late night ‘glass of wine’ feel. I think films are really inspiring. And if you want to write lyrically, then read a lot. Reading is the best thing you can do if you want to write. 
  9. Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? It can be a solace. I wrote a song on our last EP called ‘Forgive Me These Reminders’. I was feeling pretty bleak. I think I wrote it as a song to myself, not to be too hard on myself. I’d run myself a bit ragged, not had enough sleep over a couple of months, been gigging and going out, and was feeling like I needed to pull myself together. I was pissed off with myself, so I wrote that…. The emotions that come out in a song when you’re writing it aren’t necessarily the emotions that you’re living in at the time, they often can be from the past , or in fact can be a kind of weird fiction. 
  10. Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Get lost in it and enjoy it. Let other people hear your stuff. Someone that you trust. A career is a different thing. I’ve always had part time jobs until about 10 years ago. You need to step away from being a writer. It does your head in to do it all the time. The worst thing is you get fed up with your own stuff because you have to spend so much time with it. It’s good to have some stuff you actually have to do. I had a delivery van driving job, I just picked up the stuff from the depot in the morning then I’d have to deliver it. Basically I’d have all day to myself. It took my mind away from ‘I’ve got to write’, so I enjoyed the writing when I got back to it. And I also could write while I was doing the job; just taking your eye of the ball is pretty good. Staring at a piece of paper is hard. You have to do that as well. But you need to get away from it too. Also, the song that you think is a bit daft, the one where you think ‘this is just too obvious’, often that’s the one.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Liam McClair



Liam McClair is a talented Manchester based singer-songwriter who has received airplay on BBC 6 Music, and been championed by BBC Introducing. His latest EP 'Honest' is available to pre-order now. Here he discusses his songwriting tips. 


  1.  Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? I play my guitar every day and I try and put something new together each time, sometimes it happens immediately other times you need to try to vary chord structures. Often I will play through covers and take inspiration from their chord sequences. My inspiration usually comes after I have the chords ready. I would like to try writing by having a concept and then beginning to write on that topic.
  2. Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? Not really, I am trying to find inspiration in a variety of topics. Recently I listened to a audiobook series on Ghengis Khan and I would love to write a song around his quest for an empire and relate it to communist culture of today. I watched Breaking Bad in its entirety and the day after I finished the show a couple of ideas for themes of songs appeared. I also find listening to a really great song inspires me to write; usually from unsigned artists but from signed musicians too.
  3. Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Usually melody first, I will get a chord sequence together and begin to sing over the top. Nothing in particular, just fishing for a melody I like and that fits the sequence and the rhythm of the track. Within the random singing I will just add in lyrics just to have something over the top. When the lyrics work, I will listen back to them and find a theme in them or create a theme using some of the lyrics that fit. Once that stage is over I will then begin to transcribe lyrics and chose phrases that fit the theme of the song.
  4. Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Definitely. My first experience of composition was during music lessons at school and I always remember my teacher, Mr Dewhurst, saying you know it is a good melody if you can wake up the next day and instantly start singing that song. Making it memorable is the biggest thing for me when writing. I use this rule in all of my writing because if I can’t remember the melody, how can I expect fans to?
  5. How long does it take you to write a song? It varies from song to song, a few songs I have written have taken 15-20 minutes, it’s like they have been full formed inside me waiting to be discovered. I have had a few that take a couple of days from the genesis of the idea to the track being finished. Occasionally I have an idea that sits for a while as a demo recording and then one day I will be able to put it all together, It is normally no longer than a week.
