How I wrote 3 songs in 3 days
Recently, I had a huge surge of inspiration and wrote three songs in three days. The timing was right - I was processing some heavy personal stuff and had taken myself away to a meditation retreat to have some quiet time to catch up on the inside. In the silence of it all, I found the space to air some deeply felt emotions that I had been avoiding. We hide from these emotions for a reason, and it sometimes feel like standing at the edge of a vast crevasse, terrified of what’s inside but going in anyway.
I focused my mind and heart on what felt like the core of my emotion. I had only my guitar, which limited my accompaniment capacity, but that in itself seemed assist the process. I started to visualise the feeling of the song that would underline my story, and the feeling I would want my listeners to feel when experiencing it live. From that feeling I found a rhythm, or groove, that aligned with the song's purpose. I chose a chord, in a register that suited the song, and started to pick out a melody in my vocal register.
Neither the music or lyrics came first. It was an organic oscillation between the two, where I relied on my intuitive self to judge what came next. Using words and phrases that I had previously spilled out on the page, I rearranged them into lyrics that felt like an unfolding of the situation deep within me. The chords and melody both followed and led, each part seeming to have an equal importance in the process. I was aware of being a story teller, and from that role I took a back seat as the story seemed to take on its own life.
What struck me as extraordinary during this process, however, was the frame of mind I found myself in while writing. I had previously over the years attempted to write, and found myself over-thinking and over-analysing the process. My new process is heavily intuitive and I seem to rely on a subconscious awareness that taps into the body of music I’ve listened to over the many years. My subconscious pulls out sounds, feelings and rhythms in that moment and spills them into something that sounds original, but still rooted in a clear genre or sound.
My writing process is now about:
—> finding a personal ‘vacuum’ where I can hear what's inside
—> relaxing and letting either the music or words appear and gently shifting them about
—> letting my subconscious intuition rule the process, and walking away if it’s not speaking
Now I see the future of my creative process as primarily a shift in my consciousness during the writing stage. I work to inform my subconscious by listening widely and intently, letting it absorb new music naturally. Then, I retreat to a vacuum where I let myself be still and listen to what’s inside.
Those three songs I wrote during that time have morphed into many versions as I’ve aired them out in numerous live settings. I’ve discovered that the ‘live performance test’ is a powerful one. In front of a live audience, a song’s strengths and weaknesses seem to be magnified. Another trick that works is when I leave a song for a few months and ‘forget’ most of what it’s about. What I remember from the song when I pick it up again feels like the real ‘essence’ of it and what is worth retaining - the rest can be tinkered and played with, so to speak.
Here is a clip of one of these songs, called 'At Christmas Time':
What's your creative process?
Amy is a musician, composer and educator living in Australia. Her new songwriting project ‘Amy Viola’ is a uniquely crafted, soulful and raw account of her life as a gypsy musician told amidst sweet vocals and looped layers of deep, rich viola. Find out more at www.amyviola.com