When I was growing up there was always music in the house. My dad played keyboards in a dance band duo and did the local hotel circuit most weekends. We were all taught to play the piano and I reached the giddy heights of grade 4 before giving up. I also took up the trumpet and played in the local school band and shows. I was given an acoustic guitar by my brother-in-law in my early teens and started learning chords from books (there was no internet in those days!). So I had a decent grounding in music.
My early composing was usually instrumental pieces on the piano and then some very ‘simple’ songs on the guitar. I would record direct into a tape player using the on-board microphone in one take and my guitar playing was extremely rudimentary so these early forays were forgettable to say the least. I did not have any friends who were making music so the forming a band thing never arose. At 17 I joined the Royal Air Force and the music stopped altogether.
Fast-forward 20+ years over which period I had written only a handful of pieces and I felt that something was missing in my life. I left the RAF after 23 years and took the opportunity to take bass guitar lessons, which lead to me writing instrumental pieces. The Ask rock band was formed and I started writing a few songs for us to perform amongst the cover versions. I had never been a singer doing the odd bit of backing vocals in the rock band so my confidence level with lyrics was very low. Then in 2014 I discovered FAWM (February Album Writing Month).
Started in 2004 by Burr Settles FAWM is an online community that comes together with the individual challenge of writing 14 songs in the month of February. http://www.fawm.org. You can write complete songs, just music or just lyrics, you can also collaborate with other artist around the world posting parts for others to have a go at finishing. The works are then critiqued (in the nicest way possible) by other members of the community. A daunting prospect but I decided to have a go in 2014 and managed 17 tracks. No, these were not studio polished versions and in some cases it was a quick take of me singing into my phone and posting that, but I finished the month with some interesting material that could be worked on and polished. More than that, I discovered my song writing process and received really useful feedback from others in the community (they are a really lovely bunch).
2 songs from my very first FAWM (oh how things have progressed since then).
Things I learnt during my first FAWM:
I can sing better than I originally thought.
Being a bass player I rarely focus on the lyrics in a song but it turns out I can write a decent set of lyrics.
I am able to put music and melody to someone else’s lyrics.
I can write a song in about 1 hour and get it recorded to rough demo in about another hour.
The act of intensely focusing on song writing for a period of time meant that I found inspiration from things that I would probably have skipped straight past normally.
When an idea strikes, get it down straight away. It will be lost in minutes if this is not done.
There are some lovely supportive people out there and FAWM, although intense, is invaluable to my progression as an artist.
If you have any interest in song writing, give it a go, you never know what will come from it!
Next time: My song writing process