  6. Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? 'How' was the first song I wrote that I knew had potential to be liked by other people. I like all of my tracks but I felt like this song had a broad appeal. The idea of the song came from how the dynamic of a relationship I was in at the time had changed. I was trying to describe and capture the feeling of pure excitement, nerves and wonder when you are incredibly attracted to someone, I took a lot of time over writing the song and carefully considered each phrase. It was the start for me as it got played on BBC Introducing Merseyside a couple times when I was a student in Liverpool and that support gave me the belief to go on and continue writing and performing. 'Honey' got my instantly excited. I knew it was a good song because it followed the melodic advice I had been given by my music teacher. When it came to recording it, the people that I was working with helped to confirm its potential to be a good song. I wrote it in my Mum’s house and I was trying to express how I want to feel when I am in love with someone. It’s a letter to my future partner; it is also an expression of how I want to feel when I am with someone. It’s about being honest and candid and making someone feel appreciated. This song came very naturally to me and because I was really excited about it, that helped the song take form much faster. 'Lose My Faith' is a song I wrote after I had been seeing a girl as a student in Liverpool and I was in my final year. We got on really well and she very refreshing and exciting. I’d never met anyone like her, when I finished University I moved back home to Cheshire and during my 3rd year I didn’t handle the situation very well and ended up drifting apart from her. So the song is about the feeling of wondering should I go back and try and rekindle the excitement or is it too late and have they moved on? I was playing around with new chords and the second chord in the sequence I stumbled upon and really liked. I never transcribed any of the lyrics to this song, it all just flowed out of me. 'Honest' is my latest single and quite an old song, I wrote it long before Honey and Lose My Faith I was just unsure of how I wanted it to be recorded. When I was in a previous relationship I confused being honest with keeping the person happy and it was eventually to my detriment. Therefore this track was a confession of being totally open and candid with someone in order for them to see the real you. It can very naturally and I feel it is my best song structurally. The verses and choruses are clearly distinguished.
  7. What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? I really admire Joni Mitchell as a songwriter, her turn of phrase is brilliant. It hits you then when you think more about it you find a deeper meaning in the lyrics. Her song 'Case Of You' is a fantastic song and the sentiment behind it is wonderful and I would love to write a song in a similar vein. 'American Pie' by Don Mclean is a great song because it is a catchy song with a great chorus but the verses are all metaphorical for significant moments in history and he replaced the famous names in the story with characters. I also really like 'Father And Son' by Cat Stevens, I feel like I can relate to both sides of the story and it is a brilliantly observed song. It speaks of youthful excitement and resentment towards aging and fatherly wisdom and sage advice.
  8. Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I think it has really helped me in my song writing. I studied music at GCSE and only learned the basics but that knowledge has made me the songwriter I am today. It helped me with song structure and also showed me what chords complement one another.
  9. Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? I find revisiting songs really difficult. Once I have a put a melody over chords or a sequence of chords I can’t sing anything else over them. If I was to rewriter a song it would keep its original melody and I would change a few lyrics or I would add a varying section. It is something I am going to look at doing more as I think it could yield positive outcomes.
  10. Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? I try and write commercial songs in as much as I want them to be viable as a product for people to buy. In terms of following trends I think it’s a dangerous game because I find popularity is becoming very fickle and what is popular one month will be old news the next month and the time it takes to get a release together, your idea of commercial maybe far away from the trend that is present when you release your music. I think it’s important to make music that I like and that I would want to listen to and music has such a wide spectrum of tastes that I know I can find an audience for my songs without chasing after trends
  11. Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I haven’t to be honest. I have written additional material for a song that is already formed but I have never started from scratch with an artist in order to make a new song. It is something I would like to try in order to challenge myself.
  12. Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Laura Marling, Nick Mulvey, Justin Vernon, Carly Simon, Paolo Nutini, Coldplay, Radiohead. Musically I feel I am inspired by all sorts of music, when I first started writing I was listening to Coldplay, Radiohead and Nick Drake. I have never really been compared to any other artists therefore I feel I have been inspired and created my own style through my admiration of these artists.
  13. Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? I think so, often in an unconscious way. When I have gone through emotional periods in my life or difficult times, songs about those situations don’t appear until I am through the worst of it. I have written a couple of songs regarding emotional events in my life and I find them the easiest to write and the most difficult to share just because they are much more personal than any other track and sometimes the writing of them is pure catharsis and helps me to process the emotions and to get through the situation
  14. Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? Sometimes I feel I am the master of my creativity, others I feel I am a conduit for something more difficult to explain. I have often not given the organic songs much thought and let them be the way they were formed initially. I really like the idea of the song being considered and dissected by the crowd and by myself.
