How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs?

Posted by: musician17

How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 02/29/20 11:55 PM

I wrote a song, back in 2018, which expresses in a nutshell much of what I have to say. Ever since, I've been having the shadow of it, so to speak, hang over me - and, despite all my efforts since (and there have been a relatively large number of them), I still don't think I've written anything quite like it, at least in my own opinion of things.

How does one write another "classic" (so to speak!)? I don't want to think of myself as a "one hit wonder", haha - and I honestly don't know why it is that I feel so blocked and in the shadow of that song. Is it just a question of "keep writing and hope you strike lucky again", or ... ? Thanks for any comments!
Posted by: Noel96

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 02/29/20 11:58 PM

James,

I personally take consolation in the fact that 90% of Bob Dylan's songs are not his best 10%. Pat Pattison said that once at a seminar I went to and it's been in my mind ever since.

I'm still working my way to that best 10% smile

Regards,
Noel
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 12:10 AM

D'you know something, Noel, that is somehow just the tonic I needed :-)

THAT song turned out good just by accident ... so who knows, if I keep writing ... but thank you for the encouragement, it's "the right kind of medicine", as a friend of mine used to say.

Let's keep searching for that illusory moment, that classic ... who knows, when it's meant to be, it'll be, right? THANKS again :-)
Posted by: MarioD

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 06:39 AM

I am a zero hit wonder so this may not apply cry

Do something that is completely out of your comfort zone. BiaB is great for that! Take you mind off of writing by reading a book, taking a walk, take up photography or some other hobby and start to train your mind into other things. For example a walk in the spring my generate a song about flowers or lovers or the end of a bad relationship (winter is over). A good sci-fi book or movie may bring up different ideas.

Good luck
Posted by: Guitarhacker

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 06:40 AM

Interesting topic....

So, first of all, if you use ideas and parts of the old song in your new stuff, you won't be sued for copyright infringement by yourself. I've seen a few of my tunes rip off melody lines and ideas from my earlier writings. No big deal.

You have to simply keep writing. You have to write a lot of bad, average, and almost good songs to get to the "wow this is amazing" songs. The more you write, the better you get at coming up with new ideas. You are under no obligation to post the bad and average songs for others to hear. Trust me, there's notebooks and computer folders filled with song ideas that were originally thought to be "brilliant" that are now collecting dust because....well..... they weren't. Just move on and don't obsess over the stuff you wrote yesterday. That's water under the bridge.... write something else today. Pick a topic and intentionally write about it.

Also, vary the instrument you use to write. If you normally write on the piano, try writing with a guitar.

The best way to break out of the writing rut is to find a co-writer and try doing some collaboration writing. Some of my best songs (in my opinion) have been the ones where another writer and I got together to create something interesting. Look at my songs and check out which ones are collabs. Quite a few are that way. In fact, I'm collabing with a new writer on several new songs currently. Stay tuned for the results.
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 10:07 AM

MarioD, you're of course just exaggerating with the modesty :-) - but thank you so much, brilliant advice ... taking my mind off stuff and trying something new out of which inspiration may arise may just "do the trick"! And yes, Guitarhacker, I think you, too, hit the nail on the head with the comment about avoiding obsessing about what I wrote yesterday ... that's probably precisely why I don't actually "move on" ... it's like a relationship, in a way ... if you obsess over a past relationship, you'll never move on to find the next, magical one. So yes ... if I stop staying under yesterday's shadow, maybe something new will come to me? And yes, I have to keep writing!

On that note ... anyone want to collaborate with me? haha. I may be smiling, but I'm actually dead serious about this ... if anyone has the time and inclination (and patience, haha) to want to write with little old me over here, I'd love to hear from you ... I'm open to all ideas and suggestions, of course - the more, the merrier :-)

Thanks everyone once more for helping me out with this :-)
Posted by: MarioD

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 11:29 AM

Originally Posted By: musician17
...............

On that note ... anyone want to collaborate with me? haha. I may be smiling, but I'm actually dead serious about this ... if anyone has the time and inclination (and patience, haha) to want to write with little old me over here, I'd love to hear from you ... I'm open to all ideas and suggestions, of course - the more, the merrier :-)

Thanks everyone once more for helping me out with this :-)


Sure I will do a collaboration with you.
Posted by: Roger Brown

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 11:53 AM

I have a good friend, a songwriter, who was literally a one-hit wonder. Had a #1 in the mid-80s and never got another cut. He spent the next two decades trying to write something better than that one song, basically hoping to beat it. I'll pass along what he said: "My biggest mistake was living my career in the rearview mirror. I wasted years looking back instead of looking forward, towards the next song."

