Time to talk about parents, growing up and how to live forever, all while eating cupcakes.
By Michael Ruby, Writer
As my conversation with the fabulous Sam Salmond continued (Read Volume 1 here), the topics of conversation started to get personal, revealing how personal experience and perspective can help shape and reshape writing over time. Drinking and receiving lemon/raspberry cupcakes Sam had just baked kept the mood light and bouncy as the discussion got deep.
When you’re writing your best stuff, what’s your technique? Is there a particular structure, style or approach to how it comes about?
It’s been changing a lot recently. The more I write, the more I learn about what works best for me, so I’ve shifted my approach accordingly. What I’ve settled on recently is to focus on the music first. I pick a song moment and figure out roughly what it should be about, but without settling on any words. Then I sit at the piano and play, or I’ll find somewhere quiet and just hum. I’ll do that until I have music for a verse and chorus – still without any words. I want to make sure the music is enjoyable for music’s sake alone, without muddying it with lyrics yet. Once the music itself is strong enough where I can feel the appropriate emotional beats – if the music alone brings me joy, breaks my heart or whatever the appropriate feeling is – then I’ll add words. The lyrics then are this tool used to take that general emotion and sculpt it into a specific, clearly told story or moment.
Do you have an example of when you’ve used this approach?
“Waiting For His Clown to Arrive.” I wrote it for this concert called MuseMatch. I was paired with an actor I’d never met (the wonderful Erik Lieberman) and told to write a song specifically for him. We met and talked for hours. He told me about his time in clown school, which I immediately saw as a metaphor for this more existential crisis that was common between the two of us. I knew immediately that was the story I wanted to tell. I went home and wrote all the music first. Then I used the lyric to make the storytelling as clear as possible.
(Erik Liberman sings "Waiting for His Clown")