  15. Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? I would say write as much as you can, don’t worry if your songs aren’t amazing initially just look to other examples of mastering a task. It takes practice to discover how you work best and what sequence of crafting a song is suited to you. Enjoy it as I find it an amazing thing and seeing people sing your lyrics or post your songs is incredibly gratifying and humbling.

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Click on the following to find Liam on the web.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Joni Fuller


Joni Fuller is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has been featured as an 'inspirational teenager' by The Independent, and as 'one to watch' by PRS For Music. She has also won LIPA's MIBI songwriting contest twice. Joni released her EP 'Letters from the West Coast' in May 2015. Here she discusses her songwriting tips.

  1. Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? Definitely the latter! I can go for days or weeks without writing anything new, and then suddenly I'm working on three songs at once. It used to worry me... what would happen if the inspiration just didn't come back - but I've learnt to be patient! 
  2. Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? No, I really do just wait for a moment of inspiration. Having said that, I did some co-writing for the first time last year, and that had more routine about it. More recently, I've taken to using a BOSS RC300 loop-station to deliver my live shows, and this has influenced my songwriting. Knowing that I'll be performing the song solo, using a loop-pedal has shaped some of my songs. It's also a great way to 'jam' with yourself in that I can build up ideas and harmonies and swap instruments whilst writing the song. 
  3. Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Both come at once. I've been approached by some really good lyricists and poets over the years, wanting to collaborate together, but when I write a song, the lyrical theme comes with the very first plays of the melody and chord structure, so it would be odd for me to use someone else's words. The stream of sub-consciousness usually finds words that fit the music, but it sometimes lets me down and I have to go back to the lyrics and make changes, but I try to stick as closely as possible with that original spark of lyrical creativity. 
  4. Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Yes, but I'm very conscious of how important the lyrics are in enhancing the way the song communicates. An inspired melody can be ruined by lyrics that don't support it. I guess the key is to get both right! 
  5. How long does it take you to write a song? The music is usually written in one (often intense!) session. I find it hard to walk away from an unfinished idea, so I am pretty much tied up until it's done... not good if I have any other commitments at around the same time! The lyrics often take longer and I’ll return to them over the following days, sometimes weeks, until I’m completely happy with them.
  6. Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? 'Pretty Blue' tells a story rather than being a personal reflection or expression. It was actually quite a moving experience writing the song as I actually got to feel I knew the person in the song as a friend, and I found myself empathising with her. Like a number of my songs, it features the violin, which gives it a kind of mournful country feel. Also, I recorded all the parts myself, so it has a very personal feel, with the little touches on piano, vocal harmonies, etc that characterise my music. 'Wild Wild West' is the first song I have written around the loop pedal. I had a few ideas mulling around in my head, and then found myself in a studio in Scotland (on the banks of Loch Fyne with stunning views across the loch and to the mountains), and the song evolved in that setting. The wild and untamed landscape definitely played a part in the musical and lyrical theme. The opening riff is also very 'loop-friendly' which made it easy to build on - and play live too. 'The Penny' is the song that really defined my new sound and style. I wrote it last year (2014) and at the time it seemed a departure from what I had been used to, with much stronger folk and country influences. I liked the uplifting feel of the song and it made me want to get back to gigging, as I had taken a break from playing live for a few months whilst I reviewed and redefined my sound. The first challenge was getting this into the solo acoustic, instrument-swapping set using the loop pedal. Once I'd cracked it, after having to overcome a number of technical hitches, the flood gates opened and other songs just seemed to follow. 
  7. What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? It would be a long list... just about everything on Prince's Parade and Joni Mitchell's Hejira albums for a start. Kate Bush is another songwriter I really admire - Hello Earth is probably my favourite; seeing her play it live last year was an amazing experience. I'm also currently obsessively listening to the new Brandon Flowers album - The Desired Effect. 
  8. Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? My first instruments are violin and piano, so I've studied theory as part of a classical training. I don't think I consciously refer to any technical knowledge when writing a song but it can be very useful when I’m arranging for recording and performing. 
