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Lesson 2 from: Robert Lang Studios Songwriting Class

Rocky Votolato, Kris Orlowski

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Lesson Info

2. Inspiration

Next Lesson: Phrasing and Lyrics

Lesson Info


All right so the next segment we're going to talk about is inspiration and there's a lot of different places where you can get that we talked a lot just now about music and how you know it's good to fill the well with artists that you love and be listening to lots of music and and absorbing that but I think there's there's other ways that we found to be really helpful when we talked about it and books and movies definitely come up as other places where you can find inspiration for me you know I relate to music through the lyrics I think that's that's kind of you know you can either come at it from the from the music side or the lyric side if you write songs and you know I always I just I've always really been interested in words and I got my english literature degree from the university washington and I wasn't sure if you know if I was gonna have a career in writing or or in music for a while but but I think that's why lyrics have always been really important to me and reading books ha...

s always led to writing songs and for me like some of the first books I read that you know the inspired music for me were you know an author author like herman has for instance poets like allen ginsberg who else was big for me? Action shel silverstein actually inspired some of my songs, the song I'm gonna play in the segment and rainer maria rilke on lately I've been reading like have fees and rumi and the list goes on. I mean, there's just there's so many and I'm sure you guys have your favorite authors do want to talk about a couple years. Yeah, like I love paulo coelho he's been like an inspiration to me. Sylvia plath is really good. I've been doing a lot of the roomy as well. Oh, cool friend, give me one of those books. Just like was so inspiring. Well, there's also some contemporaries that I I really appreciate, too, 00:01:56.903 --> 00:02:00. because I think it's I think it's good phil, fill 00:02:00.6 --> 00:02:04. your head with both kind of the classics, but also 00:02:05.12 --> 00:02:08. some of the new ideas that are coming out. Bill gates 00:02:08.18 --> 00:02:11. actually has a website with what he calls kind of 00:02:12.42 --> 00:02:14. bill notes or cliff notes or something like that, 00:02:14.21 --> 00:02:16. where he talks about different books that he's read 00:02:16.21 --> 00:02:19. that he likes and he's literally such a smart guy 00:02:19.47 --> 00:02:20. that I always find. 00:02:23.19 --> 00:02:27. Unique and creative things from his his writing also 00:02:27.34 --> 00:02:30. burn eh renee brown it's not bernie but it's spelled 00:02:30.5 --> 00:02:33. b r e n e renee brown she wrote this book called daring 00:02:33.8 --> 00:02:37. greatly and it's about being vulnerable and being 00:02:37.47 --> 00:02:41. vulnerable feels like a sissy thing but it's a gateway 00:02:41.18 --> 00:02:47. to creativity so if anybody is interested in becoming 00:02:47.4 --> 00:02:49. more creative that's a good book to read you daring 00:02:49.99 --> 00:02:51. greatly yeah and while you mentioned that there's 00:02:51.83 --> 00:02:55. a couple books that actually brought these two books 00:02:55.0 --> 00:02:57. because I thought they were so inspiring to me and 00:02:57.92 --> 00:03:01. this is stephen king's on writing and it's actually 00:03:01.03 --> 00:03:04. about writing the craft of writing but but it really 00:03:04.02 --> 00:03:08. inspired me to write songs and on then you know really 00:03:08.16 --> 00:03:11. what I guess the point of it at the bottom of it is 00:03:13.12 --> 00:03:16. that it's a lot of work and you just have to you have 00:03:16.18 --> 00:03:19. to get to it if you want to be good at at song writing 00:03:19.81 --> 00:03:22. you have to listen a lot of songs and you write a 00:03:22.01 --> 00:03:25. lot of songs and you know he points that out over 00:03:25.51 --> 00:03:27. and over throughout this book and you know I think 00:03:27.93 --> 00:03:30. that's something a lot of people don't think about 00:03:30.17 --> 00:03:32. they think inspirations just going toe land on him 00:03:32.55 --> 00:03:35. someday right the great novel or you know write some 00:03:35.87 --> 00:03:39. amazing the albums that take like ten to fifteen years 00:03:39.13 --> 00:03:41. yeah, yeah but but it's it's a craft you know it's 00:03:41.47 --> 00:03:44. like everything it's a job you go to it and you do 00:03:44.1 --> 00:03:47. it and you dig and you keep digging and eventually 00:03:47.27 --> 00:03:48. you know there's some inspiration there that comes 00:03:48.73 --> 00:03:51. out and this book talks about that quite a lot tio 00:03:51.88 --> 00:03:54. this is called the artist way and it's ah it's by 00:03:54.76 --> 00:03:58. an author called julia cameron and I highly recommend 00:03:58.2 --> 00:03:59. this one is we'll have you have you read this I've 00:03:59.87 --> 00:04:02. got like the thief huge paperback version has that book in like two other books in it it's also who yeah this is a great place to start just a casual get creativity flowing and we'll come back to this actually in the process section of the of the class today but but yes so that's that's kind of you know books are definitely a great place to start for some inspiration yeah