You aren't in competition with yourself. And your songs are in competition with each other. Every one is different, a unique entity. Forget that one and move on, you've already written it. And also, fwiw, songwriters are generally the worst at determining which of their own songs is their best. Case in point, I had a song recorded by an artist named Nanci Griffith back in the late 80s. Was a single, but died in the 20s or 30s, I don't remember exactly. But a lot of people have said over the years how much they liked the song, or that "it's the best thing you've ever written". To me, it was just an exercise in writing....took me about 40 minutes to write start to finish. I never thought it was special at all, but other people seem to. Conversely, I have a half dozen or so songs that I would describe as "the best I've written", and most of them have never seen the light of day.

Co-writing, I agree, is also a great way to break out of a rut.

Best of luck with it.
RB
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/01/20 12:00 PM

Thanks Roger, really appreciate your genuinely insightful comments!!! I will definitely take your advice and look forward. The last thing I want is to be defined by "past glories", haha. Thanks!!!

MarioD, you'll have a Private Message from me shortly - thanks!!!!!!
Posted by: Guitarhacker

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/04/20 06:06 AM

I have a saying I stick with ....


Write, submit, forget, repeat.'

Essentially, write your song, do whatever you planned to do with it, forget about it, and repeat the process.

Seems to work.
Posted by: Hans MusiSide

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/04/20 02:53 PM

First of all you should try to write a song WITH the 'Shadow of the past'. Why not? And than make another two or three just like that. (for exercise)
Or you could try to reproduce such a song. It will give you the possibility to discover the secret of it.

If you do that, you will learn, that the best songs are the most simple ones. It doesn't have to be that difficult to imagine. Listen for example to the song of the 'Mavericks': 'Dancin'The Night Away'. It was a smashing hit, with just TWO CHORDS!

I don't know your musical skills, but otherwise try to take a scale in the key you want to play and/or sing. Take every note of this scale in 4/4 count and 'invent' on every note a chord. Make it simple, keep it simple. Because the more simple you can make it, the more simple one can sing it. And remember it. And the secret of a smashing hit is, that one can remember the tune!

And if you once have found a way of 'inventing' these chords, you can work on it, to give this 'invention' your own sound and style.

And my last tip for this moment: Try to give your musical 'invention' something 'special'. Like Paul McCartney did with 'Mull Of Kintyre' (bagpipes) or Gotye with 'Somebody I Used To Know' (xylophone). Unusual instruments gives people an 'remembrance'. Only if you're Frank Sinatra, you just need a big band orchestra. :-)

Good Luck!
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/04/20 09:54 PM

Thanks, both of you! It was the "forget about it" part that I didn't do so well on ... I'll try :-)

I'll get back to it now! Cheers for all your kind help!
Posted by: edshaw

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/06/20 12:13 PM

I think Roger is right. I would add, not only are you not in competition with yourself or your songs, we musicians are not intended to be in competition with either other; though perhaps, with the exception of the friendly kind, you know, that which drives us to the higher sort.
Funny that you would pose this, James. If anything, you are known as one who creates in all kinds of styles. We never know what to expect, from a rambling talk to something seeming inspired by a Bach Chorale.
Is the question, "How do I break out of a habit?" If so, that is one of the perennial artist's dilemma. Meaning, the solution has yet to be discovered. With our old friend Band in a Box, we can change keys, tempo, signature, strum pattern, and a lot of other things. Sometimes it comes down to, "What do I want to say, I mean, really want to say?" The master taught us, of all the values of a work, the most important is that it has something to say.
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/06/20 01:08 PM

Wow - thank you Ed. Beautifully written and, of course, spot on. I personally tend to doodle and experiment a lot when writing, so yes, as you say, it is important that I keep focus on what I actually want to say, as opposed to "rambling for the sake of it", so to speak.

A famous composer once told his librettist: "Do as the good cooks do ... make the soup and let much of the water evaporate until it becomes a concentrate!". What I take from that is that, again, I must see what it is that I have to say ... the rest is excess water!

I've written this, tonight, and posted it up on the User Showcase: https://soundcloud.com/jamesdelsono/i-love-you-always . I include it here just because I think I've written it with all of the above in mind, and I think (although I may be wrong) that it's my best work in a while. Funny how talking about things helps too ... once I voiced my worries about being stuck in a rut, inspiration came easier, too ... sometimes it helps just to talk, too, I suppose.

