How do you make a song?

'How do you make a song,' someone asked on one of the songwriting boards I frequent. That's an interesting question, and there is no "right" answer to that. I think we all have our own way of working... and I think the manner in which we create really depends on the inspiration of the moment.

My old method of writing was to sit with a notebook & pen and my guitar, and just start playing... I'd fool with different chord progressions and just sing whatever came to my mind until I found a scrap of lyric that resonated with me. I'd continue, improvising melody, lyric and chord progression. During this process the most important thing to me was how the song "felt". The vibrations and energy in my body as I sang were most important... if I was moved in some way, if I had tears in my eyes as I sang or if it made me laugh or feel good, then I wrote it down. Say at that point I had two lines I really liked. Then I'd sing those two lines and improvise a line after them. I'd continue to improvise until I found the next line. Sometimes that next line would come two weeks later... but I'd keep mulling around with what I had until inspiration hit for the next part.

Other times the whole thing would just flow out of me in one sitting. (Nice when that happens - but you can't force it, it comes when it comes, you have to have your antenna up and immediately run to write it down or record it in some way... or sing it over and over in the hopes that you won't forget it before you get home cause it's really hot and is really and truly the perfect next line.)

Obviously the organic response of my inner spirit was and is a big part of this writing process. The sensations within me as I play and sing are my touchstones, my guides to what is "working" for me.

As I put these songs out for feedback, I received critiques that my melodies were meandering (I come from a classical background, I thought repetition within a section was boring) and that the sections in my songs lacked sufficient contrast, my songs were usually too long (5 to 6 minutes long). I began to understand that my organic process was vital in creating something unique, but was just the first step in crafting a song.

Nowadays I usually begin with lyrics. The reason for that is simple: the lyrics set the structure, and form & structure, good rhyming, visual imagery, etc., take time to craft. Once I have crafted the lyrics to my satisfaction, then I keep them on my desk and read them over now and then… sometimes I’ll play a little with music and nothing will come… another time I might get a line or two -- so my process with music is that same organic process as I've described above, but it has a frame of reference. I’ll improvise (singing) repeatedly, trying different chord progressions, and then sing the stuff I like over and over until I can remember it… I’ll usually record a verse & chorus once I’ve got the basics together.

For me, lyrics tend to ‘arrive’ more easily to me than ‘melody’ so it’s always a challenge to be inspired to create music… and good lyrics inspire me.

Sometimes, through collaboration with an awesome musician, I am challenged to create something in a different way. For example, Arie Boom (Netherlands) and I are working on a song. He sent me an instrumental sample he had - it had a great groove and some really awesome change-ups for the different sections. I took the groove and wrote a lyric that matched the pentameter... and then improvised the melody over his cool electonica-styled background & added vocal harmonies. We both think it's great & are working on putting it all together.

Another thing I enjoy doing is working on back-up vocals. I'll improvise harmonies around the lead, just following my organic process. It's fun and refreshing.

I have several lyricists I work with, Michael Kavanagh in particular. If they send me something which instantly leaps out at me - to which I respond organically in some way - then I use that inspirational response to improvise and come up with music that reflects my reaction to the visions their words create in me. Again, the process can't be rushed and may take two hours, two days, or two months (in one case, I think it took 3 years lol).

Sometimes people say to me "is there anything you don't do" (and the answer is, 'yes, there are many things I can't do lol'), but I believe that diversity is tremendously important in keeping the creative spirit engaged. So if I work on painting a picture, or cook a nice meal, or make a piece of jewelry, or edit a book, or go for a walk in the rain, or smell the newly blossoming lilacs, or hug a friend, or have a really yummy cup of coffee, it's just as important to my process as taking guitar lessons or participating on a songwriting board, or singing. My teaching is also very important to my process... I am honoured that my students share their individual vocal & creative journey with me, they keep me focussed... and everything I say to them I also say to myself... which is often a very good thing lol.

My soundclick page is a collection of various things I've worked on, in various stages of completion (some are masters, some are roughs).

Songwriting boards I recommend:

Creative resources:
- if you have the motivation, I highly recommend "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. It was the reading (and DOING) of this book that galvanized me to begin painting, songwriting and 'playing' again... and paying attention in my life again;
- I also highly recommend Bob Baker's blog & books - always inspiring --;
- for songwriters, books by John Braheny, Jason Blume and Pat Pattison are great resources as well;
- my “wise bird” blog contains info & tips about the music industry… I enjoy posting on songwriting boards and the info is hopefully helpful, so I thought I’d start a blog with the Q & A’s that have come up --

Let me know if you found this helpful/interesting. You can always post a comment here or email me at I'm a little slow at answering emails and sometimes read them and think I'll answer later and then forget... lol... I'm just a kid. Which reminds me... I got several projects on the go... what do I want to play with today?

catch up days!!