and actually I for the last album I was talking I was sitting down to coffee with my guitar player I was like, you know, I'm kind of a little bit dry and inspiration I need I need to like, figure out howto like really get back into the process and he's like why don't you read flannery o'connor was like who's that I probably should know who that is and I didn't at the time and so he like gave me a book and I read this I read this short story called good country people and ended up writing a song based on that kind of on that story but what I found is that these books and these movies can always be a great starter but it doesn't have to be about that story there could just be some moment of inspiration in there or it's just a reflection on how you feel about something that happened in that story and I think that could be really great absolutely yeah I mean it's the same same for movies yeah it's like that moment after you've watched a good movie and there's like a vibe and you just have a feeling maybe one line or something and that starts the whole song because the hardest part is finding out where to start because our brains when we get too many options we just like kind of get overwhelmed and I've found that and this is what I've been told by many people is that if you put some limits on what you're gonna write about, it actually helps you write better and right quicker and come up with more inspiration I think guides or limits are a really great way to like in books and movies can help do that totally yeah, you know, I was actually when I saw your show for the first time that bumbershoot oh yeah it's great today. Yeah, I went actually walked over and I saw brandon flowers from the killer's play and he told a story from stage about this very thing because he was talking about how no a movie had inspired one of the songs on this new album and it was ah the movie's called beyond the pines you know if any of you guys have seen that movie but he said he was shooting for beyond the pines and he landed on raising arizona it was like like completely in a different place that's still very cool and so he was totally happy with that but I think that's a common thing for all of us you know finding some something to just you know again back to that point of view just can't create on empty you gotta you gotta fill the well with something and having some point of inspiration I'm curious when you're writing is it always personal orgy right fictionally sometimes as well that's a good point you know I feel like I have to be in the song at some in some way yeah it just doesn't feel authentic on dh that's a perfect segue way into the next thing I was going to talk about which is is authenticity and I was always taught in school in english well at the university washington when I was studying english that my teachers always said write what you know because if you write about your life you're going to know how to talk about it it's going to be I guess that's kind of what authenticity is it's like you're showing up in the song you're not faking it. It's very real to you and yeah it's funny when when I listen to music and I think as trained listeners of music well when any of us listening music we can tell pretty quickly if somebody's singing just to sing it or if they really feel it and I think that's kind of the keys that's why we're like we want to be authentic in our in our music is because when it's personal man it's just like it hits on a whole nother level for for other people that can feel that and like that energy which has got a hippy dippy but it's true it's so true and I think another thing that I always remembered wass no tears for the writer no tears for the reader and that's that's something that stuck with me because if it if it moves you it's going to move other people like your thatyou're the place where this this piece of art is originating you know so if you're not that excited about it if it's not like do anything to you emotionally then it's going to probably do even that much less to the other people around you who are you know experiencing that piece of art you're trying to create so you know I think that's a good place to start and that's a clue to authenticity if you know if if you're if you're moved and you're excited about what you're doing and that's great, you know? Follow that train and you know maybe keep that song put that song on the album yeah twenty I feel like sometimes that just gets lost like well white why don't have to be authentic you know right but there's it's because it resonates because yeah it makes a difference yeah and it's like what are we doing with art anyway I mean for me art was a lot of it was about trying to find some meaning in life it holdings still life you know it's like and you're and you're asking questions and figuring things out it's a way to be introspective you know and that's I think that's a good practice you know, for our society at large and it's what art brings to the table you know, for the culture you know, hearing out important answers to questions and and you know that's why I think authenticity is important I've heard people say that it's not at all you know but I think that you know it's just understanding what it is I love a good story but it doesn't matter who's telling that story and ah I've like ah good example is macklemore actually because I'm friends with a lot of the guys in that group and sometimes I've heard behind the scenes when they're writing