Since I’ve been so quiet for such a long time, I thought I’d write about my experiences this year with FAWM (February Album Writing Month) and its wonderful international community. If you are a songwriter or want to get involved with songwriting in any way, I highly recommend it as well as 50/90, which runs from July through September. The forums, a gold mine for inspiration and collaboration, are usually open for a while before and after each writing period. Supporting the site financially is completely optional.
In the months leading up to it this year, I had been writing more than usual, so instead of just writing as many songs as possible during FAWM, I decided to focus more on collabs. This is not all 18 songs I did, but here were my favorites, in no particular order:
Tell You No (topline collab with Juha Keränen)
This was at least my second collab with Juha, an amazing musician and producer out of Finland. Toplining my own lyrics and melody over an existing instrumental track is one of my favorite ways to stretch myself musically. Juha is one of a few people I know I can just give any musical description to, and he can create something solid for it. He also handles the production side after I send him my vocals (because it would not sound nearly as good if I did it). I don’t know if it’s my own mental associations or the musical choices he makes, but I always end up writing about dysfunctional or abusive relationships.
A New Excitement (topline collab with John Lampson)
John is a mainly alternative rock musician from Minnesota, and this was our first collab, but probably not our last! Some collaborators prefer to have as much freedom as possible, whereas John was more interested in supporting whatever existing vision I had. Luckily it was enough for me just to name my favorite genres and artists because I’m not good at providing much more than that. He sent me the underlying instrumental for this track, which reminded me of the Bouncing Souls’ positive and upbeat songs, especially from The Gold Record and Ghosts on the Boardwalk. I tried to take it in the same direction with my lyrics and melody.
The Dancing AI Girl (topline collab with Nadia Cripps)
This is my second topline collab with Nadia, who is based in the UK. Our collabs are so different from what I’d usually do, which is good for expanding my skills and creativity. Pretty much the only piano songwriters I listen to are Regina Spektor and Kate Nash, so you might hear their quirky pop influence in my melodies. But mostly, I just listen to the musical direction and mood of what Nadia plays, and try to write based off that. She gave me the “Dancing AI” as an optional idea for a title and I decided to run with it. I liked how the verses sounded dark while the choruses were happy and upbeat, which required me to be more creative with the story I came up with. The image in the video was appropriately AI-generated.
Just a Pond (collab with lyricist Simon Wright)
Simon (based in the UK) and I did two collabs this year, but as someone with a lot of British friends who has spent a lot of time talking about language differences, I really enjoyed this one on the subject. I like Simon’s lyrics because they’re lighthearted and funny, or at least our collabs have been. I tried to match that mood with the music.
Einsamkeit (collab with ChatGPT as lyricist)
Don’t judge me, but I really wanted a German song of my “own” (I mean, this isn’t really that, but kind of). I couldn’t immediately find a German speaker who wanted to write a song with me from scratch, so I “commissioned” one from ChatGPT. I chose the theme (loneliness), it wrote the lyrics. I did notice that in addition to getting facts wrong when people try to use it to write articles, when you try to get it to write poems, lyrics, or stories, it does not have the best literary merit. It writes a lot like a 13-year-old. I don’t feel particularly qualified to judge literary merit in German, but I’m guessing it applies here too. Anyway, I don’t want AI to write my songs, I’m not that lazy and I like expressing myself directly. It was just a fun little experimental stepping stone to writing my own songs in German.
Not Gonna Be Your Supergirl & I Was In Too Deep (collabs with Nancy Cunningham as verse lyricist)
Nancy and I started chatting based on a forum discussion about verses and choruses. She feels more confident writing verses and telling stories; I feel more confident coming up with a pithy, catchy chorus and my verses often feel like a slog. (Not that I think I’m some pop genius, I’m just better at choruses than verses!) It was Nancy’s idea that we should collaborate based on our strengths. For the first one, I wrote the chorus and Nancy came back with the verses. For the second one, Nancy sent me the verses and I wrote the chorus and bridge.
Red Eyed Devil (collab with lyricist Coolparadiso)
John and I have done a few collabs; he cranks out lyrics on any topic like nobody’s business, and they are always pretty well-written. I mean, I could crank out lyrics every few minutes, but they wouldn’t be very good and I always end up writing about the same themes over and over. That’s why I occasionally collaborate with lyricists, to get out of my lyrical ruts. For some reason, the title and some of the lyrics reminded me of “Out of Breath” by Frank Turner, so the music was heavily inspired by that.
Definitely check out John’s songwriting podcast if you like independent songwriters.