How I wrote the first song for my new album

Singer and guitarist Andrew Healey explains how he wrote the first song for his new album.

In my last post, I announced that I have begun work on a new album of original songs.  I’m starting from ground zero, so before I get in front of a microphone, I need to write material. In this post, I explain how I wrote my first song for the project.

Jamming inside my head

Much to the annoyance of my partner, Kathy, one of my favourite bedtime pursuits is dreaming up songs. Thanks to a mild case of insomnia, I often lie awake for hours imagining tunes and arrangements. Up until recently, my nocturnal jam sessions were for my amusement only — I never remembered any of the tunes the next morning.

Since deciding to record an album, it occurred to me that maybe I should make use of my night-time imaginings. There’s an idea! So, here’s what happened with my new song, which I called “The sun is up.”

I want my album to be positive. There’s plenty of negativity in the world right now already. So, a few nights ago, I started throwing around ideas for a breezy and up-tempo song. After a while, I felt that I had something with potential. It was about 2 am. But, rather than congratulating myself and then trying to get to sleep, this time I got up and hummed the melody into my smartphone. Stage one complete.

As usual, I’d forgotten the melody by morning. So, I played back the recording on my phone, grabbed my guitar and began working out the chords. Incidentally, I’d imagined the song to be in the key of G major, and it roughly was. Anyway, I figured out the chords in about ten minutes. Stage two complete. I was pretty happy.

Then I hit a wall

I am a writer by trade. Not a songwriter, but one who writes blog posts and articles for businesses. So, it’s kind of ironic that, when it comes to songwriting, I often struggle with the lyrics. With “The sun is up,” I had a couple of lines that I felt were usable, but once again, coming up with more lyrics became a challenge.

Like the rest of the world, New Zealand is locked down because of COVID-19. And, like many songwriters right now, I wanted the song to describe life in the ‘new normal’ — without being too obvious and cliché.

While in our bubble, Kathy and I often walk to the ferry terminal about a kilometre or so from our home. My observations during our walks is the inspiration for “The sun is up.”.

So, I wanted to express how things have changed. I had plenty of ideas, but I still couldn’t string them together into a set of decent lyrics.

Time for a bit of discipline

As a writer, I work from home. And most people who don’t have to clock into an office every day will tell you that keeping motivated and on task can be tough. You need discipline. With that in mind, I had something of an epiphany: Why not apply my business approach to writing a song?

A few years ago, I read about a writer who works in 30-minute units. What does that mean? Well, he never writes for more than 30 minutes at a time. His process is to set a timer for 30 minutes and remain at his desk — no matter what — until the time is up. He then gets up, makes a coffee, has a stroll, maybe does some house work and then starts the process again. I’ve used this technique ever since, although I usually write in one-hour units.

I applied the same approach to writing the lyrics to “The sun is up,” and do you know what? I completed them within two sessions. I’m on my way!

Here’s a live performance of “The Sun is Up.” No doubt I’ll tweak a few things during the recording process, but this is what I’ve got right now. I hope you like it

Marching on

My phone is full of musical ideas that I have recorded over the last couple of years. I’ve just listened to them, and I reckon there are some possibilities for more songs. So, I’ve got plenty of material to work on.

The current song that I’m writing is about discovering that Kathy and I were sharing our home with a family of mice. I’ll keep you posted.

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