banner ryan will be talking about something you know this is all hearsay of course I want to get in trouble about this guy's or anything but uh like they might bring up something and then the other one will check the other guy and say you know you know that's just not our story we're coming out from a certain advantage so I think a part of part of our job as songwriters is understanding what our voices and what story we can tell because of our unique you know up upbringing or yeah or like you know when I was in high school I didn't really fit in anywhere you know but now I'm a thirty something white male and I'm considered like the mainstream a lot of ways you know and it's you know you know what I mean like it's I'm considered like you know what's the word like privileged and so it's like okay now I'm writing from a place of privilege so how do I tell that story so I think it's about finding your story yeah and and part of that's just understand what feels right yeah being honest and I think some of the other things we'll talk about in the next couple sections you know we'll show you how to do that but also do it well you know and that's that's what's interesting is like being with lyrics being able to tell that story but if you if your hearts on your sleeves not doing in a way that's just so sentimental and saccharine and satiny and you know that's that's the pitfall like isley happen on can be off putting at least to me when I when I hear other people's songs or you know it's it's a craft yeah and I guess you know for this segment since this about inspiration like wrapping this up main the main point I would make that you know I hope you guys would take away would be you know if you want to be a good songwriter you have to write a lot of songs you have you have to keep doing it you have to dig it doesn't just happen like it you know you you don't think about it but even guys like bruce springsteen or I've heard so many stories about the guys from the beatles or they would write so many songs to get to something good and that's the thing that stephen king talks about in his book too no you know he just writes all the time and then goes back and sorts tu and picks out the gold and inspiration isn't something that just it doesn't just fall on you it's not going to come for you and just pick you out and give you this easy ride like it's it's a job like anything you have to keep digging and but it's their inspiration does come yeah and you'll find it and it's this totally mysterious elusive thing yeah just shows up but when you create the right circumstances shows up mohr when you're doing it yeah yeah yeah if you make space for and I guess that's that's what I would say is even if you know you're not are any of you guys full time musicians you are and do you do you schedule time to write just the same so I try to write at night before going back this seems to be like the time it can play around on the guitar it is and I think that school more than anything that's great and you do that every day pretty much try to I don't get to every day but sure this was a goal out yeah that's great I mean that's that's where you'll find good good writing coming from right like from consistently keeping keeping at it I had like the typical like nine to five day job for about eight to ten years and I remember thinking like a man I'm just not inspired right now I'm just at this desk all day and going into this co writing session with this guy in nashville and I'm like what am I going to write about like I want to write about and then I thought well I'll just write about that like the fact that I feel like a zombie at my desk every day and I wrote one of the best songs I've ever written so I think it's just about channeling the emotion that you're feeling and anyway so that was just uh yeah basically just right works whenever they come to my mind so when I'm while mowing or something like that where my just listening to some might be own beets I basically like think of some works and then I read them down on my iphone or something that's also true that actually reminds me of something I totally forgot I wanted to tell you guys about I was reading this article about habits and the guy said that what he would do is whenever he was in a lecture when every lecture was done whenever you reading a book never he's watching movie as soon as he was done with that he would take up you'd put up this act it was called the thirty second app and he would just write down really quickly a summary of what he took away from it and then at the end of the day read through everything that he kind of took away and he was by doing that kind of internalizing a lot more of the takeaways and so I've been doing that lately and I think it's great when you're writing lyrics or other things too also include that kind of stuff in this thirty I think it's a free app thirty second episode is called and I might be a really cool strategy is or it's like a note taking out yeah but it only gives you thirty seconds so it's like okubo take the high level stuff that you can think of okay, you can edit it after if you want her ad but it makes you summarize yeah but the main point of it makes you kind of not at it but just stream a conscious just put those things there kind of what we're gonna talk about later with morning pages oh great so and so it might be a good good strategy to try out for a couple weeks I would urge you to try it out for twenty one days uh before you