Thank you again for your wonderful words - I will remember them for sure.
Posted by: Janice & Bud

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/06/20 02:41 PM

I haven't written anything big enough to cast a shadow smile We played in a traditional bluegrass band for many years and our repertoire was all, well, traditional smile We might arrange them but never wrote them. After leaving the band and a decade later discovering BiaB we began to explore genres that we had long loved but never played (notably Americana and blues). And in order to participate on the forum I (Bud) had to write lyrics for Janice (who at any time has around a zillion melodies in her head). Were it not for the encouragement of a few forum folks years ago, notably mr jane, I would never have developed at all as a writer. It's still akin to a root canal but I manage to eek a few out now and then. I do have some favs I've "written" and they are nearly all co-writes with the aforementioned mr jane. But take him out and the shadow would get pencil thin! So my only shadow is the one looming over me when it's time to work on a lyric.

Bud
Posted by: edshaw

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/06/20 04:42 PM

Hah! James. When I said rambling I didn't mean rambling incoherently, but more like talking us through something, like you sometimes talk us through a scripture or a poem. (Just so you know:)
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/06/20 10:40 PM

Haha - I know, Ed, thanks. I didn't mean at all to imply that your use of the word "rambling" was in a pejorative sense :-) but I DO think I "experiment", "doodle" and even "ramble on" at times, haha, and that's what I wanted to say: that I may need to "get to the point quicker" when I write, so as to better communicate what I actually have to say! :-)

Bud: you're incredibly modest, perhaps too much so (who am I to say?). But yes, a little dose of that modesty wouldn't be bad for me, perhaps ... instead of focusing how I can make a better song than the one in the past, perhaps I can be modest about it and realise I CAN get better, etc., because the bar's not that highly set in the first place ;-) Seriously, though - one way or another, your productions (whoever and whatever is involved) are - for me, at least - the benchmark of this forum ... and everytime something new comes out bearing the Janice & Bud hallmark, so to speak, I drop everything and listen as quickly as I can ... and I'm never ever disappointed in any way with what I hear. So ... whatever magical secrets you may have (including modesty and good old fashioned hard work), I want some :-) One last thing: if I could even remotely do what you do, I'd be shouting about it from the rooftops, haha ... but that's just me :-)
Posted by: edshaw

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/07/20 07:20 AM

Ah, James, we live in a world in which subtleties of meaning can make or break a public offering. Forgive me if I was picky, but better safe than sorry. My vocals have been described as part talk & part sing. That's fine with me, though I normally stop short of outright evangelism. I recall one of your strong songs was basically a voice over. (There I go, again.) It was great.
--- I couldn't agree more with your kind words to Janice and Bud. That also goes for the collabs they do, as it goes also for Scott, Floyd, and several others.
--- Since discovering Soundcloud's "Playlist" feature, I have been making playlists that I run in the background while on the computer. Thanks to the great strides made in home recording and composition software, those playlists would fly on many a radio station. Two main problems: 1) getting organized to avoid a sea of correspondence to get the permissions. Two) The general environment of lawlessness, fraud, and deceit has created a negative business environment that makes getting anything done well nigh impossible. All done, of course we know, on purpose.(Keeps the little guys at bay.)
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/08/20 01:52 AM

I know what you mean, Ed, about the difficulty of getting stuff done and "out there". Thing is, I mainly write for myself, so I personally am ok if not everyone hears my stuff, so to speak (besides, mine is not really radio ready, as it were) - but I honestly don't envy the so many amazing musicians that do music for a living ... it's carnage out there.

Still ... I've saved some of the songs from here on my own SoundCloud profile - perhaps I will set up a playlist, too ... in my spare time, of course. Just for the sake of remembering some of the truly great songs posted on here.

Thanks for ever so kindly talking to me ... I hope and wish to hear more of your stuff!!! There are such great musicians here ... it's just reminded me about a play about jazz music, by Warren Leight, entitled "Side Man". It's by far the best play about music I've ever read and seen, so I highly recommend it ... if you have any chance of getting the book and, preferably, also the audio version, do. Plug over, haha ... I don't earn anything out of "plugging" this, of course, haha ... but it just came to mind, it IS - to me, at least - amazing and "bucket list" material.

Take good care!
Posted by: Bawb

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/09/20 11:52 AM

Dunno...
But personally, I have completely switched genres...
This has opened up a whole new world for me.
I used to write songs that were strictly hard rock or rock ballads.
Now, I'm writing/singing Christian songs.

