August 30, 2006

TomBlog - how I write a song?

some more:

“How I Write A Song”

Writing a song is not something I truly understand. I get out of bed, walk about the house and, if I happen to pass one of the many guitars I've non-strategically placed abouts, I start to play and hum in an absent-minded sort of way. Sometimes I'm reminded of something I did a day or two ago and I build that in to what I'm doing. The paths start to meet somewhere, the synapses flutter and the hodge-podge of ideas, that go into every song, start to focus and organise themselves. A song begins.

I relish those moments. They are, without doubt, the reason I keep making music.

Sometimes a song is years in gestation. On our new album, 'How We Operate', there's a song called, 'See the World', that started on a summer's morning in 2000. I found a guitar line and that was it for about 2 years. A melody started to breeze in after that. One of my favourite songs is Ooh la la by The Faces and I knew my song had some of it's DNA. I threw some sha-la-la's in my nascent noodlings as a reference for how I wanted things to end up.

I wrote that song for Ben to sing, so I took it to him before all the words were written: it can be much easier to sing your own words. I had a loose jumble of lyrical ideas, but Ben told me what he thought it was about, filled in some blanks, and a song got finished.


Blogger James said...

I signed up purely to comment on this....

I can't write songs. I can sing. I can play guitar. I can make tunes and lyrics and melodies that impress even me, but as soon as they go together everything turns into something i have no faith in.

But I can write, And I hate that. Writing is to music what spam is to scotch fillet. Or proccessed cheese slices are to a wheel of jarlsburg.

I'm hungry.

But thankyou- I have wondered for 10 years what my favourite songwriter does to make music, and now I know ^_^

I'll be there in Newcastle, and I am SUPER PUMPED!!! (I'm even signing people onto the mailing list for the street team and i dont get paid- whats with that??)

Thanks again,

6:54 AM  
Blogger pf said...

why no liverpool gig?

5:45 AM  
Blogger aaron stampler said...

thanks for sharing the writing process, very interesting to hear how you do it. It would be great if you guys did a wee documentary for the next album, and i guarantee that every fan will buy it - a glimpse into how the greatest sonwriters around at the moment work? Priceless.

Have you seen Metallica's 'Some Kind Of Monster?' Even if you're not a fan (though for some reason i would guess that you are, or at least used to be), it is absolutely compulsive viewing, and fucking funny. This is a bold statement, but it stands with Spinal Tap...Really, watch it, if you havn't already, i would like to hear what you think of it.

This film reccomendation comes from hearing your tales of songwriting. You seem to have life a bit easier than Metallica (well, James Hetfield who, lets not pretend, more or less IS Metallica) in that the whole process seems fairly natural and organic to you.

I think i am the same. I find it hard to down-right finish a song, but easy to get to the 50% - 80% done mark. Then the extra effort needed to finish completely is pretty draining. But it's that first part that's exciting anyway. And i always seem to be catching up on myself, or trying to catch up. i.e. most of the time i have a load of ideas at various stages of completion (riffs, riffs with vocal line, complete arrangement with lyrics but trmming needed etc.), and i always mean to sit down and finish them all off so i have none left in the closet, so i can be clean and free of as-yet-un-done-compositions. But that never happens.

Another annoying thing is when you come up with a great riff, or a great melody, or a great change, and you think: 'that's really fucking good, so good that i'll keep it for a bit and see what comes of it instead of trying to force what comes next'...Then inevitably you never get the next bit. And, truth be told, the best songs i've written have come from the simple ideas that i wasn't initially impressed by, and so was not fearing fucking them up, which granted relaxed freedom.

Is it the same for you?

Also, have you and your band-mates always been able to sing well? I mean have you lot always sung? and how have you developed such disciplined and skilled harmonies? Have you developed this? Or was this always natural? Do you fight over the harmonies? Who gets which one? Does one member delegate harmony lines to the others, or do you just sing and one of the others joins in and has a whack at harmony spontaneously?

Good advice by the way, particularly about keeping receipts, although i never do and probably never will.