say no which you know thirty second app it's not a lot of time so you know it's not that hard to include I think so that's that's basically all I had for this segment did you have anything else to add that no two should we take a couple questions and just do you guys have anything you'd like to ask of questions so have you guys run any songs about like you know um world problems such as you know you know important world problems such as you know like war depression divorce like you know anything concerning the future or anything like that yes yeah really yeah I'm definitely written about depression and about in the environment recently yeah you know, I think the thing was something so big like that is being able to go back to what we were saying earlier which is like finding your unique way of relating to and your experience like being able to describe your particular experience. That's what's going to resonate with people here because you know if if something's vague or if it's just too overarching these days for me like I rarely write about politics anymore used to when I started out I was super into like you know dylan's early kind of protest songs and totaled three and you know and that kind of fill oaks and that sort of way of coming out art but it started to lose interest to me and because I felt like you know that's an interesting exercise but what's it really was really mean like what's it really affecting if if I can find a way to maybe internalize it and talk about it and how it's affecting my life individually in a in a sort of a microcosm way and I don't know for me that seems a little bit more inspiring I also feel like when you're writing a song that's about an issue you can come office preaches you gotta be careful yeah died maybe you push it towards we can do something instead of why aren't we doing something or you know that kind of like just being thank you I guess very consider it of that it's a tough thing to do yeah like that's that's what I found with like taking on big political subjects or something like that unless you are experiencing it in your life I mean, if you have some something that you know look at the story of your own life. That's. What I would say and that's, what you have to offer. Talk about that because you're gonna be ableto do it with some authenticity and some. I don't know something something that resonates with other people yeah cool um I know that I usually when I come up with a certain things or when I get bits of inspiration it usually tends to be in times where it shouldn't happen like instead of what I'm trying to write a song I'll get inspiration when I'm just kind of in the shower or doing something that's completely arbitrary and I was warning if there any situations where that's ever happened to you guys absolutely yeah so I've found that because we're always thinking or always go go go when we actually take time and a reason to say we is because I know other people that this is working for us well I'll say I guess it's in a week but I find that when I'm at home I don't have any distractions like when you're in the shower you don't any distractions I think that's why a lot of people like oh yeah I get these ideas in the shower so I I actually purposely create a little pockets of time where I'm not doing anything I'm not reading I'm not in front of the screen cause that's what we're gonna be the worst inhibitor and I'm I really try to clear my plate of any worries or anything like that just put everything aside and you sit there bored because when you're bored, that's actually went a lot of stuff like strike a lot of lightning bolts going away no I think you've covered it that's that's I mean that's happened to me too actually in the shower of written lyrics a lot and and when I'm driving which actually just do avoid totally because I think it's something about the fact that you're you you don't you feel engaged already and your mind so like your subconscious mind can kind of wander like you already doing one thing and then it takes the pressure off sort of you feel and so you feel some sense of freedom yeah I think tom waits would talk about that too like songs would just come to my was driving it's super annoying you gotta pull over like somehow recorded but yeah that's that's that it happens that way you know it strikes but I think that when you do it more and when you're the ideas build upon themselves and like whatever you focus on expands so if you're if you're constantly trying to get a good line and you're digging for something, your effort today might lead to the line that hits you in the shower tomorrow you know but that's that's what I guess the point that I would make is just you know you keep keep going towards keep focusing on what you want and put in that desire out there and energy into it and it'll show up in unexpected ways either in the shower driving but you know you may have to just capture it then, but I find what I'm trying to write more than eventually, I'll get something good for me personally. When I'm running after a run, I get, like, for the hunter to it's a good time, so I don't know what that is, but, yeah, other questions take aways wanted. Teo. You guys want to call out from the section if you don't learn anything that's, okay. Just I guess mainly that inspiration comes with working that muscle in your brain and just keeping that going but also as you are in the process of that it can randomly strike but just sitting there