Lánre is a singer-songwriter whose music can be best described as acoustic soul with influence from her Nigerian heritage of storytelling and folk music, along with her background in gospel music. She has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Greenbelt Festival and as far and wide as Canada and Paris. Her debut album 'Pen Voyage Chapter One: Singing For Change' was released in 2011 and was played on BBC6 Music and BBC London. Here Lánre discusses her songwriting tips.
- Do you have a daily song writing routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? I don’t have a routine but I do have a pen and pad on me so that I can write when ‘inspiration strikes’ (and my iPhone is not filled with ideas and notes) I actually have a song that talks about our relationship with inspiration as creative people.
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? I wish I did, maybe I’ll churn out songs more quickly. I listen to a lot of singers and songwriters that inspire me. Some for the music, some for the words and then I pray the right words and music come to me.
- Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? For me, a large percentage of the time, the words come first. An idea, a word, a sentence, a phrase and then I just write as much as I can on the theme, with no structure or rhyme to start with. I then structure it out into verses, intros and choruses, then I start to figure out what the music is. I don’t know if this is because the guitar is still very new to me. Maybe this will change with time… who knows.
- Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? I think everything is important to the storytelling / song writing process. I like it when a song is saying something that makes me go wow! Most times the words do that for me but sometimes the melody or groove of the song does something to my heart. I think that’s when a connection is made. Every songwriter or storyteller wants that to happen.
- How long does it take you to write a song? However long the song needs to take, I guess. I always know when a song’s finished saying what it needs to say as far as the words are concerned. I can’t even explain what that is but I know when it’s done and whatever’s left is just fine tuning. It’s however different when I am asked to write a song for an event or a project though then it’s different because then I am working towards a deadline and others are waiting on me to deliver.
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? 'Inspiration' I knew I needed one more song for my album and that got me thinking about how interesting inspiration is. How it sometimes comes when you least expect it to and other times you go searching for it and it hides from you. That idea became the final song that completed the record. I imagine if I had an audience with this entity we call inspiration what will I say to her, him or it? So I started to write out my thoughts when I thought I had said everything I wanted to say, I started playing around with guitar chords and picking patterns that I think expresses what I’m trying to say. 'Beautiful' This is a song I describe as a lullaby to my younger self. If I had to go back in time to speak to my younger self what would I say to her? So I imagined that I’ll start by saying…. 'Once upon a time, there was a little girl… ' .This song too started with me writing all I wanted to say to this little girl and then working on combining the couple of guitar chords I knew to form a melody that I think will tell the story of 'Beautiful'. 'Love Way' This is the only song on the album that the music was written before the words were fully written. I had just one line that wouldn’t let me go for weeks “Now that we’ve found God” I wasn’t sure if the song wanted to be written in third person or first person. I wasn’t sure what the full story was but I know there was a thought waiting to be fully formed. Then one day, I was messing about with a picking pattern I already used in writing a completely different song, then I changed up the combination of chords and the songs was pretty much written that day. Words and music.
- What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? Songs that I really like… Loads and Loads but here are some. 'Indiscriminate Act of Kindness' – Foy Vance. 'Still young' – Broken Boat. 'The Storyteller’s Psalm' – Femi Temowo. 'Grow Till Tall' – Jonsi. 'Eye Adaba' – Asa. 'Laughing With' – Regina Spektor. '57821' – Janelle Monae. 'Nayan' – Fatoumata Diawara.
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I have no technical or theoretical knowledge of music so I wouldn’t know if it gets in the way or not. I grew up in church and spent 20 years in Nigeria where music is a part of people’s lives and existence. I would imagine that if you limit music to what you can and cannot score up on a sheet then you’ll be missing out on a lot and maybe the theoretical aspect of music is just explaining or an attempt at explaining what we already know.
- Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? No, there are more new songs to be written and if I think there’s more to be said, I’ll rather write a part B than going back to re-write an already written song. An unfinished song however is a completely different story.
- Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? Songwriting is very personal for me, more like a private therapy session with my notebook. So the last thing on my mind when I’m writing is the current sound or radio play. I do understand that there’s the business side of music and every artist’s dream is to get the music out there to as many listeners as possible but I still don’t think about trends when I write.
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I played in a band for close to 8 years before I started on a solo career and we did a lot of writing together. The benefits of that is of course working with a team of writers helps you to bounce off ideas and someone can always come up with a better way to say something. There’s the saying about iron sharpening iron and writing with people that have the same vision as you is a pretty cool experience. Having said that, learning to play the guitar has really given me the confidence to share my thoughts and I enjoy the solitary experience as well.
- Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? Anyone who’s able to tell a story through song that resonates with me is great.
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? Life is full of contradiction. I think most people are searching and trying to find meaning in all the conflict. Artists in writing, we try to articulate our thoughts about those contradiction and hopefully find peace or harmony. It’s what makes life interesting.
- Do you have any idea where your ideas come from? I absolutely believe that inspiration comes from God. I can’t even prove that and I really don’t have to, because that’s what it means (for me) to believe. I imagine creativity is God’s way of sharing with us a little bit of what makes Him divine. I also imagine that those moments when we are blessed with inspiration is like eavesdropping on heaven’s conversation. (I have a song about that actually)
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? I’m a budding songwriter so I’m not sure I’m in a place to give advice. I read something the other day… maybe it may resonate with someone too. - "Popularity contests are not truth contests. Your task is to be true not popular...." (Dr Luke quoting Jesus via the Message translation).
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