Keep the faith dude. How we Operate is amazing, surprising, confident, mature...Too many adjectives. Let's just say that every Gomez album has been wonderful, inspired music, and i honestly can't pick a favorite because my favorite keeps changing. And How We Operate is no exception. It's advantages over its brothers is that it is a bit brighter, and more defined, clearer. I think the best word would be Pithy. It seems smaller but denser, than its predecessors.

Basically it's a crackin' album. Keep it up champ. And tell the rest of the boys as well.

10:46 AM  
Blogger mytvc15 said...

I found another quote that rings so true when I think of Gomez…

“Often I am still listening when the song is over.”
Jean François Saint-Lambert (1716 - 1803). French poet and philosopher. Les Saisons, 1769, "Le Printemps"

Okay. In May the buzz was all about Pearl Jam’s new album release. The radio station here in Chicago began playing “World Wide Suicide.” Then I heard “How We Operate” and thought I love this new Pearl Jam song. I listened as the DJ announced the credits of the play list and when he came to “How We Operate” he said it was by Gomez. Gomez? Who is Gomez? (Aside: Was your release date of HWO a savvy strategic business plan?)

That is when my love affair with Gomez began. They played HWO on the radio a lot. I figured if I love this song so much, I was confident that I would love the whole album. So I bought it. And I do. Every song on that album is beautiful. Guys, I have not been this excited about a rock & roll band since the Beatles, and I truly believe you are in the same league.

The way I perceive Gomez is that the whole of your collaboration becomes greater than the sum of its parts. And I don’t think you are unlike anything else. Your collaboration is a result of musical influences which you have made your own. I hear the Beatles, Kinks, Spirit, Frank Zappa, Doors, Joe Walsh, Allman Brothers, etc…and the list goes on. Wait a minute, you are right, Gomez is unlike anything else.

Anyway, I liked your story about songwriting and think it’s sweet that Ben was able to help you finish your song. He probably knows you so well that he knew what you wanted to say.

One more quote for the road:

THESEUS “The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”
William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) English poet and playwright A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1595-1596, Act 5, Scene 1.

Be healthy and stay safe! See you back in the USA.

10:06 PM  
Blogger SoL said...

Evening lad

Your tale of the roots of "See the world" rang extra true for me.

Blah, Blah 21 year old musician from New Zealand (you'll remember Paul Holmes I imagine), etc.

Unfortunately unless you're either a hot (and in many recent cases, originally foreign) female or a semi concious rapper there aint much for you here.

I lived in the sespit of Christchurch all my life until i moved further south with my girlthing at 20.

Christchurch holding many songworthy tales for me but all these were so strongly "oppressed" (not really a better word for it but I'm sure you get it) by the simple depressing smog that smothered my creativity and it wasn't until I finally got out of there that I was able to finally get some of my stuff actually down and recorded.

My main accomplishment being "City without a Soul" which got some attention here on radio but I'm still not signed on a label :(

Its really not so emo as it sounds as I'm not a fan of angry music and you boys have always been a perfet example of a band who can make some of the happiest "feel good" songs around, and also some of the most appropriately sad or woeful songs that are all just as beautiful as each other. Can you really see Rob or Manson using a whole bunch of major chords and singing (yes singing) of their pet cat, or a parsnip?

I digress

Before you can really "complete" a song, or even write it, you have to be able to look at it from an outside position, you have to keep changing your situation so that you can "unlock" the things you did or learned in the last part of your life and translate them into some good music.

End of year, after finishing music at Uni, I'm heading back to Christchurch to share MY experiences there with the rest of the poor sods living there, who REALLY arent my cup of tea (I'm more an old fashioned country person apparently) but I'm hoping that people, knowing what I'm talking about, might be able to learn something from it and maybe help themselves out a little.

You grow up in the ghetto and you get at least an album of ranting about a crappy childhood.
Do lots of things, and you can write about lots of things, good or bad.

I'll have stuff to write about my time down here once I move back to Christchurch as well. It's all a cycle, and like you said, you gotta keep moving around it.