waiting for it to happen is not something you should bank on right? Yeah, I should get back on that that's a good way to put it good summary I wouldn't ever bank on inspiration in general yeah good good point but know that it will it will show up at some point if you keep trying long enough you know, I think it's available to everyone absolutely yeah so why don't we want to do songs? Yeah, sure was there any other takeaways? I mean just about authenticity or fiction versus reality or telling your story ahh the line no tears for the writer no tears for the reader early ah, that was a neat line because I know what I'm performing like if I if I'm into this song I get the crowd gets into the song or from just up there like just going through the motions and I call it difference between playing a song music and stop playing a song and start playing music that's going to put the filling and lost my cool well, I'm glad you like that point. I like that you guys talked about the bias of the audience perception when talking about like political all your stuff and knowing that line of how they see you and where they decide you're coming from. Yeah, and interpret that. So that was cool. Sweet. I don't let's do some songs here. Absolutely cool. What's, the next time you gonna play, I'm going to do that song. Good country, people that I talked about, kind of being inspired by flannery o'connor. Okay, I thought that the worth a try. I've never done it really acoustically, so usually have a full band behind this one, so it'll be, ah, this will be the acoustic remax. Cool. Start blood in you. Where you from? With the line is to cross and where you come on, dunn. But there is nothing that you do. Just sit in on no there's, nothing I can do sitio. Oh! Under the taymor roots in cables leading is is sighs suffer name with good country. People lead us in this life. A light preaching, the fables committing enables free. No mysteries in. Cool. Suffering, evil, good country, people. Lena's in this life. Study. Where from with the line is to cross, where you come on done. No, no there's, nothing I can do. You sing in one, know there's, nothing. I can d'oh teo along, but I'm not a liar. I'm not she. I'm not a savior. Two seasons feel silence to store. I'm not in a way. I'm not here. I can't take this any more money through season stealing to the store. Run into seasons ceiling silence to store. Running through seasons. Still, two new stores. Hey! I love the lyrics, man song in particular. What was it inspired by you, flannery o'connor? Sure, this book called this short story called good country people, it's awesome. Oh, thanks, I got you. I'm not sure you appreciate. All right, yes. So the song in a place called royal and this one more than any other song, fits for this segment, because, it's, it was inspired by by the royal tenenbaums. So it was. I wrote it after I read it right after I watched the movie and that's, one of my favorite movies. And, you know, it's, just it's always really spoken to me so from a turn, feathers weigh in the judge's chamber, we lived tears left to the only man. It's. I need the potion for boys. The antidote. So antiquated black record. You're turning. Well. I was shot. Sure. I was ten. Mama, I think maybe, uh he sounded just like my old man taught me to put a brick through the other guy's window. I built this wall between the season starts used. I'm so sorry if I let you down, but my shipping lead me, my redemption. Cut paste this up to you. Now I'm going to make this all up to you somehow, uh, turning the tables. Ten. I was shot dead. You must think maybe, yeah. No. Well, this functioning kids can't make sense out of anything turned down world between reason. And record. You keep me. Spend spain. She was ten. I was sure it was a ten involved shams. Attend on think maybe, uh that

Ratings and Reviews

Ashton Thebault

I'm mixed with this class... there are some good insights and useful tidbits of information to be had but nothing to really blow open your world. Really, that's the point - you need to do the work so inspiration finds you and there is no silver bullet to successful songwriting. Both hosts are great songwriters and that helps them punctuate the points they make. It's not an amazing class but it is useful and simple which is enough to be inspiring for some.

David Nelson

Alright, here's the thing. This course is the perfect course for young songwriters who are wondering where to start and how to write songs when they've done very little or haven't been writing for a long time. It gives a great overview of how to find inspiration, how to write with others, and how to overcome the urge to write cliche, typical lyrics. It provides the basic building blocks for beginning songwriters to find direction. If you're an intermediate songwriter, or have been in the business for awhile, you won't learn much from this course. There isn't a lot on specifics, on structure, on stuff like that. However, it provides a wonderful starting point for those of us seeking direction in how to start writing songs and communicating the ideas we have most effectively.

Oxford User

This was a fun course, that was easy to understand as a complete beginner, and as someone who isn't musically gifted but is more interested in the lyrical side of things, I did feel like I definitely learned what I wanted to from the lessons. Also the duo have a great dynamic, highly reccommend!

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