Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When is a song a good song? Songwriting - the SOAR way. Part 2

The second part of this blog entry is about how SOAR write songs, the mechanics, separate from the inspiration or reasons to write in the first place, and in some way answers the question about whether SOAR writes good songs.
As we explain in our shows we don't usually write songs together. This is primarily because we live too far apart to get together very often. Lyrical collaborations via the internet are easy enough but it is way hard to replicate on the internet the equivalent of sitting around in someone's lounge room jamming away writing songs. Interesting too is that the songs we did write together, like Fishies,  I Called You On The Phone and Mystery Girl, are in the perky singalong category.

Mostly we write individually or in pairs - with Experiment being the common person in them. And well it all seems to work pretty good to me.
When i'm writing songs (Bright) as soon as i think i have something musically interesting happening i send a demo to Experiment, for a couple of reasons. Very quickly in my song writing i begin to lose some perspective of its merits. One of the ways i write the melody/music is by repetition - i just take an initial chord progression and melody fragment and sing it over and over again trying out different chords and melody options until i have a verse and chorus structure i like. Then i will record a rough demo of the song so i can listen to it without playing it at the same time. With some songs by the time all this is done i may already have sung/listened to the song fifty times and my head is numb to its real merits by then. Regardless,  i like to keep working on songs and finish them as quickly as i can - while i am absorbed by each one - this is where Experiment first comes in. I send the demo to EX and he lets me know what he thinks of it. Your basic thumbs up or thumbs down.
At this point regardless of the feedback from EX i may or may not complete songs for any number of reasons and many bits and pieces of songs end up in the SOAR VAULT at this point. Of all the songs that EX gives the thumbs up to that are completed and played in SecondLife, 9 out of 10 of them seem to be well received. Of the songs that got the thumbs down from EX that are nonetheless completed, maybe only 3 out 10 ever see the light of day.
So for me the role Experiment plays in my songwriting is crucial - saves me a lot of time by giving me an idea early on that my initial ideas for a song may not be strong enough or appealing enough to warrant spending any more time on them, and then in a positive way gives me confidence that there is something worth developing and completing in the songs that he gives the thumbs up to.
Whether any of this on its own makes any of the songs a good song, well, probably not, i still say a song is a good song if you like it, but it does help ensure that less songs that should never ever be heard by anyone ever make it into our shows, and for that, you and i should be very grateful because i have listened to some of the songs EX rejected and they are truly bad :)

OK this post is long enough. I hope it explains the role EX has in my songwriting - i play a fairly similar role in EX's songwriting. And perhaps in another entry i will write about why i write songs, the reasons, the inspirations, the different approaches i take, does the music come first or the lyrics, how long does it take etc.

Thanks for reading.
Bright :)


  1. It's truly amazing how all of you put it together. A touch or pure magic in each and every song.

  2. Love these insights :) and enjoy hearing how particular songs were written.
    NEW SONGS! New songs... I see new song covers.
    Does this mean new songs soooooooon? YAY!

  3. Thank you Precious and Rebs :)
    It could be interesting to tell the story of a song, from where the inspiration for it came from, the lyric drafts, the development of the melody, style of recording etc, it just seems like a lot of trouble to go to if we choose a bad song to begin with :) And then of course there is the problem of having the camera crew here capturing every moment all day and all night for weeks, time away doing interviews and guest appearances, but, maybes :)
    And yes we are working on a bunch of new songs, in different styles too, so March should see some of them make their debuts :)

  4. Yes interesting topic Bright ..Im looking forward myself to hearing how you go about writing your songs as apart from the few occasions when we've all collaborated - (I've usually paired up with Ex to write songs or on my own ) youve usually magically come up with a final version ..
    Ill maybe post a blog myself about this sometime , but I usually come up with a melody and some rough words at the same time when Im playing guitar, and if Ex is around - or later - he helps me bang it into shape with lyrics and helps with chorus and final melody line etc ..
    I guess this is pretty much how we all did 'called you on the phone' and Mystery Girl' . I had the first line and melody of ' called you on phone' before we got together that night( was about a girl at university called Vivian who Id called but she was out) - and then between us came up with more lyrics and chorus etc ..and Mystery Girl - happened that night when I came up with ' Wish I could meet a girl like that ' line with the melody and again betweem us we built more lyrics , chorus etc ..
    Along with fishies, I think there was kind of a fun energy between us , and hence the perkiness of those ones ..
    So thats how I mostly write ..mostly melody and rough lyric idea at same time ..except for a couple of songs like ' Shes like the rain' and ' Its over' where I came up with melody first or musical ideas on keyboards, and main melody and/or lyrics added later with help of Ex .. So hooray for EX :)

  5. Love hearing your stories Chuck :)) It's just so interesting to hear about the creative side from the inside :)) and what inspired the songs. One of my favourites is the bar of chocolate.
    So where did 'she's like the rain' and 'Brand New Day' come from?

