After much procrastination, I finally wrote the lyrics to two of my band's songs this weekend. It was both harder and easier than I expected, but very satisfying overall. When I had the first one finished, I kept saying out loud (to myself), "I wrote a song!"
I quickly figured out a great system for working on the songs: I took the CD of instrumental versions of our songs, ripped it to iTunes, played each song as many times as necessary to understand the details, and typed the lyrics in Word in the foreground. Once I had a full complement of lyrics, I'd play the song several times and go through it to make sure I hadn't written something that was impossible for me to sing.
For the first song, there was a guitar riff in the chorus that suggested the phrase "ready or not" to me. I decided to write a song about someone needing to face his or her destiny. Don't laugh, but I couldn't help thinking of both Odysseus and Buffy the Vampire Slayer while I was writing it, even though it's not overtly about any particular character. Keep in mind, we're talking about '80s-style heavy metal here, so melodrama is not only acceptable but desirable.
The second song was a little bluesier, so it ended up being about former bar regulars who haven't been in for a while. I have an idea for a third song that's directly based on a story from Greek mythology, but I need to give it a little more thought to make sure I can follow the narrative within the song structure. Again, think maximum drama - and keep in mind that we already do "Flight of Icarus" by Iron Maiden (which isn't very true to the myth, but nevermind). I won't hold my breath waiting for recognition from the Grammy Award nominating committee anytime soon.
I had band practice late Saturday afternoon and my bandmates seemed to like what I'd written. I told them that I wouldn't be offended if they told me they didn't like some of my lyrics. After all, I wouldn't want to desecrate one of their songs. They said their only songwriting criteria were:
- No death metal
- No profanity
- No sappy love songs
I think it's safe to say that I will be able to easily avoid those categories. I can't pull off what one of my bandmates refers to as the "Cookie Monster vocals" that often accompany today's grimmer metal songs. I might let loose a bad word or two from time to time, but I don't think it's necessary to enshrine one in verse. I'm not wired for sappy emotion of any kind, so it's exceedingly unlikely that I would ever write a love song. I believe we're all thinking along the same lines.
I have four songs left that need lyrics and melodies, so I'll be wracking my brain to think of subject matter. For me, the hardest part of writing a song is figuring out what it's going to be about. I may have to hit the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy a few times before I'm through. This is fun!
*Sorry if I put the Barry Manilow song in your head. I can't resist the cheesy, obvious headlines sometimes.