Johnny Lucas is singer-songwriter who has received airplay on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 6 Music as well as 40 different local radio stations across the UK. Having performed to over 1000 people at Glastonbury, been selected by Cafe Nero as artist of the month and performed to the troops out in Afghanistan, Johnny does not look like an artist who will 'lie low' for long. Here he discusses his songwriting tips.
- Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? I find that if I sit down with a guitar and just start strumming, after 30 mins I normally end up with at least an idea. Then I usually let it lie for a bit and come back to it later. So it's more of a gradual process. However when inspiration strikes there could be a 3/4 songs written in a day out of nowhere!
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? I normally find that I'm more creative when I'm doing something I've never done before. Or doing something that I have done before but in a slightly different way.
- Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? Normally melody, however sometimes a strong phrase will enter my head and I get a melody afterwards.
- Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Yes for certain. All of the classical composers didn't even need any lyrics at all. I think it's all about getting that one hook in your head that you keep humming.
- How long does it take you to write a song? It completely depends. A lot of the time I build songs in steps as I mentioned before, however sometimes I pick up a guitar and it just seems to flow. These songs usually take about 30 mins and they usually end up becoming my favorite songs, or my worst!
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? Over My Head :This song was written in Afghanistan when I went out to entertain the troops. It was 50 degrees outside and I was in a tiny cabin just with a bed in and I felt like the whole experience was just going over my head! The chords and melody got written very quickly I think in less than an hour but I did spend a lot of time on the lyrics as I was felt a lot of things out there which were quite hard to explain. Lilo: This one is a favourite of a lot of people that come to watch my gigs. It took about 30/45 mins to write the verse and chorus but then I added the middle 8 section afterwards. It's super simple and is based around only 4 chords which I started strumming in my bedroom before the melody came a few mins later. I wanted it to sound summery and unpretentious so I decided to write the lyrics about my time on a lilo which I had in the south of france when I was broke and gigging every night. The Best Days: This song was written on the way to Tescos when I had the bass line come into my head! Then the melody came afterwards and I did a rough recording of it but then left it about a year before resuming. I wanted a positive message for the song that people could all sing along to which was just catchy all the way through. I was really chuffed when it got played on BBC Radio 1 and 2 in the same week! It Keeps Me Alive :The chorus was written first in about 10 seconds which I recorded straight onto my phone. I wanted a song that was really easy for people to sing along to even if they hadn't heard it before. The verses are all about doing the opposite of what the norm is because that's often the case when you're living a musicians lifestyle but that's what keeps me alive!
- What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? One of my favorite songs is Mr Blue Sky by ELO and I also love Noel Gallaghers songwriting. I love the way you can tell he's just sat there strumming with his guitar until a song comes and it all just seems to flow and be very easy on the ear. Also Neon by John Mayer is a great song. You also can't argue that Happy by Pharrel Williams does tend to put you in a good mood.
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I think any knowledge is good, however don't start with it. I think passion and instinct is a lot more important and will definitely result in a much stronger track that will resonate with more people.
- Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? I sometimes change the odd phrase here and there but generally I'm a firm believer in just writing a new one if you're not 100% happy with it.
- Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? I do get inspired by what I hear on the BBC radio stations so I guess that follows trends. However my goal is to write timeless songs. I think getting a producer on board can make it sound like it fits a lot more with what's out at the moment but really the song should stay timeless.
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I've done a bit here and there and it helps because you see another persons approach. This is really inspiring and gives you more confidence to write things that you wouldn't normally.
- Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically?Paul McCartney, Noel Gallagher, Alex Turner, Guy Chambers, Elbow and Dolly Parton.
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? Yes for certain. A lot of my songs are happy songs, but I only write happy songs because I'm trying to cheer myself up. I guess that's a conflict in it's self!
- Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? Yes but I don't know where my ideas about my ideas come from.
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Keep writing tonnes and tonnes of songs and also play them live to as many people as you physically can because they won't get out there any other way.
Click on the following to find Johnny on the web.
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