Saturday, January 28, 2017

Robbie Cavanagh


Robbie Cavanagh is a  Manchester based singer-songwriter who performs beautifully crafted songs with powerful lyrics and haunting melodies. He has already played several sold out shows this year and his song 'Godsend' , recorded for the Mahogany sessions, has been viewed more than 100,000 times on Youtube. Here Robbie shares his thoughts on songwriting. 
  1. Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? For me songwriting is quite a natural thing. It's a thing I do because it feels right to do it. So I don't have a routine at all. Mainly because I don't have to write. I choose to. So there is no methodical way of doing it. Things happen, and then they are songs. 
  2. Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? Unless you're tied into a contract with deadlines, my recommendation is always if you can't write, don't. Just wait it out. Sometimes things happen in your life that you know you need to get down into a song, but you can't rush those things. It will happen when it's ready to happen. Some people have some cool techniques. Ryan Adams uses a technique where he plucks sentences from books and builds a story, but for me it's important that it happens naturally, or I just cant buy into it. 
  3. Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? I like to write both at the same time. I'll always pick up a guitar and start to sing and find chords as I go. Again, it's all just a really natural process for me. The lyrics inspire the music and the melody, and the melody and chords inspire the direction of the lyrics.
  4. Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Sometimes, yes. But great melodies and terrible lyrics is a crime. Just like great lyrics and poor melody is. It has to have the right level of everything. Of course it varies, song by song, but for me, there is no most or least important part. Everything has to fit together or it's not going to work. 
  5. How long does it take you to write a song? Some songs are an idea for months. years even. Returned to and finally finished. Some songs are completed in a couple of hours in an evening. The important thing for me is that it feels like it was supposed to happen. If I force an ending, or try and make something fit that doesn't, I'll fall out of love with the song. It takes as long as it takes I guess. I've written songs in a night. Some I'm very proud of. Sometimes the longer it takes the more you over think it and it starts to feel forced. But thats why it takes the time. You know when its right. That might take years. 
  6. Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? GodsendMy girlfriend had put me onto this tuning that I'd never worked with before, so I'd spend a few days messing around with it and late one night, having returned from her house, feeling completely in love, I picked up my guitar, which happened to still be in that tuning. And Godsend sort of happened. Again, I said what I was feeling, a mixture of love, frustration and unfaltering adoration. The ending just sort of happened on the first voice note I made of it, where I was just repeating the chorus line and getting quite passionate with it, and it sort of stuck from there. It was a very natural process of just reliving the night I'd just had, and how in love I felt. Let You DownWhen I'm pensive I like to lie down and play my guitar quite slowly. Whilst I think about things. The pace of this song is so spaced and chilled, cause it was basically written that way. I didnt want to think about a rhythm or anything. The only important thing was to have time to breath so i could gather my thoughts and perform them. It just remained that way. No rhythm, no real timing to it. Choked UpI was thinking alot about a long distance relationship I was in, and this song was meant almost as a joke really. The silly threat of 'what If im entertaining more of a local girl' seemed funny to me. The song was sort of built around that. I'd been listening to alot of country music, so that kind of shuffle rhythm was in my head and it kinda flooded out. 
  7. What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? Everybody Hurts - REM, Sound Of Silence -Simon and Garfunkel, Perfect Day - Lou Reed, Life On Mars - Bowie, Gold - Prince. All perfectly crafted songs that feel like they were just honest, not over thought and just written and performed straight from the heart. 
  8. Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I think theory knowledge is something that should come in the production side of a track. Writing the bones of a good song should be more about feel and vibe. Theory can get in the way of just playing what feels right. But once you are producing a fully written song, then theory can be really useful to help make chords and melodies more interesting and unpredictable. 
  9. Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? I tend not to. I like to think, once I've declared it finished, its a piece of work that shouldn't be messed with. If I made a mistake, then I can not make that mistake next song. There are so many songs. Why keep changing one when you could write another? 
  10. Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? I think natural songwriters have a style. The way they write without really thinking too much about it. You can't change that without it becoming forced. Becoming work, not art. Formulaic. The production is where a song can start to follow a current trend. A really great song can be produced in whatever style and feel you choose. So long as the song is strong, anything is possible. But commercial success of style is not something I ever think about when I'm writing. Only ever once I've written it. 
  11. Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? Co-writing is something I do quite often for other peoples material. I think its an important part of experience as a songwriter. Every time you get into a room with someone else and start to write, your influence and your ideas are altered and directed by who you are with and what you are doing and what you are talking about. So you'll write songs you never would have written alone, or in a different room with a different person thinking a different thing. Experience is so important, so to experience writing with other people in other environments is a very healthy thing. Even if nothing comes from the session. 
  12. Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? I've always been inspired by Randy Newman, Michael Stipe and James Taylor. More recently Foy Vance and Counting Crowes. They all write with a seeming disregard and a natural feel. It never feels forced. It feels like they got in a studio, recorded what was on their mind, got it all off their chest and then left. Thats what I love. Nothing was over thought. Nothing was forced and created for the sake of it. They had to get something off their chest, so they recorded music instead of writing a diary. 
  13. Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs?Not better songs necessarily. But maybe just songs that mean more to me. Writing a song about a conflict or a struggle in your life is a real therapy. Performing a song each night thats about something that was a real struggle is a really healthy way to revisit and rethink things. So those songs are maybe the most important, but that doesn't make them better. 
  14. Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? My ideas come from my life. People I meet and care about. People I love. My songs are almost always about my relationships with other people, whether good or bad.
  15. Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Don't try too hard. Don't try to copy, or replicate. Don't try and make a hit single. Write what feels natural. Write what you don't have to think too hard about. The rest will come after.

MORE INTERVIEWS HERE. 

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This interview was by Ben Williams. Find Ben on TWITTERFACEBOOK




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