This is from an email to my brother Greg. Greg is an English Professor at the University of Dallas.
Last fall and winter I felt that I advanced to a new level with my songwriting. I think I’ve started to figure things out. There’s two stages that require different sides of the brain. The first stage, which should be probably at least 80% of your time, is the imaginitive, non-structured, creative stage, where you just go with whatever comes into your head. Then there’s the editing stage where you use your craft to put some structure to it. My problem in the past was going to the second stage too early. The poor editor just didn’t have enough material to work with. I had the percentages reversed. I only spent maybe 10-20% in the creative stage, then 80% in the editor stage.
I’m developing a metaphor for this. There’s the hippy and the businessman. The hippy dances around barefoot with a gauze shirt and flowers in his hair, coming up with melodies, chords, rhythms and lyrics, which are all interesting but have no structure. The businessman looks at him with a combination of disgust but also jealousy, because he could never come up with such cool ideas. Then the hippy hands the businessman the stuff he comes up with and he sorts it out and gives it the structure that the hippy can’t be bothered with.
The other thing I started doing last fall is, whenever “The Muse” sends me a line, and it sounds stupid and makes no sense, instead of throwing it out, now I say that line MUST stay in the song. I’ll write around those lines. I may not know what they mean, but I now know those are the ones to keep. Whether they come from the deep subconscious, or God, or a god, or some spiritual blob in another universe, that can be argued interminably, but wherever the fuck they come from, they’re staying. I may or may not figure out what they mean later. Or other people may figure out what they mean.
So last winter The Muse sent me these lines, and they became the titles to
“Falling into Heaven”
“Waiting on the Other Side of Nowhere”
For both, I’ve had people say, “that song really speaks to me”. I chuckled to myself and wanted to say, “thanks but can you explain what it means, cuz I have no idea”. Actually I did give them some meaning, the editor/businessman insisted and I couldn’t shut him up.