ZOOM OUT FROM YOUR SONG
The idea of zooming up and out from anything is only a hundred year old phenomenon. Up until the age of flight, humanity was limited to whatever hill or mountain you could climb to get the best view of your surroundings.
No window seats. No snapping selfies and sunsets at thirty thousand feet. Just imagine looking into the night sky in those days with only one perspective, up.
But here we are in 2017 and zooming out is in our everyday vocabulary. I’ve gotten so used to pinching my fingers on screens that I have actually done that to physical photos!
Your Song From 30,000 Feet
Yet in the area of songwriting and the creative process, perspective can seem elusive.
Sometimes we stare at a song we are working on for so long that we just lose any objectivity. But who can see a mountain when you’re standing at the bottom just staring at rock.
I’ve learned that zooming out is critical as a songwriter. It sure beats banging your head against the wall for hours and hours, just believing that magic is just one head bang away.
We must step back to see our songs from 30,000 feet.
Here are 5 things I found that work.
1. Go To The Bathroom
Seriously! If you are hitting a road block in a songwriting session, or in any creative process for that matter, you've gotta go to the bathroom…or the loo if your British…or the washroom if you're Canadian. Wherever you’re from or whatever your call the infamous room you relieve yourself in, there is something magical in that place.
Its like the wallpaper is lined with melodies and lyric ideas that jump out and hit you like a lightning bolt. I can’t tell you how many ideas have come to me or my co-writer by simply going to pee.
One time some co-writers and I were completely stuck on a chorus. But I promise you that in the bathroom of that Hollywood studio, the chorus came to me in one fail swoop. I came back and sang it down with the track as we were literally jumping up and down in excitement.
That turned out to be a really big song for us (I’ll save that story for another post), but needless to say I made a lot of money in the bathroom that day.
2. Consume Music/ Video
Sometimes you gotta step back and get some fresh inspiration. Go to Spotify and play your favorite new music or just browse the latest tracks of the type of music you love. Of course this is not an exercise to rip someone else off, but just to get out of your creative funk by filling yourself with awesome music .
When you take in an incredible song and amazing music, it gives you the courage and permission to go do it yourself. Sometimes it’s just the spark you need.
Just the other day we watched a short behind the scenes on how Christopher Nolan got Hans Zimmer to write music for the movie Interstellar which you can see here. The song we wrote after we had that swirling in our heads is one of my favorites in a while.
3. Take A Walk
This is self explanatory and probably could be left off the list. But when was the last time you took a walk in your writing session or the middle of your songwriting? Probably awhile ago.
The reality is we get so locked in and want to finish something so bad, we’ll keep working at it until we get there. But sometimes the stagnant waters of creativity just need to be stirred a little, and taking a walk does just that.
4. TAKE A LUNCH BREAK
Food helps everything… the brain… the creative process…. the grumpy co-writer's attitude. More times than not, what we thought was genius before lunch turns out to be mediocre after lunch. So many times we have had to go back to the drawing board after stepping away.
Also, sharing a meal with friends is never a bad idea. The relationships I have are the highlight of every writing session, far more than any song we write.
It’s the conversations about life, family, highs and lows that make it worthwhile. And every bit of that makes for a better song.
5. COME BACK ANOTHER DAY
Sometimes you need to put it down for a night or two. Isn’t it amazing even in life, when you have an important descision to make, but you sleep on it and have a totally fresh perspective on that decision in the morning. It’s the same with songwriting.
This is my favorite way to write.
Many people in the songwriting community here in Nashville are used to a song (or 2 songs) in a day style of writing. Although I do that some as well, I really like to let things simmer and then come back to make sure each part of the song is bulletproof.
That sometimes means revisiting an idea over and over until it’s 100%. For me, I have found that makes for a higher level song in the end.
Try to make a habit of zooming out from whatever song or track you are working on, to get a fresh take on it. And you never know, you might just write your next hit song in the washroom.