Edwin Miles is a Manchester based singer-songwriter, who Right Chord Music describes as 'breathtaking'. The Edwin Miles trio have recently appeared on BBC Radio Manchester, and have been taking the North-West by storm with their refreshing sound. The debut E.P. 'Get Off Your Rock' is out now, and Music From Rainy Skies Magazine says "I love music that has soul and this EP is full of it". Here Edwin shares his songwriting tips.
- Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? I wish I did. I’ve been trying to find a routine for years but I think the best stuff comes (seemingly) out of nowhere
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? Post-orgasm energy does pretty well for me. Or if that’s not possible, make the most of your day in other ways – make it as fun and interesting as possible. Then when you’re just about to fall asleep and a song hits you, get up and play the melody, or write the lyrics.
- Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Normally something melodic on the guitar and then just a snatch of a lyric will drop in that I can play with for the vocal melody. I’ve never written good music to already complete lyrics.
- Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? I think it’s almost always the first thing that’s gonna stick in a listener’s ears. So, yes. Probably. Just.
- How long does it take you to write a song? Sometimes (well, very occasionally, maybe twice) things will just come together as I play nonsense chords and sing nonsense lyrics – ie ‘Pedigree’ was complete in 5 minutes. But usually I’ll write the main bits – the verses and chorus, then leave it (or hate it) for sometimes up to a couple of months before coming back and finding better phrasing and hopefully adding a little more flesh to the bones. I think if you work on an idea but then leave it too long, it won’t become anything good, and probably never would have.
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? Well 'Pedigree' was simply a stream of conciousness and images. 'I’ve Gotta Say' was similar in that the lyrics pretty much all came out in a single thought-spew – I’ll let you decide what preceded that spewing – but the guitar part was something I’d been playing with for a while. For 'Get Off Your Rock' I knew exactly what I wanted to say and who I was saying it to with the lyrics, and put a lot of thought into how the guitar would support what I was saying. When we recorded it, I knew exactly what I wanted on the piano because I knew exactly how I wanted the song to feel. We’ve re-arranged it slightly for cajon and bass (come hear it at one of our shows!) and again it was a case of knowing exactly what, where, how, when & why I wanted particular bits. So that was me being pretty dictatorial when we jammed that for the first time as a band.
- Do you have favourite keys to write in? Not really, I try to mix it up.
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I do wish I had more technical and theoretical knowledge – so that I knew what I was doing more of the time, and so that there were some more options on the table when I get stuck. Like you’re here with this chord, so where can you go from here, what’s going to work? Instead for me it’s mostly trial and error, which is also fine, but takes a little longer maybe. Chopin and Debussy (and Da Vinci amongst others) used the Golden Ratio - a number believed to be the equation for things perceived as being aesthetically pleasing - to compose some of their works. That’s some serious technical knowledge! One day I’d like to write an album using the Golden Ratio. It can get in the way though (and be quite annoying) when great technical skills stifle creativity and self – you can always hear when it prescribes the music too much.
- Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? According only to the few month rule, and if the song was never finished in the first place. Once a song is done, it’s done. It’s either good, or shit. But once it’s finished, move on. There’ll be enough analysis and self-loathing just from listening to the first finished version, so I try my best to just get over it and write the next one.
- Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? The music-writing process is cathartic and a good release for monsters from the soul but at the same time I think at least 99.99% of music writers want other people to hear and, hopefully, like their music. I want to make a life from my music, therefore I have to commercialise it somehow. Being ‘commercial’ isn’t the leading thought in my head when I’m writing, but what I think people are going to think / like / react to almost always comes into consideration at some point.
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I haven’t done much really. I find it hard to make things come out right when I’m writing with someone else. I do like the idea of people bringing new ways of doing things to the table though. Now that I’m one-third of a trio the arranging process is much more strict, but it has to be so that we’re as tight as we can get – and it’s fun, at the end of the day you have a better song.
- Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? Kurt Cobain for his simple, agonizing hooks. I really like the way John Martyn played guitar and sang. Everything Joni Mitchell does is beautifully sung and constructed.
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? No that makes me close up. I write better when I’m full of love.
- Do you have any idea where your ideas come from? Well even when I’m writing full of love, I can still be writing pretty cynical, depressing songs so no, not really. At the moment I think songwriting might be like dreaming – a way of processing stuff that happens, getting it all out and then on reflection maybe having a better idea of what’s been going on in your life.
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Do stuff and meet people. And then sit at your piano or with your guitar or whatever and sing about stuff. And whenever an idea comes to you, write it down or play it or sing it all the way home if you have no pen or instrument with you, even if you’re on the bus stuck in rush-hour traffic. And be honest in your writing, most of the time.
Click on the following to find Edwin on the web.