Backwards Process


When writing a song, you can start with a melody or some words.  That’s it.  Those are the only two options. Most songwriters have a preference.  If you are a melody person, you groove on your melody until you find some words.  If you are more of a words person, you write the words and work to find some music that fits.  It would take a bolt of lightning from a divine muse to get both words and a melody at the exact-same moment.   I tend to be more of the words persuasion. 
My song called Cosmoline crept in through the back door.  The word Cosmoline was on my list of words that I like.  I don’t remember how it ended up on my list but there it was.  The chorus was easy. The word Cosmoline repeats over a standard folk progression.  It was almost like cheating.  For a while, I was stuck with only a chorus. I had no idea where a song about a petroleum-based lubricant was going to end up.  Then one day, I sat down and wrote the melody for the verses. Having a melody did not make the direction of the song more clear.  I don’t think I had ever written a song when the process began with a complete melody and zero words. I’d like to claim a bolt of lightning but the truth is that I played that melody over and over and over until I entered a total trance-like state.  Then I fell asleep.  When I woke up, I played it over and over many more times and eventually found some words to match the melody.  It was fun to sneak in through the back door but I don’t want to make it a habit.   
P.S. When I wrote the melody, I had been listening to Emmy Lou Harris’s record called Angel Band. 

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