Also, I wholeheartedly endorse the Band in a Box as an excellent tool for any songwriter. In the past, I had to rely on other people who weren't exactly as talented as they led me to believe and wanted a lot of money for poor quality music for my songs. I bought Band in a Box back in 2003 and it helped, then life got too busy, so I let it go. Last year, I got to the point where I could not find music for the songs I wanted to sing, so i thought, "Maybe I could try Band in a Box again." I was NOT disappointed.

And then this led me to writing my own songs again due to recording companies wanting royalties and such when you sing their songs in churches.

BIAB has been such a boost to my songwriting. This is especially true since it is SO much easier to put words to music for me. As I hear certain notes and chords saying certain words and then chord progressions saying phrases in my head.
Posted by: Mike Halloran

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/09/20 06:17 PM

Hmmm... I was asked to write a song on spec 40 years ago. Wrote it but the artist never recorded it, died and I put the song in a drawer.

Was in Nashville last week and sang it at a showcase. People I don't know plus a few I do are clamoring for the demo. Time for me to make one, I suppose.
Posted by: edshaw

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/09/20 06:19 PM

The Forum's ears eagerly await the demo, Mike Halloran!
Bawb: You've put your finger on one of Band in a Box's greater
uses; namely, using it as an integral part of the
creative process. I mean, as opposed to plying BB to
our will, there is a whole area in which the composer
can simply noodle around in BB. Our culture stresses
so much the idea of knowing where you want to go, then
putting yourself to the task of getting there. After all,
time is money, hey?
Thanks for the kind words and the listening tip, James.
This web site I have been working on for a while is
finally going live. I am applying myself to God Tube
videos, also. On top of that, I have taken on the task
of rounding up musicians to produce mutually beneficial
radio playlists. If that sounds like hands full, it is.
My next video trilogy will be "Near the Cross" "Beautiful
River," and a favorite of yours, "In The Garden." That is,
if I don't cave in from over work smile
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/11/20 11:40 AM

Sounds so busy, Ed!!! Good luck in everything you do and please, whatever you do, don't overwork yourself!!! Let me know, if you want (of course), once your projects have taken off ... I'd be really curious to see how things go :-) = and looking forward to hearing your next songs and arrangements!
Posted by: HearToLearn

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/12/20 11:53 AM

I'm not sure if my advice would help at all; but I will take a swing at it. If you are in the "shadows" of past songs, step into the "light" of new ones. A change in mentality can make a HUGE difference.

I'm not allowed to have times that I just can't write. They will take my house. I have to write consistently on demand. Period. There is no other option unless I change professions. I write for a living.

My thought process isn't much different than what has been mentioned. You need to know this next thing. It's IMPORTANT.

You not being able to write songs as well as you feel you did has NOTHING to do with your ability. It's your thinking! So, if it's your thinking, get it back to when you wrote those songs.

Also, give yourself permission to learn. Learning isn't about perfect growth. It's about making TONS of mistakes to improve yourself. That takes the pressure off big time.

I feel like you are somewhat asking "how do I avoid the dirt and dig ONLY diamonds." It doesn't work that way son. wink (Just an expression, I'm not sure your age) Fall in love with the process again, and the some great results with come from it.

Given the subject line of the thread, I would guess you have some habitual questions you ask yourself that aren't serving you very well. The assumption is you are in the shadow in the first place! Instead, if you asked something like "what can I do today to get myself that much closer to my next great song?" it may energize you to take the actions of moving forward. And it's not some big complicated overthought answer you are looking for. It should be something like "I will commit to writing 30 minutes." You do that day in and day out and you can just feel the progress. Then WHEN that next song comes, remember it and use it as fuel.

There are SO many writers who wrote songs that they thought were exceptionally great...that no none liked. They have also written songs they KNEW were terrible, fought not to have it on the album, were embarrassed by, blah, blah, blah that ended up as incredible hits.

Take action consistently and give it time. The diamonds are in with the dirt. Don't stop because you only see dirt right now. You found a few diamonds before, you will find them again.

Lastly, you might want to check out a book called "Go For No." It's a sales book that was recommended to me that made a big shift in my life. It's not just for sales, which is why I'm recommending it. It's about taking the pressure off and taking action.

Enough rambling. Bottom line is, this isn't the NFL. What we do, we can usually do a lifetime. Start digging.

