I have been asked to write for specific occasions several times and am in the middle of writing two at the moment.
There is something about being given the subject matter that makes it really enjoyable to write songs to order. The limitations bypass the problem of what to write about. It’s already there. This is an area where restrictions can really come in useful!
In my comedy days I would often have to write a funny song for a corporate event and was given specific people and things to make fun of. I didn’t particularly enjoy this type of writing, partly because it was a one off and I never got to play the song again, so my heart was never really in it.
But my first serious writing to order was for the Relay for Life in 2006. This song just seemed to jump from the pen to the page. My brain had nothing to do with it. Maybe it was the fact that I had dealt with cancer in my family but the song really seemed to write itself. It is now played at Relay for Life events all around the world and it is a song I feel very proud to have written (it was also my Mum’s favorite song of mine). Click here to listen.
Then I wrote a song for ‘A Fighting Spirit’ for a group of local photographers who donated their time to photograph critically ill children. Another song that wrote itself in less than 30 minutes. I play this song live each year at the YANA auction alongside an amazing slideshow by the very talented Karen McKinnon.
Now been asked to write for ‘Helping Hearts‘, another group that does the same thing, but country-wide. Having a couple of kids makes it uncomfortably easy to imagine what you might feel if one of them were very sick and so another song is jumping onto the page and will be finished soon.
As a result of these songs I have my first non-charity song commission for photographer Michele Regner. One of my existing songs is already used on another photographer’s website – Jerry Vergel. But this photographer has asked me to write specifically for her site. I have asked her what she wants people to feel when they visit her site or watch a slide show which will help me convey her vision in a song.
So this got me thinking about song writing. Maybe these constraints make it easier for our brains to really delve into the subject without having to think “what am I writing about?”. I tried this out when I wrote a song after reading a book and another which I used the character from a movie. I found it got me out of my own head and into the head of other’s lives and situations.
So next time you are writing and get stuck have a think back to the last book your found interesting or a character from a TV drama. I try to avoid stuff that is happening to friends or people around me as it can get you into trouble!! 🙂