Sunday, September 15, 2013

Songwriting and a CD giveaway

Our YA Fusion group blog is all about reading and writing, especially young adult fiction, but I'm trying something new today and exploring a parallel path - songwriting. Many of our blog followers are writers who listen to music while they work, and it's now common for authors to share playlists for their stories. I prefer to write in quiet, and I usually listen to music when I'm cooking or driving, but still, music lyrics often help me develop a theme I'm exploring in a story.

Read on for inspiring words from a songwriter friend of mine, enter to win a CD, and help me spread the word about an amazing local Detroit band, the Corktown Popes. I guarantee their music will feed your muse.

The Corktown Popes lead singer, Terry Burns, lives in my neighborhood and has one of those wonderful front porch swings where he reads or plays guitar.  He always has a cheerful greeting, and his laugh is infectious.  I first met Terry as an artist who made a living painting houses, and it was some time later that I learned of his music career.  He recently revived/recreated his band, and the Corktown Popes have burst onto the Detroit music scene.  I saw them in concert and was blown away by their energy. Every time I hear them on the radio, my mood brightens.  Watch the video below to see what I mean.

Here's my interview with Terry.  His responses were surprising, inspiring, and enlightening.

1.  What inspired you to rekindle your music career, and what helped you to persevere?

I finally felt I had something worth saying.  If you feel passionately about something, you can usually go through what you need to in order to end up on the other side of the obstacle(s) you are presented with.

2.  How does songwriting differ from other types of writing (poetry, fiction)?

If you hope to have a chance at radio airplay, you have the limitation of brevity placed upon you.  You have exactly 3 minutes (plus or minus) to say exactly what you want to say.  You have to allow space for sound (instrumentation) and you have to establish a chorus which presents itself repeatedly between verses. 

The chorus has to be interesting enough to withstand repeated listenings.  I like the verses to make statements which support the chorus, or ask questions that the chorus answers.  Sometimes even asking questions that the chorus seems to make ambiguous.

3.  I'd love to have you dissect one of your songs to show me exactly what you mean - we'll have to continue this thread when we have more time. What comes first - melody or lyrics?

I have no strict rules when it comes to the start of writing a song.  Whatever comes first - chord progressions, lyrical phrase, or melody.  I follow the one, as Daniel Lanois says, "...that raises its hand."  I build around whichever device says something worth listening to.

My job as a songwriter seems to me is to build a strong and attractive "skeleton."  One that the musicians I surround myself with can place their own bit of "flesh and muscle" on.

A composer would chart everything out.  I don't have that much formal knowledge yet.  Some bands will all gather at the same time and work on ideas as they come to them.  We may do some of that with the next recording.

4.  How do you feed your creativity?

Work.  Constantly.  Read about your art form.  Watch movies about your art form.  Practice your art form.  Be consumed by your art form.  Blow your art form up.  Start again.

5.  This is an intense side of you that I don't usually see!  But I know that if I were interviewing you in person rather than through writing, you would have ended that answer with your boisterous laugh.  What influences or inspires your songs?

My songs always begin with this --
They all begin as a feeling that I feel I MUST express.

Cheers, Terry!  Thanks for giving us a backstage glimpse into your music world.

To learn more about the Corktown Popes, go to their website and Facebook page.

Terry and the Corktown Popes have generously offered to give away 3 CDs, and one extra lucky winner will also get a t-shirt.  Yes, you could be just like this lucky tween:

Oh, and they have bumper stickers, too!  Here's how to enter: simply leave a comment below by Friday, September 27th, and include your email if it's not listed in your Blogger profile so I can notify you if you're one of the 3 winners.  Because I love this music, and I wish Terry and the Corktown Popes all the success they deserve, please share this contest via Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Let me know that you shared this post, and I'll give you an extra entry for the giveaway.

Terry is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle from his performance at the recent Arts Beats & Eats festival.  (Ouch.)  He's happy the chest pain was not a heart attack, but he'll be hurting for awhile.  Please wish him a speedy recovery!

Thanks for listening-
Kristin Lenz



Natalie Aguirre said...

So awesome Terry lives in your neighborhood. And it's so interesting thinking of trying everything you need/want to in a song in 3 minutes.

Christine said...

Fantastic article! Love the insight that goes into the song writing.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Fascinating interview. Thanks for sharing this insight.

Christine Garver said...

We drove from Grand Rapids to see the Corktown Popes perform at Arts, Beats & Eats. That Terry, sure has some pipes on he's the composer/lyricist...Triple The talent!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It always amazes me how song writers can get their story into a 3 min song.

Anonymous said...

What a great interview - and "Lucky" is my most favorite song.

das said...

The Corktown Popes have an enchanting, infectious sound. Their shows are always uplifting and once you see them, you will carry these melodies around for days and days. Terry, hope you're healing soon. Will bring you so e of those chocolate Guinness muffins when I'm at your next gig. Corktown Popes, rockers who Celt! Oh yeah.

Tracy Bilen said...

Three minutes to say what you want to say - I've never thought of it like that before! Great interview!

Colette Ballard said...

Interesting interview--I actually met two songwriters in Nashville at the SCBWI conference this weekend--very cool! Loved the song-very catchy, great lyrics! :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

So I totally missed the deadline, and I'm sad! Love their folksy sound. It's refreshing. And I love his thoughts on creativity. It's inspiring. Really great interview!

Lisa Tapp said...

Great interview! I'll have to find some Corktown Popes music. :)

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Carolina - you made it in time - the contest ends this Friday. I goofed up on the date on the original post, but I changed it now.