  9. Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? I usually leave the melody and chords, trusting the moment of inspiration that brought them to life. I do revisit lyrics though, although it can be hard, especially after an intense creative and development process, and whether I remember to sing the new words when I'm playing live is another matter! 
  10. Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? No, although I feel I have really concentrated on honing my sound over the past year. I started writing songs when I was really young (from around eight years of age) and really just allowed myself free creative reign, particularly when it came to arrangements and production, so the back catalogue is a very eclectic mix - which I'm proud of, but felt needed refining into a more consistent sound. This was especially important given the new solo acoustic live act where I swap instruments, using the loop pedal. The current acoustic sound has all the ingredients of the styles of music I love, but within a more defined and identifiable sound, which feels very natural. 
  11. Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I did some co-writing for the first time last year, and enjoyed it. I took some basic stems, and sometimes just a beat and then improvised over and around them. Sometimes the finished songs seemed to bear very little resemblance to the original stems, but it was definitely a different way of working and was actually rewarding. I didn't feel as intensely pressured by the songwriting process as I would do with a solo write, and it probably allowed me to explore some new areas too. I can see how this could be a good way of introducing some routine and regularity into writing, especially if the creative process was at a natural lull for whatever reason. It's always good to link up with other musicians too. 
  12. Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? I was Christened Joni Amelia, so it's probably no surprise that Joni Mitchell has been a big influence on my musical development and songwriting! Ironically, her song Amelia has always been an inspiration to me, especially the lyrical content. I remain completely in awe at the ease with which she finds the words to paint pictures within her songs. Prince is another big inspiration. Not just as a prolific songwriter, but also as an all-round musician and consummate professional and perfectionist - setting the bar very high for everyone else to follow. 
  13. Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? I don't think it has any bearing on when I write a song, but I tap into experiences and memories whilst I'm in the process of writing which makes the song more personal and honest, and probably more powerful as it comes from a personal experience. 
  14. Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? It's a bit of a chicken and egg question, but I think the music drives the lyrical theme. For example, sombre, minor key chords/melodies will inevitably lead to darker lyrics. I rely on this musical inspiration to find the lyrical theme. I think I would find it very difficult to have to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and write words after the music was in place. 
  15. Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? My mantra is to be honest to myself and write (and then perform) music that means something to me and inspires me in some way. You can only then hope that it does the same for others! The songwriting process can be an intense and sometimes traumatic affair - and maybe at times, to produce an inspired song, it needs to be.
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Tony Moore





An early member of Iron Maiden, keyboard player in Cutting Crew, founder of The Kashmir Club, the man behind The Bedford, radio presenter, television presenter, Tony Moore has an impressive and diverse CV covering almost every aspect of the music industry. Somehow he has also found the time to play countless shows performing his own material, including appearances at The Royal Albert Hall and a support slot with Duran Duran. Tony also writes and produces for other artists, has written 'The History of Songwriting' and been awarded a 'Gold Badge' by The British Academy of Songwriters Composers and Authors for his services to songwriters and his major contribution to the creative industry. Here he discusses his songwriting tips.
  1. Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? I am (generally) an inspirational kind of songwriter, although I like to try and write 2 or 3 songs (or fairly complete sections) each week. However I do enjoy the discipline of co-writing and knowing that we will need to deliver something and I also enjoy the challenges of working to pitch. 
  2. Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? Working at about 2am is often the most inspirational time for me- but I also keep copious voice messages and notes with lyric ideas, melodies, riffs and chord sequences that I will revisit , if I am feeling dry.
  3. Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Usually the melody and a scratch lyric (that usual forms the basis of the main lyric or title) I let stream of consciousness deliver what I need (mainly). However, I often see or hear things that I know will be a good song idea and try and keep them simmering till I can get behind a guitar or piano. 
  4. Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Actually yes, I always say that melody trumps lyric - there are some amazingly successful songs with fairly average lyrics where the top line is so infectious that it functions as an "ear worm"- but when you get lyric and melody equally balanced (Paul Simon, Billy Joel etc) then I think you end up with something very powerful. 
