JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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CD Baby wants to know about your songwriting. Here are my answers to their questions. REVISED.

Not too long ago, I was perusing Nicholas Tozier’s songwriting blog and noticed a post about how CD Baby was asking DIY musicians about songwriting. I immediately cruised over to CD Baby’s site and set to answering the questionnaire. If you’re a songwriter, you should do the same, for two reasons: 1) if CD Baby likes your one or more of your responses, they will include them in an e-book with full credit; and 2) the process of answering the questions is good, I think, as it forces you to put into words a lot of stuff you’ve probably thought about but never fully articulated. When I first answered the questions, a comment from my friend Dave made me realize I'd goten a bit too self-important. Here are my new answers:

1. What does your songwriting process look like? What are a few of the more common ways in which you compose a song?

It looks like an accident, because it is. As for common ways that work, if you’re talking about coming up with an idea, there aren’t any. If I am fortunate enough to have an idea, I don’t think the ways in which I develop it are much different from anyone else’s.

2. Think of your favorite songs. What do they do to or for you? What is it about the song (technically, emotionally, thematically) that moves you?

At their core, my favorite songs have something I can’t get enough of: a riff, a lyric, a drum beat, a sound, whatever.

3. What are your common frustrations with songwriting? What are the ways in which you get stuck?

Too many to mention. Besides, there’ll be a new frustration tomorrow, so what’s the point of trying to list them out?

4. How do you overcome the frustration? How do you get un-stuck?

Frustration is part of the gig, if you’re over it, you’ve given up. As for getting unstuck, I don’t know, it just happens. Then I get stuck again.

5. Do you envision an audience or outside listener when you write? If so, how would you describe that audience? What effect does this have on the writing process?

No.

6. Do you collaborate or enlist outside opinions during the writing process? What effect does that have on the writing process?

Sure, but the effect is unpredictable and never the same.

7. Songwriters are known for loving most of their “babies” equally. This is why artistic coaches have the mantra “Kill Your Babies!” How can you tell when one of your own song is really good? How can you tell when one is bad or misbehaving?

Maybe I’m a sociopath (or is it psychopath, can’t keep those straight) but years in advertising have made me a cool, cold competent killer of my “babies”.

8. What do you get out of being a songwriter? Do you imagine you’ll write songs forever?

Release. No, because sadly, I’m not going to live forever.

9. What roles do “inspiration” and “perspiration” play in your writing process?

Tough call. Without inspiration, what’s the point of perspiration? And if you have a good idea, you owe it your life.

10. Imagine the greatest song you’ve haven’t written yet. Describe it.

If I could imagine it, I would write it.