Thursday, February 10, 2011

to keep myself accountable (or, "jacob tries to have more disciplined song-writing")

Im thinking about working on two new albums.

one of covers of Townes Van Zandt songs, just to do it and get them under my fingers and in my mind.

the other, a little more challenging writing-wise.

I'd like to write and record an album dedicated and inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird.
This book and its subsequent movie have always had a very important place in my life and I'd like to explore them. I just have one small problem:

I have a hard time writing specifically about a subject when it is the cneter of my focus.

if and when i write a song, it seems that it comes from out of nothing. i sit to play and suddenly a song has nudged into my mind, under my fingers and onto paper. while this is a very organic process, its not very dependable. or deep. while often, actually almost always, i find myself working through the song later on, i find subtle personal meanings in each that i had not seen originally, it often seems these connections are not intentional. they just happen to come from my the deep recesses of my mind and find their way sneakily to the page.

dont get me wrong. i love this process. i love the unpredictability. i love the organic "just feelin it" groove. i love surprising myself. but sometimes i want more out of my songs. i want more out of myself.

i want to be able to sit and ruminate on a subject, topic, emotion, thought, etc...

and from that meditation i want to write. not expecting anything great or singable, just to write.

i would like to take the subconcious process that just seems to happen when im playing for no reason, and turn it towards being disciplined about my creative process. this is not to create more efficiently. in fact, it might work just the opposite. i might spend days pondering and come up with nothing but jibberish. and i dont want it to be about creating more. i would just like to connect my words to well, deeply thought out and deeply questioned ideas. to get that deepness, i feel like i need some dedicated rumination.

does this make sense?

it shouldnt be about a creative process that forces me to think just so i can make more music. it should be about actually exploring and digging into the passing thoughts that blow through my mind.

so id like to start this with an album about To Kill a Mockingbird. id like to meditate on the novel, the story, the characters, and ultimately maybe the meaning. because it has always had some ephemeral impact on my heart and mind, id like to explore what that looks like when i sit down to give those impressions detail.

ive written a song from atticus' persepctive with the "it just happened" style of writing. now id like to write a few more songs that come from a more thorough exploration.

so im committing here in public to write this album.

a huge step for me. i dont like pressure, even when i put it on myself. but maybe we all need some more connected thoughts.


  1. i think this is a great step! i can't wait to hear more

  2. I'm going to try to keep this relatively short and without rambling, but, well, here goes...

    In regards to song writing process: when I started writing in college it was basically the "it just happened" method. I wrote the large majority of the Holy Family collection of songs that way. But when I finished college I had maybe 6 or 7 songs for it finished, a broken heart, no prospects of moving any direction in my life whatsoever. That's when I decided, I really need to get serious about songwriting. It’s something that I care enough about that I really want to develop it, especially if I’m not going to do anything else with my life right now.

    I drove to my dad's house in Georgia that summer to clear my head and finish the damn album. The first thing I did was outline the entire story and figure out where it was going and how it would end. I then broke that down into songs: I need one song to explain this part, I need one song to be about this, I need one song leading up to this next event. And then every day I sat on the porch and considered the topic of whichever song I was working on and messed around on the guitar and refused to think about anything else.

    Of course it helped that I was writing a story and so there was a plot to go off of, but when I was finally done writing, it had taken me a full four years to finish all of those songs. Which is insane, it shouldn’t take anyone 4 years to write 14 songs. But it was definitely a learning process, and the album became so much more than what it had originally started out.

    Anyway, I find I have to treat it a lot like work. I give myself deadlines. “Corbett, I need that song about loss and longing on my desk by Monday!” That’s silly, but I just have to say, “okay, I’m going to sit here and write about this topic today.” And sometimes what comes out is crap, or I’ll just type for miles and come up with one good line, and the next day I come back focus on that one line. And the more I work on it, the easier it becomes.

    That said, I suggest for you first, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I’ve bought that book for so many people and recommended it to so many people it’s ridiculous. It will blow your mind, I promise. Next, If you haven’t already, listen to Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown. It’s a folk adaptation of Ovid’s story about Orpheus. Just fantastic.

    I hope this helps some. I love talking about this stuff, so keep it coming. Also, I wrote all of this while listening to The Only Road. I’m super excited to hear anything you’re working on.