Please come to NZ again soon.
(and only doing the north island doesnt count :P)
behave yourself boyo



the time between going to bed and falling asleep is prime for songs to write themselves fully in your head. The only hard thing is writing down enough accurate info in your tired state so you can remember how it all went in the morning :)

10:44 AM  
Blogger mytvc15 said...

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8:10 PM  
Blogger mytvc15 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Jodes said...

Hi Guys - thanks so much for the rocking gigs in Melbourne. Some shots for your photo album

8:46 PM  
Blogger Leocadia said...

^ James! I met you! I mocked you! Hope you had a good time, even if my clipboard skillz are far superior to yours...

7:53 AM  
Blogger Phonic said...

Great post Tom, you really have a way with words.

7:53 AM  
Blogger JonJon7 said...

aaron, couldn't agree more about Metallica, i never was a fan, but that dvd was awesomely compelling. I also have trouble getting past the 75% stage in songwriting.

Tom, thanks for the great post and for the fantastic show in Newcastle.

Today (Wed) is shaping up as my best birthday ever (tickets to see my favourite band at the Forum and all). Can't resist a quick birthday request (am hoping here for the cherry on the cake not the straw that breaks the camels back!), how about chasing ghosts with alcohol, or Devil will ride.

You guys are Incredible, can't wait for tonight.

11:47 AM  
Blogger trubles said...

Thank you for visiting Australia!! The gig on thursday night in Sydney was simply fantastic!

6:52 PM  
Blogger PunkdaddyVan said...

I have been writing music again (dormant for 10 years) mainly because of Gomez.

I love "See the world", it has driven me to work every song and every melody to it's fullest. I love the path it takes me on and the clarity I look for in a song.
I try to put the same thought process into my new songs.

I can't wait for their stop in Vancouver in October.

3:18 AM  
Blogger garrett said...

Two days after seeing Gomez two years ago in Sacramento (never having heard their music prior), I bought a guitar. Yes, that's right, a band I had never heard inspired me in the matter of a couple of short hours to learn how to play music even though I had never played any instrument in my previous 27 years of existence. I have now seen Gomez play live three times and just can't wait until you come back to San Francisco in October. Thank you Gomez for doing what you do, and doing it so well. And thank you personally, Tom, for your post on how you go about writing songs. It is another creative outlet that I have recently taken up and I'm happy to hear that even for a certified pro such as yourself it can be a joyous, confusing, unsure yet magical process. As the unofficial spokesman for the Sacramento chapter of the gomez fan club let me just say that we hope you keep it up for a long long time.


3:01 AM  
Blogger marie said...

Thanks for sharing your process and ALSO for extending your U.S. tour. We will be happy to drive to NY for your gig after going to OR, D.C. and Boston earlier this year.;) Congratulations for 10 great years of music together and hope you have many many more. Can still remember listening to your first album and making everyone I knew listen to it, too! I have taken friends and family to your shows this year and from talking to people at the venues, many who only had your newest album are now going back to get the others. THANKS.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

A lovely mental picture of you Tom, wandering about the house and idly picking up guitars... Far more productive and romantic than my own wanderings around the house today... but of course you are producing beautiful, glorious music, and I am only trying to produce a uni essay, one that I will go to any lengths to avoid... even posting mindless replies to your six month old blogs.

But I am in a rather Mezzy frame of mind, thanks TWO servings of fresh, live Gomez in a week!! Surely I'm the luckiest girl in the Southern Hemisphere! First, a huge performance at the East Coast Blues and Roots, then a more intimate Metro gig last night.. where my normally rather sensible friend and I (who, really, are old enough to know better) were reduced to a jumping, screaming, rambling mess thanks to being RIGHT UP THE FRONT!! We were on the Ian side of the stage but really it's you, Tom, who makes our knees tremble... so next time it's front row right!

Meanwhile, we'd like to let you know we have a kitchen stocked full of utensils, and if you ever want to come over and play Simon and Garfunkle on the frying pan, it's ok with us!

9:34 PM  

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