Well, I have been busy... have a few things I'm working on with some great folks.

THIS SINKING SHIP - with Arie Boom, electronica/pop = it's gonna be so cool I can't wait to hear the whole thing put together

I MAY HAVE STARTED IT - with Cliff Hitchcock & the Collaborators - another great rockabilly song - it's in the mixing stage now

CAT WITH A STRAT - with Joe Wrabek & the Collaborators - a cool & funny talking blues song, just getting going on it

IN THAT MOMENT - with Errol Chugg - I'm working on the lead vocals for this at the mo.

TIME - by Noel Downs - I'm doing back-up vox

MUTUAL NO SOCIETY - by Ray Shafer; I'm doing the F vocal part, just need to tweak my track, render it, and upload for mixing.

I COULD DREAM - by Dean Taylor & Lucian Blaga - just some little tweaks happening to the lead vox I've recorded.

My EP - 5 or 6 little things to get done when my studio engineer gets back from holidays... hope to have it all wrapped up in April - stay tuned for the CDBaby address where you can preview & purchase!

Long Distance Love - by David Van Camp - I promised to add more back-up vox to his great song

Trying to Get Over You - with Richard Batt; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

One Tear at a Time - with Bob Lazzar-Atwood; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Send an Angel - with Billie Spencer; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

CombOver Romeo - with Richard Larabie, Marvin Perkins & Gregg Jansen; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Rolled the Dice, Paid the Price - with Richard Larabie; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Can We Start Again - with Lloyd Kirk; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Gravity - with Dean Taylor; have all the tracks, need to add some guitar and do a sample mix

Scent of Your Betrayal - with Rebecca Peaden; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

On Open Wings - with Richard Larabie & Marvin Perkins; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Lying - with Matt Hirt... still waiting to hear the master

Plus, of course, the songs for my solo album, which are going to be mystic spacey electronica-influenced fusions of folk, pop and world.

Had a lovely meeting this week with my songwriting circle, very inspirational to hear the creative work of each individual.

My folk trio ( performs tonight and we're booking gigs as we speak (we don't have any music up yet, but trust me, the singing is awesome, lol).

My students continue to inspire me by doing me the honour of sharing their process with me. Oh, and my guitar lessons are slowly paying off!!

I've booked the next 3 days off to have some much needed serenity time and to catch up on some of these projects before I head out of town for a couple days.

As always, I have things I'm working on posted over at soundclick -

I also have my 'Wise Bird' blog -

Stay well, stay focussed and never give up!

what a week!

Ack! I couldn't believe how many deadlines I had this week... plus bein' a little under the weather. Yikes. Spent most of the week alternating between editing a manuscript for a friend, and working with the studio engineer on my CD... and in between, teaching my students!

Was invited to collaborate with someone new on something new.... ha ha I can never say no if it takes my fancy... it's always neat to work with another musician, it broadens the mind and takes you places you'd never find on your own.

I had many interesting conversations with students this past week. It sometimes amazes me, the synchronicity of thought that is shared in the studio... it's like moments of inspiration linger in the air and are gently transmitted to the next person. We talked about how voice sessions are therapy sessions because they make you aware of how you think and how you hold yourself and how you deal with complexity, in a very positive and uplifting way. We talked about how, when the voice is suddenly released in a new way, it can be a scary, exhilerating experience... and you don't recognize yourself for a moment. As we work to release & develop the voice... our self-perception grows too. We realize that perhaps our voice IS beautiful... and is a very real reflection of the beauty within us. :o)

overwhelmed with GREAT musical projects

Ha ha, I keep getting asked to collaborate on such cool stuff I can't say no! My list never gets shorter.. hee hee ha ha!

I was recently invited to join a 'virtual music collaboration' site, and I'm workin' on two tunes for them (TIME, IN THAT MOMENT), and also another VMC site I hooked up with (MUTUAL NO SOCIETY). My internet band, 'The Collaborators', always has a project in hand, they just completed my song "Wilted Heart" and they did a great job with the music. -

I was also asked by a member of one of my songwriting boards to collab on a song - Rolled the Dice, Paid the Price... a rough demo is posted at

I have several other collabs on the go:
I COULD DREAM - lead vocals, almost done
CAN WE START AGAIN - rough cut done
ONE TEAR AT A TIME - workin on rough cut
LONG DISTANCE LOVE - add harmonies
BACK TO THE GRAVITY - mixin tracks
SCENT OF YOUR BETRAYAL - rough cut done
ON OPEN WINGS - rough cut done
SEND AN ANGEL - rough cut done
COMBOVER ROMEO - work on rough cut
Plus some songs of my own I'm working on.

Big news is the CD is with the studio engineer right now! Whoo hoo!
stay tuned!

P.S. - my Dad is doing very well, by the way!