  6. Wow I feel all humble now. Thanks B & C.
    Before I get into my reply.. for RM I do believe "She's Like The Rain" began as a keyboard part written by Chuck (the verse only I think?) and I visited him only a hour or so later and loved it so I helped out with the chorus and wrote the vocal melody and then most the lyrics (all within 30 mins or so) and then the two of us spend hours working on the watery intro and adding the guitars. Bright visited that later that same day and put down a rough vocal and thats the way it stayed for quite a while till we revisited it for inclusion in our SL gigs. "Brand New Day" was originally called "Barbie" and I'm sure Charles can tell you all about that! To be continued....


  7. Part 2...
    Yes I have to admit I am the lynch pin in most of our song writing. Music is the heart and soul of my life (apart from Mari!)and not having the commitements of a family or a farm to run I guess having that time and an abundance of enthusiasm comes in rather handy!
    I think I was given the gift of having an ear for arranging for apart from my own songwriting, arranging is mainly what I do with Bright's and Charles' songs as well as some lyrics if needed. But being a perfectionist I can be a pain in the backside when it comes to minute details in a song.. a pause here, an extra chord there, a harmony that needs to be added etc etc. But for me the biggest joy is when I have my own song or only just some lyrics and the lads take them and turn them into something I can be extremely proud of. Examples of this are "Kansas Skies" (I only had lyrics and not even a chorus and not one note of music); "The Painting" (Only lyrics for verses & no music); "Listen To Your Tears" (I had a totally different arrangement); Camvilla (Bright added the majestic 2nd part of the chorus); "Beyond The Crowd" (lyrics only to which Bright added all the music and the arrangement in 30 Mins!). These are just some of the reasons why Bright and Charles are a significant part of my life. Without them I would be stuck at home singing my Herman's Hermits tributes! lol


  8. Well guys I think we need to hear more of the 'how you did its' :) This is great reading thank you all :)) and I guess the perfectionist shows up in the songs we actually get to hear :))

    Now how cool would it be to have some informal sessions in TCF - voice enabled. So we can all sit around in one of the lounges and ask you questions and listen to your stories,

    oh and maybe just 3 songs to finish the session off or MP3's scattered throughout the session.

  9. Hi Ex and Rebs :)
    Great idea Rebs
    Yes Ex you were spot on with how "Shes like the rain" came about - I'd worked out some keyboard melody lines using 4 differents sounds playing different counter melodies a sort of music tapestry - it is still the main part of the song - you can hear it after the water and kettle drum roll at the beginning - but thats the only bit I had - you can hear Ex's string line come in - he came up with that melody almost instantly after hearing my bits ...and as he said water, chorus, lyrics etc were worked out and added.

    I think 'Is over' was a similar type of writing where I had the keyboard melody and basic lyrics of the Chorus ie ' Its over I know youre not coming back...
    and then Ex probably helped with the verse melody and wrote pretty much all the lyrics ( I wasn't going to drive him home from the studio till he'd finished them and it was a long walk home lol)

    'Brand New Day' was written after being introduced to Barbara through a mutual friend . I had been girlfriend - less for quite a while after my long term girlfriend Amanda moved on..
    So it was a feeling of new hope and another of my usual method of picking up the guitar and playing a chord or two and the initial first lyric line and its melody coming out. This was one of the rare ones where I actually managed to finish the song myself. It didnt work out with Barbara but the song was 'born'
    I must admit I generally struggle to write a song when Im on my own - especially from a lyrical point of view. A lot of the ones Ive written or started and then finished with Ex's help have usually come from some emotional level so quite a few are written about breaking up with Amanda or meeting someone new and then that falling through or something.
    All the times
    Peace of Mind
    Dont you ever go
    Natasha to name a few

    Other songs have usually come from being with Ex and jamming or being in that sort of headspace with him and because Ex is there can get the lyrics and melody moving along somewhere - I guess we get some sort of energy going and a sort of discipline ( which I need) to get a finished song. Also when I work with Ex I seem to come up with lyric ideas a whole lot easier - like we can bounce lyric lines back and forth eg
    China Bay
    Summer Ladies
    OLd Jamaica
    Heart of crime ( although EX mainly wrote the lyrics on this one )

    I guess because Im kinda settled with wife and kids I find it hard to come up with initial lyric / melody line on my own as most of emotion / song content came from breaking up lol - I guess if Ex and I could get together in person more I could get that energy and those lyric ideas flowing more and come up with new songs . But I do enjoy helping the others out when I can such as 'I fall' and EX and I still have a back catalogue of songs to re record and theres some songs I want to add guitar etc to Brights songs, once I sort out my family commitments balance ..
    bye for now Chas