One of my favorite writers on the music business is Bobby Borg. In his book “Business Basics from Musicians”, he interviews PR expert Michael Levine who mentions that for him the keys to success can be condensed to 3 O’s:
As a songwriter, number 3 really resonates with me. Natural songwriters think about songs constantly. We analyze songs we hear on the radio, wonder what the chords are, carry notebooks to jot down our lyric ideas. We are obsessed with music, obsessed with not remembering any of the songs ideas you have, cause we believe in the potential of our ideas, and we want to see songs be birthed. We are obsessively afraid to forget our new ideas, but unfortunately we are not always prepared enough and sometimes lose our great ideas all because we did have with us: our handheld portable audio recorder.
Nowadays it is much easier because most smartphones have an audio recording feature, but for you old-school folks still sporting the older cell phone versions, or no cell phone at all, be sure to always have your recorder with you. You never know when the magic will hit you!
I remember hearing an interview with Tom Waits where he was discussing songwriting. He tells of an experience where he found himself in rush hour traffic when a song idea, a melody line entered his head. He referred to this song idea, as a musical genius that flowed through him randomly, and he spoke to his personified genius saying, “ Can’t you see this is a bad time?! Can’t you see I’m in traffic right now, come back later!” It’s true we never quite know the very timing of when a great song will hit us, or why. Other times, the reasons for writing a song, the lyrics that we choose are a very conscious process. But either way, however the songs may come about, being prepared to document them is a crucial step in the creation process.
Here is a screenshot of one of my wonderfully obsessed singer-songwriter friends with a total of 1,378 audio recordings of song ideas she comes up with. Always record your new song ideas, you never know which idea will turn out to be a hit!