Songwriting Interview: Ian Sherwood
Songwriting Sprints, writing songs for your album in record time….
While I was talking with Ian Sherwood about, his latest album, Bring the Light, how he recorded it and how it’s doing since its release, he said something that struck me:
Ian had more than 40 songs to record for the album, but he took time off and over 3 weeks wrote 6 more!
This left me with some questions that I needed to answer:
- Why write new material for an album, when he already had too many songs to record?
- How to write that many songs in a short time?
- How do you set up a songwriting sprint to create a batch of new songs?
Ian, what was your motivation to write more material when you already had 40 songs ready to record?
I needed new songs. I already had a lot, but I had performed and toured with some already. They weren’t current, they weren’t the right songs, they weren’t where I was at the time. My old songs were old news… I had to meet myself where I was artistically, instead of stepping into my past. As you grow as a person your songs and your songwriting grows and changes. I wanted songs that to reflected who I was and where I was as a person and as an artist at the time I was recording the new album.
This was an important album for me. I decided to avoid any theme for the album, instead I chose to write honest songs reflecting where I was and how I was feeling at the time. Like any album, it’s a snapshot of where I was emotionally as a person and as a songwriter.
I wrote 6 new songs in 3 weeks, 4 made it to the album.
I got in the groove of writing everyday. I tapped into something, I kept getting the “I don’t know where that came from!” feeling. I was really excited about the new material.
I don’t even know how much I did each day. Some days were more productive than others, it varied each day. Some days, I kept working until the song was done. I felt it, there was magic… taking a break would have lost that magic.
Ian, what can you tell me about your songwriting sprint?
First start with the following songwriting assumptions…
- Write what you know about
- Write about topics important to you
- Write songs about ideas and things that resonate with you
- Write honest songs
- Keep listeners engaged with emotional content that resonates with your audience
- Write so your audience feels something, but “Don’t strap them into a chair and tell them your problems!”
- Tell stories that are interesting to your audience
To write songs you need:
Motivation, the need and desire to write and finish songs.
Inspiration, what you want or need to write about.
Songwriting Craft, how you capture the inspiration when it happens and finish a song about it.
What was your motivation for this songwriting sprint, Ian?
It was time for a new album. There’s a time when you need new material and a new CD. As a songwriter and performer it keeps your career working and keeps you stimulated and fresh.
There is a natural life cycle to an album. You write it, record it, release it, publicize it, tour, it gets airplay…. But you need something new for the next tour… new music for people to hear and purchase. You don’t want to tour through a town using the same material… if you want people coming out again, there has to be something new for them.
Where do you find your inspiration for your songs?
I am inspired by a good meal, human interaction and human relationships, I watch people and how they interact with each other, listen to their stories. I’m visually inspired, so visual images, movies, plays and human situations.
The trick is learning where to find inspiration… be open to inspiration wherever and whenever it strikes.
What’s your take on songwriting craft?
Anyone can, in theory, write a song. You can learn songwriting techniques, how to rhyme, rhyme schemes. Once you have the writing skills, you still need to decide what to write about. That’s where inspiration is needed.
Craft is writing everyday, whether you write something good or bad. Work on your songwriting craft so when inspiration taps you on the shoulder you have the skills to write a song about it. Then you have the ability to write it. Pursue it until you have a song. Then edit and polish it and test it until you have a better song.
Tell me more about your songwriting sprint, Ian.
My songwriting sprint, or my creative sprint, started with the feeling I needed to write new songs for Bring the Light.
Ideally you should be writing everyday. It’s how you get good. When I was first learning the craft of songwriting I wrote everyday. My commitments don’t allow for that any more, but I developed my songwriting craft through the process of regular writing.
Writing is habit forming!
Write as much and as consistently as possible, but don’t set strict parameters. You can get caught up in the parameters and distracted from the songwriting. Set a goal to write consistently, rather than a set number of songs.
My ideal process is going for a walk. I’ll use my phone to capture ideas, lyrics or melodies. On a good day, I can have most of a song worked out on a walk. Then I’ll get home and pick up an instrument to polish the melodies and add chords.
For me it’s best to follow it through to the end. I keep at it until a rough draft is finished. Stopping part way through the process is the best way to lose a song. Once a draft is completed you can always edit it later….
(Read how to create your own songwriting sprint after Ian’s video below)
How to Professionally Record Your Songs
This interview continues: Professionally Recording Your Songs where Ian Sherwood discusses all the steps in process of recording his album Bring the Light from ‘Am I ready to record an album?’ to unwrapping the first copy of his finished CD”
Fireflies, by Ian Sherwood from Bring the Light
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Connect with Ian Sherwood
Join his email list
Buy Bring the Light
Before we cover the steps in creating your own songwriting sprint…
Let’s dispel any excuses that will sabotage your success, like:
- But I write slowly.
- I can’t write that much or that fast!
- I can’t spend that much time on it, I have a job and a life and other commitments!
- I can’t write full time, I have a job that finances my musical life!
- I can’t, I can’t I can’t….
Take an honest look at yourself… to be a songwriter, you need to:
- Want it, and be ready to do the work to write original songs
- Create regular habits, instead of waiting for inspiration to find you
- Set a singular focus on your songwriting, and avoid distraction
- Lose your perfectionism… finish the best songs you can right now
How to Create Your Own Songwriting Sprints:
From my conversation with Ian and my own songwriting practice, here are suggestions that will help you develop your songwriting:
I prefer to concentrate on songwriting habits, because motivation is admirable, but it can be fickle. By creating regular songwriting habit of writing consistently, you can avoid the entire issue of self motivating… you just go write because that’s what you do….
You can learn about my system to develop your own Daily Songwriting Habit here
Set Process Goals, instead of Product Goals
Choose to write consistently (process), instead of setting a goal of finishing X number of songs a month (product). By considering the process you need to accomplish a product goal, you are creating the path to achieving it. Product goals are useful if you use them to measure how effective your process is, but they can be distracting if you only focus on the product. For more details about setting and achieving your songwriting goals, and setting and achieving process and product goals, read https://epicsongwriting.com/mental-toughness/
Do you toss your half songs in the trash instead of finishing them?
Do you get a rush starting a new song idea, only to lose the momentum before it’s done? This will help you… https://epicsongwriting.com/finish-your-songs/
Staring at a blank page wondering what to write?
Or are you part way through a song and feel like you have nothing left to say? Here’s a bullet proof method that solves it https://epicsongwriting.com/what-to-write/
Inspiration and songwriting lessons can come from unlikely situations.
It’s how you learn from it and what you do about it that’s important: https://epicsongwriting.com/accidental-songwriting/
Thinking that nothing you write is good enough?
Conflicted about what you’re writing? Spending more time erasing lyrics than writing them? Learn how to stop this waste of your time with https://epicsongwriting.com/handling-your-inner-editor/
One of the challenges with writing a song is know when it’s done…
Does the song need further editing, or are you only procrastinating? The trouble is knowing what you need to change, and what to change it too. Here’s a way to figure it out: https://epicsongwriting.com/avoid-lyric-fail/
Ever wonder how to take your song from good enough to great?
Here are three mistakes and how to fix them… https://epicsongwriting.com/3-avoidable-lyric-mistakes/