When your mother is a famous poet in your home country of New Zealand, it’s not surprising that 17-year-old Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) started out writing stories at a very early age. And she firmly believes it’s her background in writing short fiction that has made her the successful singer-songwriter that she is today.
“I’ve never written poetry, but I’ve written short fiction for a long time, and that’s the thing that I read pretty much exclusively,” Grammy award winner Lorde recently explained to Vogue magazine.
“Short fiction appeals to me because of the necessity of conciseness—having to make something big and get it into a small space,” she said. “That’s what writing songs is about, but times 20. I like people who can build something great and huge with a very limited amount of time or space. It’s difficult to do.”
As Neil Diamond once observed: “Songs are life in 80 words or less.”
Lorde—whose debut album Pure Heroine gained her four Grammy nominations—started writing her own songs as a 13-year-old when she was first signed to Universal Music. She realized at an early age that there are things you can do in a song that you can’t do in a short story.
“With songs, you listen to the lyrics and you know that not all the words and not all the details and not all the exposition have been included—you kind of expect to take leaps of faith, ” she told Rookie magazine. “One sentence can illustrate an entire experience or concept in a song, which I think is really cool.
“Whereas three or four years ago I would write a passage and then I would kind of have to fight to wrench it into the form of a song. Now when I have an idea [for a short story] and I write it,” she said, “it comes out naturally in the form of a song.”
In most hit songs, each verse tends to move the song’s storyline forward like a new chapter in a book, introducing fresh information and images that captivate the listener. The lyrics in each verse should be mostly descriptive (describing people, places and events).
The chorus, meanwhile, is meant to really drive home the whole point of the song—for example, by frequently repeating the title line like a catchphrase. The chorus lyrics should be mainly emotional (delivering a strong emotional reaction to what has just been described in the verse).
As Sting once remarked: “You’ve got to tell the story in two verses, a chorus and a coda and that takes some skill.”
Lorde’s chart-topping debut single ‘Royals’ won her two Grammy Awards for ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Best Pop Solo Performance’:
# # # #
“How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.
Last week, Neil Diamond became an inspirational figure in the city of Boston’s recovery from the Boston Marathon bombings by leading the Red Sox’s Fenway Park crowd in a rousing and highly emotional sing-along rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’.
His 1969 song has been an eighth-inning ritual at every Fenway Park game since 2002. New Yorker Diamond took to the field after reportedly flying to Boston specially to pay tribute to the city during the Red Sox’s first home game after the bombings.
After his unannounced Boston appearance, he said: “What resonates for me is the way music can offer comfort to people in times of joy or sorrow. With a tragedy like this, there are no words, but if people can find healing in music, this is the reason I’ve been doing this for the last 50 years. It goes beyond what I ever imagined.”
Now, Neil Diamond has revealed that he is writing a new song inspired by the Boston Marathon bombing and other recent tragic events in the United States, such as the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.
“I’m writing now and obviously affected by this situation in Boston,” he told Rolling Stone magazine. “So I’m writing about it just to express myself … I’m writing about what we’re going through with all of these tragedies.”
The 72-year-old songwriting legend says he plans to fast-track a recording of the as-yet-untitled new song.
Watch Neil Diamond performing ‘Sweet Caroline’ at Fenway Park HERE…
# # # #
Also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music).
When you start working on a new song don’t think about what you’re doing intellectually, just go with the creative flow and have fun, urges Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman. She calls it “creative flow songwriting”.
Beth recently told PRS for Music’s ‘M’ magazine: “The creative flow is just like oxygen flowing everywhere and people absorb different amounts of it depending on their capacity. I believe it’s where the best stuff comes through.
“One of the things I do when I teach a songwriting workshop is to encourage everybody to become more of a sponge for that creative flow.”
It’s an approach that has certainly worked well for Beth. She has written hits for artists such as Elton John, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Roberta Flack, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Her songs have also been featured in countless movies and TV shows.
“Of course it’s important to learn all of the technical skills of how to tighten up a song and how to recognize when a song could be better,” she told ‘M’, “but when I’m writing – especially when I’m starting the process of writing – I’m not looking at it intellectually. On the front end, I don’t want my brain driving the car.”
She added: ”I follow that creative flow blindly until something pops through, and it’s so much fun. I’ve learnt to trust it and I think that’s how the greatest songs are written.”
Here’s Beth Nielsen Chapman’s full interview with ‘M’ magazine…
# # # #
“How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.