PS-I use speech to text, so there will be errors. Just ask if something needs clarification.
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/12/20 12:07 PM

Oh my word, thank you, HearToLearn. Just what I needed to hear. You're absolutely spot on ... one can't only dig out diamonds. Everything you said, from giving oneself permission to learn ... to falling in love with the process again, makes absolute sense to me.

I guess I was just feeling down because it felt like I was having writer's block. And the only way I know how to beat that is to keep writing, but I felt without inspiration and as if I was going round in circles.

Ever since typing this post out, I wrote two songs that are on the forum. One is called "I Love You, Always" and the other is "A Sign of Peace". They're both easily (or so I think, at least) some of my best ever. I guess sometimes it's good just to talk and vent? because I was keeping it all inside and writing about my block seemed to open things up a little!

In any case, I'm here to continue writing ... I'll never stop, because I love it too much.

I will definitely look for the book you recommended ... it's good to get out of a rut, whichever way ... so long as, as you say, we take action for it.

THANK YOU.
Posted by: Charlie Fogle

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/12/20 03:13 PM

Originally Posted By: musician17
I wrote a song, back in 2018, which expresses in a nutshell much of what I have to say. Ever since, I've been having the shadow of it, so to speak, hang over me - and, despite all my efforts since (and there have been a relatively large number of them), I still don't think I've written anything quite like it, at least in my own opinion of things.

How does one write another "classic" (so to speak!)? I don't want to think of myself as a "one hit wonder", haha - and I honestly don't know why it is that I feel so blocked and in the shadow of that song. Is it just a question of "keep writing and hope you strike lucky again", or ... ? Thanks for any comments!


My late older brother was a successful Nashville session musician and fairly successful Producer and also a touring band player. He was quite a few years older than me and only took me as a serious writer after we were both later on in our years. He worked tirelessly once he 'accepted' me as a musician by producing an LP album of my original songs and pitched them around Nashville back in the 1970's. He had me vacation with him for a week in the late 1980's trying to encourage and re-spark my writing as I'd virtually stopped and was doing other things. His whole emphasis to me was; "You only have to get it right once! It gets easier after that. They will come looking for you rather than you searching out for the powers that be."

He's right...

You don't have to wait on inspiration for a song idea, let other's ideas inspire you. High quality, high value inspiration surrounds you everywhere you go. Learn to recognize it. Look to where John Lennon got the idea to develop "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite". A hundred year old Circus Poster he saw and purchased from a thrift shop. "Lucy in the Sky" came from a drawing by his son. "A day In The Life" from a newspaper article.

John Lennon's success as a songwriter convinced me he was on to something and I began to develop the habit of looking everywhere for song ideas. They are literally all around us. Think about it, some of the world's most successful writers and idea generators are folks like Hear To Learn that write for a living. TV Commercials, radio jingles, Billboards, newspapers, brochures, and funny quips from friends and family...

I've written lyrics from:
.NPR TV guide.
.Church bulletin sermon outline
.Facebook comments about a real country boy's pickup truck picture

My favorite so far has been lyrics derived from a BIAB Forum's members Web Page's Song Title List of his original songs.
'Looking from where I'm at' added to 'I'm walking on thin ice' back to 'Looking from where I'm at' added to 'Wrong is what I do right'

became:

Looking from where I'm at
I'm walking on thin ice
Looking from Where I'm at
Wrong is what I do right

The Chorus of the song. I used his song titles to write the verse lyrics as well. It turned out good enough that the forum member, took the song lyrics derived from his song titles and most of my instrumentation and recorded it.

The song practically wrote itself. wink

Hope this helps you get started back a bit.
Posted by: lambada

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/13/20 12:58 AM

I'd love to know how many of our on-line co-conspirators are working full-time making a living as songwriters / musicians? In fact I'm going to make a thread in off topic!:-)
Posted by: edshaw

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/14/20 03:18 PM

I also find if you carry a tune around in your head for a few days,
working it and reworking it, ideas can come up out of "nowhere."
I have been listening to Christian anthems and recently discovered
that simply slowing the tempo down below 70 results in an anthem
feel, even for a hymn such as "Sweet Bye and Bye," which we often
associate with a country feel, using that very technique.
Posted by: musician17

Re: How does one get out of the "shadow" of past songs? - 03/28/20 03:09 PM

Thanks everybody :-) way too kind. Yes, this has very much helped! I guess I mustn't "try" to be at my best every time, I'll fail if I do that ... but just write and forget about whether the song's "any good" - that's the audience's job, my job is to write and hope for the best, haha. Thank you!