Songwriting Sessions #2 – The Monster of All

The songwriting sessions are a series of blogs taking a quick peek behind the curtain of my songwriting methods to accompany my new songs and look back at some of my old favourites.

I’ve been writing songs for over 20 years now, but still feel like I am finding my stride, my voice, and my audience. Hopefully, someone will find these blogs interesting about the craft of songwriting, or connect with my efforts, or at the very least, the process of writing it down may hale me to figure a few things out.

This week it is a brand-new song, ‘The Monster of All’ written and recorded over 3 days at the end of January 2021. You can hear it here:

Soundcloud – The Monster of All

I tend to write very fast once I have an initial idea I want to expand on. In this case, the lyric came first, with ‘The Monster of All’ being one of my 3-year-old daughter’s characters in her make-believe world!

I think it’s a fascinating turn of phrase, and I am gathering up some of her ideas into notes to adapt into a possible fantasy fiction story eventually (I’m also a writer – see the sidebar for my published books). With this, however, I also thought it was a great starting place for a lyric – loaded with possible double meaning about the monsters inside us all etc. so I set to work looking for the music to go with it.

The music was then written over the next hour on acoustic guitar and refined during recording which was about another 2 to 3 hours, so probably about 5 hours in all to get this initial ‘demo’ version together (I rarely ever believe these songs to be finished as such when recording them all myself).

Once again, a recent episode of my Beatles Podcast had influenced me and I wanted to write something in triplets timing, along the lines of ‘This Boy’ and that general ‘do wop’ feel. So, I started with a pretty standard progression that you will hear in hundreds of 50s / early 60s songs, and then deviated on the 3rd and 4th chords to minor key and diminished variations, which hopefully breaks it out of that natural expectation of a major resolve.

The chorus emerged out of a natural change from the verses, and originally was half the length of the recorded version. The challenge with this came in the recording, trying to make this feel more pushed, lively, louder than the verse, and not just a variation on it. I tried a few things, including string backing and a distorted guitar. In the end I found that dropping the piano out of the verses and bringing it back for the chorus and links gave it the boost it needed (possibly – this is all open to interpretation).

Arrangement wise, I didn’t want this to go on too long with it’s quite steady 98 bpm tempo, so there is a pretty standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus pattern, with no mid 8 or solo section, a couple of repeats of the chorus bridge at the end and then a fade out.

Altogether, I am quite happy with it, and quite excited about possibly turning more of these fiction fantasy ideas into songs and creating a concept collection along with whatever I end up writing. Genre wise, I like the idea of ‘Dungeon Rock’! A blend of prog/rock/folk/fantasy themed songs? What do you think?

Anyway, I hope you had a listen and found this remotely interesting. If so, let me know using the contact form below or via my podcast or SoundCloud page, all linked in this article! I am always open to opportunities and collaborations too.

Songwriting Sessions – Don’t be Scared

This is the first in, possibly, a series of blogs explaining a bit behind my songwriting process, on a new song by song basis, with visits to some old favourites.

I hope someone might find a ‘glimpse behind the curtain’ interesting at least, but if not, maybe I’ll learn something by writing this down!

The first track I’m going to write about is called ‘Don’t be Scared’, and you can listen to it here:

Don’t be scared

I wrote and recorded this in late 2020 after discussing Paul McCartney’s ‘Put it there‘ on my Beatles podcast, and wanting to try something that captures the same feeling of simple, pleasing cadences but with augmented finger picking and that emotional minor shift.

Naturally, I started on the open D chord which lends itself to this style of acoustic, resonant, song. However, I eventually needed to change key so I could hit the high notes slightly more comfortably, so the guitar is tuned down a tone to C so I could still play it in open chords for the main part.

It is still a little high for me on the ‘Now go back to sleep’ lines, but it’s better than it was in ‘D’. Ah well, the singing is always the hardest part for me, but I like to stick with it so I can get songs finished at least.

Instrumentation wise, I kept this to a double tracked acoustic guitar and single vocal. I am still considering doing a fully arranged version with bass, a Cajon, and maybe some other bits, but we will see. I learned it on the Ukulele and that sounded quite nice!

Lyrics:

CHORUS

Don’t be scared of the world. Don’t be scared to sleep. There are people here who will always love you, now go back to sleep.

VERSE 1

The dark nights seems lonely only if you let them in. The sun might seem low we know somewhere its shining. Waiting.

VERSE 2

Dark corners, where secrets greet us in the shadow light. Are empty, there’s plenty love to keep us in plain sight. It’s alright.

This is part a lullaby for my daughter, part advice to me. With the anxiety of the current situation, my mind races at night and has a tendency to imagine the worst. So, this is a self soothing song mixed with a lullaby.

Lyrically, I am quite happy with it, especially the inner line rhymes in the verses: lonely/only, low/we know, secrets/greet us, empty/theres plenty. It’s satisfying to find and see through a consistent pattern when writing lyrics.

Overall I am happy with the song, though as always the home recording has scope to be improved, and the arrangement layered up in this case. I may revisit.

If you have read this and listened to the song (and liked it) please let me, or preferably someone else, know! And if you are an artist yourself and are interested in working with me, or my songs, get in touch! I’m open to ideas and would love to collaborate or just hear what someone else does with my music.