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Starting Point for Songs


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I remember hearing in a Paul Simon interview that one thing he ALWAYS does is make the first lyric of his songs a real statement, such as "A man walks down the street" or "I am just a poor boy".

Do you have any tricks or cues that you ALWAYS include in songs you write, either lyrically or melodically?

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I always like to start with the title. If you start anywhere else you can get a couple of good verses and a bridge or B section written, and when you get to where the chorus should be you've either said everything you wanted to say already, or you get stumped and can't come up with a good title, in which case you just wasted a lot of time and energy writing those verses. The title needs to be your starting point. A lot of good songwriters start with the chorus and work backwards. If you have a great chorus you can probably come up with a good verse, but that great verse isn't going to help you much if the chorus is a letdown. Sometimes, I like to take a familiar melody, something that everybody knows, and subtly work it into the arrangement. There's a little 12 string guitar line in the chorus of "Ecstasy" that's from "Camelot." The beginning of "Boats Against The Current" was a "Row Row Row Your Boat." I liked the idea of using a children's sing-a-long song to lead into a song that dealt with very adult issues. I think in the fade of "I Saw The Light" I played 'Pomp And Circumstance" in the bass line. I don't recall if the fade lasted long enough to get to it. ec

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Hearing it from Eric makes it seem so simple. When I try to write anything in any genre, it is quite often true that the title comes to me first. There are certain times I've found that what I wrote deviated so much from the original title, when stuff started flowing, that I had to find a new title. And on rare occasion I had just a piece of the puzzle; like a line or a couple of lines that got scratched into something and later, when I looked at that piece, I got hit with the inspiration to title it and to finish it...

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