Friday, July 23, 2010

Writing Songs

I've started writing songs again. This always happens after a long period of rebellious boredom in which I spend each commercial break making disdainful glances at my studio in the corner. Procrastination usually comes before inspiration for me. The whole commitment thing of writing a record's worth of songs is what scares me. I don't want to start, because starting means committing. It means finishing. It means hours spent working, thinking, writing, demoing, flinching and re-writing, singing, playing, quantizing, editing, sampling, flinching, re-singing and mixing. I'll go hours straight with my face to the screen from early morning to dinner time, only snapping out of it when I hear the front door shut announcing Kristie's arrival home from work. And then I realize my back hurts, my voice hurts, the song isn't that good, and the whole time I've been in my underwear, and "Wait a minute did I eat lunch?" I'm not trying to pull that whole "tortured artist" thing, because I love my life and I love making music, it's just a big commitment and I like to hold it off until I can't stand it any more. So I've started writing and subsequently I've been much less bored.

Let me clarify; I love writing music, and I love recording music. I even love performing music most of the time. What I hate is demos. I have this weird superstition that if I record a demo the right way, like if I really spend time on it musically and try my best to sing it perfectly, that the song will never be AS good again. I contract the disease we call "Demoitis" very easily. When I've sung exceptionally well in the demo I psych myself out in the real recording trying to recreate that same "magic." I want the song to sound it's best in my headphones as I'm tracking vocals for the real recording. I want to hear it like I'm hearing it for the first time, like I'm singing it for the first time. Demos mess with that, so I try my hardest to record them as sloppy as possible. I just want to get the shell of the idea down so that when it comes time to play ball for real I'll have a lot of room to grow and have less pressure to recreate some previous moment.

I procrastinate recording demos, but I don't procrastinate with writing. I'm always writing, and I don't think I really have a choice in the matter. I have hundreds of lines that I've written and plenty of songs in my head, with all of the parts worked out from drums to guitars to vocals to string arrangements. The problem is I have no way of communicating those things to other people unless I play it all myself (or play conductor for hours in our practice space, which is stressful). A demo allows my band members to get the gist of the vibe and the inspiration for the song so they can add their two-cents and hopefully make it better. 

I'm not one of those writers who thinks that my ideas are the best. Often times they aren't the most technical, well-thought-out or purest ideas. I'm a lightening-in-a-bottle writer, I'm not a technician. I mean, I've written my fair share of technical parts and time-signature changes but I've captured those things with not much thought. They just come in the moment. Those clever ideas (or "Little bolts of lightening") happen in a few short minutes as opposed to hours of listening and perfecting a part. I record the shell, sometimes underdeveloped and sometimes fully developed, and hopefully my band-mates take the time to comb through it with some technical thought. When I can't think of what to do I generally move on, but some writers play it back a hundred times and work out their creation with committed articulation. I am not that writer, but I need writers like that. I need my band-mates for that reason. I can do everything on my own, but it won't be as good unless others are inspired to come along and add to it.

I have around five songs demoed and around five more in my head. Some of these are the folky-acoustic type so maybe another acoustic EP is on the horizon, or maybe a side-project, or maybe just a completely different sounding TCC record. Either way it's good to be creating again.


  1. It's a fascinating writing process you go through, but the part that always gets my attention is that you seem to do alot of hanging out in your underwear! With Purple Door in just a matter of a few weeks, I wonder if I will be plagued by that image while watching you preform!(lol!)

    But good luck with the writing and can't wait to hear the next TCC album, EP or what ever! I've certainly enjoyed it's predecessors!

  2. i wish i was able to commit and actually write a demo. i have been shot down a lot in my life and even though i have been told that songs are good it is hard to enjoy it when you don't like it yourself. so in one way, i completely understand what you are going through. i have always wanted to open a tcc acoustic show at the showbox market but that would just terrify me. trying to find people who want to play just simple good music now is really hard. only 20, still have time to give it a go.

  3. ***and i meant record a demo not write

  4. Another acoustic CD would be amazing! Of course, I'd also like it if you went all Jon Foreman and put out your own solo project.

    Whatever you do I'm sure it'll be amazing.

    Scotland Forever!

  5. hey matt, keep creating music for us! you are a great, great artist and a pray that God keeps blessing u with this gift.. the music!
    you're awesome!

    God bless u!

    (i'm from Brazil )