HI FRIENDS. Welcome back!
So I've been in a bit of a writing slump lately. Everything I've tried to write doesn't go anywhere and I'm left with a bunch of starts to things that never end. I've gotten advice before to "just keep writing anyway" which is absolutely true, but I find that shifting what you're doing a little is even more effective. For instance, I started this blog. This obviously isn't songwriting but I have no doubt that exercising a different part of my mind is helping stretch my songwriting muscle.
My favorite thing to do when I get stuck in slumps like this is to completely bury myself in music I didn't write; listen to it over and over again, learn to play it, study the lyrics, etc. Live and breathe someone else's creations for a little while and try to figure out the world they're writing about. Some sort of writing will inevitably come out of you if you're surrounding yourself with content you love. And even if it's shit, you have to write it. Keep the river running with water. It doesn't have to be crystal clear, but keep it moving. Keep the water running even if it's dirty and polluted, because one day you will get around to cleaning it up.
So I was starting to go through this process by immersing myself in the music of an artist I used to LOVE as a kid, Vanessa Carlton. Now, before you sarcastically start singing "A Thousand Miles" I urge you to listen to her first album Be Not Nobody and imagine hearing that album for the first time at seven years old. That's what happened to me. It was the coolest thing in my little world to see a girl sitting at the piano with her long dark hair falling onto the keys singing emotional and angsty songs (sound familiar?) I had never seen anything like that before, and honestly those types of artists are few and far between now.
Though young and naive, this album is authentic and raw. Listening to it now I realize she has songs like Wanted which is basically Lorde's Liability fifteen years earlier. With the lyrics "I am more than you will see, I am more than you will need, I am more than you will see, more than wanted" growing with intensity each time it's sung with a pounding left hand figure on the piano, how could you not fall in love with this song?
During this time of sinking into her 2002 catalogue, I realized I hadn't heard any of Vanessa Carlton's new music and went searching. I found an interview of her talking about how she felt she hadn't truly found her sound until her 2011 album Rabbits On The Run. So of course, I went to find it immediately. The first track had me hooked, and honestly I didn't make it to the rest of the album for a good twenty minutes because I listened to that first track so many times.
It is a song called Carousel. I was simultaneously mad I had never heard it before and elated to be hearing it for the first time. The melody and harmonic changes aren't complex, it's mostly variations of I IV V but it evokes this nostalgic feeling that convinces me I've heard this song before. The rhythm of the lyrics leaves no wasted space in the song. Each section lifts you right into the next. Every second is a well crafted dance between the melody and the rhythm of the words. The chorus is a simple major scale played under soaring vocals with the beautiful lyric "All you'll hear is the music, and beauty stands before you, love comes back around again, it's a carousel my friend."
This song, to me, was so contagious. I listened to different versions of it for an hour straight and then I got this feeling that I just had to write a song. It's similar to the feeling of nausea followed by the realization that once you vomit you're going to feel so much better. And within an hour of sitting down at the piano I had started and finally finished the first song I have finished in months. It rarely ever happens like that which is why I always appreciate when it does.
If you think I'm overreacting about how good Carousel is then I'll leave you with this; Stevie Nicks loves and recorded this song. Of course I did an insane amount of research on this song because I fell so head over heels in love with it. I learned that not only are Stevie Nicks and Vanessa Carlton are really close, but Carousel was Nicks' mother's favorite song. When her mother died she recorded a version of it with Vanessa. So if you don't want to take how beautiful this song is from the girl sitting in a cafe writing a blog, for God's sake take it from the woman who wrote Rhiannon.
Drown yourself in music, art, and creativity when you're feeling burnt out and stuck. Eat it all up until you're stuffed because eventually you'll vomit, brush your teeth, and feel better.
Until next time