  5. How long does it take you to write a song? I am generally the kind of writer who likes to finish things once I have started - when in the right unpaired moment the main body of a song might come in half an hour or an hour and then I will take time "polishing " the lyric and structure - maybe revisiting over a few days till it feels complete - sometimes I might have a rush of inspired writing that hits a brick wall after the verse or chorus and then I come back to it days or weeks later with fresh ears.
  6. Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? For me it is usual a moment of inspiration that kicks things off, and generally at about 2am in the morning. Beautiful Country is a song I wrote for ILONA, the artist that I am currently working with. We both love Country Music and in particular the kind if Shania/Lady Antebellum cross over genre. I had just returned from the States where I had been seeing and hearing a lot of country acts in the media over there that we don't know about in the UK and it got me thinking about why that is. It seemed to me that we actually like great country acts over here, artists like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton have always been very popular. But I realised that much of the heart of Country music is the lyric and very often the traditional Country lyrics talk about subjects that have no resonance for us in the UK - We don't have rodeo's and cowboys, the shops don't sell Tootsie Rolls and we have no idea what a Honky Tonk is. So I began writing a ballad melody, slightly melancholic observing the differences between the culture I grew up with (cold weather, warm beer etc) and how so many Country references are alien to us. It isn't ironic or sarcastic, but simple, obvious truths about our differences. However I wanted the chorus to be uplifting and talk about what we do share. I worked at developing the themes until I came up with the idea that we can (and do) all share one Country with no borders and no boundaries and where money is no needed, one Beautiful Country called Love. Harmonically and melodically I wanted to channel the great rock ballads of the 70's but with a Country edge in the story telling.
  7. What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? The older I get the more I recognise just how brilliant Dylans songs are, especially because it is often the brilliant interpretation by other artists that show how powerful and universal his writing is. I love Imagine ( Lennon) for it's simplicity and it's honesty and the underlying sense of hope that it carries. 
  8. Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? Technical theory is really just craft and craft is something that you can choose to use (if you understand it) where it seems needed. Some of the great songwriters didn't study the craft, but they had a natural instinct for the successful construction of words, melody, harmony and rhythm.
  9. Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? Only until they are finished. I never mess with them after that - most songs happen very quickly and then I take a day or two to refine them - I may let one simmer for a week or so and see how I feel later, but once I am happy, then it's done as far as I am concerned. 
  10. Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? I have a very "pop" ear so I write the music I love, with the message I wish to impart but with all my senses being aware that I want it to find a commercial outlet. I don't follow trends but I try to cut away any excess fat and stick as much to the meat of what I am doing to make it as strong as possible.
  11. Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I have done a fair amount and always enjoy the process - working with other people ALWAYS brings something different and original to the table - I don't always come away with the greatest song, but 9 times out of 10 we will have something exciting that could never have existed outside of that meeting/working environment. 
  12. Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? Paul Simon, John and Paul, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Billy Joel, Sting...oh the list could almost be endless!
  13. Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? I think that songwriters are able to channel the frustration, hurt, disappointment and general pain in their life and make it musical..The special ones are those who create music that doesn't depress others (by being too self indulgent and miserable) but inspires them to feel a universal bond through the melody and words.
  14. Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? I believe that every song has already been written and exists somewhere in the infinite and ever present universe and that inspiration is the act of our inner energy connecting with the universe around us at a fundamental level and being able to discover this music and bring it back. I have heard so many writers say that "the song wrote itself" or that they have no idea where it came from. The challenge is that ALL songs are out there - good AND bad - and the best songwriters are the ones who instinctively know where to look for the good stuff, the bad songwriter are just the ones who bring back the first thing they find and believe it to be good enough.
  15. Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Write all the time, no matter if you think what you are doing isn't great - it's about practice and the often cannibalising the best bit of an old song to make a new one even better. Read as much as you can - absorb language and experience and learn to observe the world around you and be hyper aware of what people say and do, as they will often give you little nuggets of creative gold to work with if you are prepared to listen.
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This interview was by Ben Williams. Find Ben on TWITTERFACEBOOK