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Where Do Songs Come From?

Last week's Songwriting Blog, finally...


Where do you get ideas? What inspires you? Chances are that they're big themes - Love Found/Love Lost, Political Protest, Sex Drugs and Rock n'Roll and if they are it's really hard to find something original to say - these are much mined seams. Listening to songs right now and a couple of lines, just fragments, jumped out - "Cracks in the windows" and "life is too short", "I've been waiting here, like a dog by the door", "shopping trolleys left by the side of the road" *. Three different songs and those lines could fit into any of those big themes. Let the words find you, hear the beat in the syllables, see where it takes you, what theme it ends up fitting. One of those fragments brought to mind a Glen Hansard song (none of those bits were from one of his) called 'Just To Be The One'. So you can straight away zero in on 'Love Found/Love Lost' perhaps?


From "Just To Be The One"


I will understand you

I will serve you well,

I'll suffer when you leave me,

Stand out in parallel


And I will recognise you

When you're lost to yourself,

Just to be the one you call in

I will raise an army,

I will gather strength,

I'll follow where you lead me,

I'll go through anything

And I will heed your warning,

And sound the victory bell,

Just to be the one you call in

I will recognise you

When you're lost to yourself

Just to be the one

You call in

Just to be the one

You call in


(Glen Hansard)


The song has a simple acoustic riff against a gentle brass accompaniment and sounds for all the world a simple evocation of devotion, maybe unrequited love. As anyone whose seen Glen live will confirm, Hansard concerts tend to be one third the stories that go with the songs. He once described the experience of "Falling Slowly", his Oscar winning song, as being like '...kicking your football in the garden, and it sailing over the wall, across the street, the next street, out over the town and beyond... and a part of you can't believe how far your ball has gone, and a part of you says "I'd just like my fucking ball back!" ' The song itself he described as being 'what you feel when you're at a party and across the room you see a girl and you just fall in love with her, across the room, and you realise that she's your girl you brought to the party...'


So, where does inspiration lie? In the case of "Just To Be The One" there's a clue in the chorus - "Just to be the one you call in". His landlady at the time had a dog and the dog, as dogs will do, bonded itself to Glen, pined when he was away on tour, lived for being taken out for a walk, or just a run in the garden, longed to be the one 'you call in.'


There are songs in your life right now, moment by moment, sometimes like a loose thread - pull on it and see how it unravels.


* An honourable mention to anyone who can name the songs these fragments are from...

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