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Buc McMaster

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Those of you that write...........are there times when you feel  like something is coming..........like right out there on an edge of your mind........the muse dancing, just out of earshot.  Been feeling that way for too long now.  Somebody slap me.


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I’m in a sort of related spot right now. I have written a song, which I think by my shakey standards has great potential. The chords and melody came to me very, very fast, like within five minutes. The lyrics also came very fast the next day. I’ve now been struggling to realize the song I hear in my head into a decent recording. It’s not happening so far...

So it’s like the muse came, dropped off a song and then went away (probably to hover around the Galveston area).


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Yes and no. There are times when you can feel the thoughts/words/lines coalescing and you know they'll soon reach critical mass and it is time to pull out pen and paper and start writing things down.

But the other side of that is writing is a discipline, in that you have to discipline yourself to write. I've read plenty of interviews with great songwriters in which they discuss their ritual of songwriting. They set aside a certain amount of time a day, at a particular time of day, and make themselves write. I remember reading an interview with the late Bill Morrissey (one of the greats) in which he said he shot for a verse a day. Keep that up for a week and you've got a song.

A few years back I was a finalist in Big Top Chatauqua's NxNW songwriting competition and the performer on the day of the competition was the late Jesse Winchester, another great. He met with the finalists before the competition and in an informal Q-and-A sitting around a table, he gave us his thoughts on songwriting. I took notes and while packing for our recent move, I stumbled upon them. On the subject of getting in the right frame of mind to write, he told us, "You have to shut the part of you off that pays the bills."

A couple of other quotes I jotted down:

"If you complicate what comes out of your heart, you've pretty much lost it."

He said to avoid chord changes that distract from the song. "Audiences don't care about chords."

Songwriting, he said, "is like solving a puzzle you made up yourself."

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