9 Artists Tell the Story Behind the Song

little wings, songwritingweek

little wings, songwritingweek

Last week, tons of bands got into the spirit of #SongwritingWeek by posting stories of how one of their songs was written or recorded. And in honor of their hard work, we’ve decided to give out a few awards. So drumroll please… the winners are…

The Great Nostalgia Award: Exiles (Brooklyn, NY)

Exiles wins the Great Nostalgia Award for bringing up Ambulance Ltd., a band that I used to love and even thought I was the only person who had ever heard of. Plus they get double Nostalgia Award points for lyrically referencing Broken Social Scene. Their song “Kill the Lights” is the kind of song that makes you want to run around a field with your lover in your underwear.

Award-winning quote:Our drummer Don and Matt were listening a lot to Broken Social Scene’s ‘Superconnected’ and really loved that sense of controlled chaos in that song; that feeling that it might go off the rails at any moment, but never does. That’s what we were aiming for with ‘Kill the Lights’. One of the lines in the song, ‘if you lift your skirt to every scene’ is a bit of a lyrical reference to BSS. It sounds like a lyric they might have come up with. Oh, and Beach Fossils’ ‘Clash The Truth’ LP. Another big influence.

Read the full story here.

Unexpectedly Dope Falsetto Award: Howth (Brooklyn, NY)

Howth, and by virtue singer Carl J. Creighton, wins the Unexpectedly Dope Falsetto Award. Dude playing a casio keyboard, blurry video — not super high expectations here. But Carl managed to blow us away when he changes the key in selfie-style video of him playing a song for Henry Heimlich. Yes, that Henry Heimlich.

The whole story: “Howth is working on an album about Henry Heimlich and this song’s gonna close things out I think. It’s called Carefree People Rule the World. It’s about how people in privileged positions are catered to the most by all of society, at the expense of the people who care for them.

Read his #SongwritingWeek post here.

Play-by-Play Award: Oliver Ocean (Nashville, TN)

This band wins the Play-by-Play Award. Their story literally takes us through every step of the genesis of their song, “Wrong Here”. One of the interesting things here is that they actually wrote the verses before the chorus, instrumentally, and landed on a great call and response model for the chorus which accents the ark of the song so perfectly.

In the beginning: “Like most of our songs, this one started as a 15-minute improv jam that we recorded and mixed down for repeated listens in the days after. Because we move aimlessly from part to part in the original jam, listening back to our practice allows us to take the best moments, figure out what each person was playing, and practice them so we can place them where we want in the final ‘3-5 min’ song. I think this one started from 3 random chords someone started playing (the guitar riff in the intro), which also led to the aptly named working title ‘3 random chords’.

Read the full story here.

Horror Movie Award: Phoebe Bridgers (LA, CA)

Phoebe Bridgers take home the Horror Movie Award for her account of finding inspiration by staying up all night reading serial killers’ Wikipedia pages. The story only augments the eerie, haunting sparsity of her beautifully simple melody and lyrics.

Her hilariously to-the-point explanation: “I wrote this song after staying up all night reading serial killers’ wikipedia pages and watching interviews. I couldn’t stop. I was really freaked out. This song is me freaking out.

Read exactly what she has written above here.

Therapist Award: Dyllan (NY/LA)

Dylan Nichols wins the Therapist Award. She told the world in her post that writing her song “Talk Talk Talk” was therapeutically responsible for helping her get over a troubled relationship, and that every time she sings it she comes to grips with that trauma a little bit more. And THEN that making this post, dissecting the lyrics and speaking candidly about it has helped her even more! We’re so honored to be a part of her process.

The kicker: “Fortunately, every time I perform this song, I feel more and more relieved. The song is not just sad, it’s downright angry. Being able to articulate exactly what happened is a huge relief. And, actually, the act of dissecting it here was even more enlightening. Thank you for listening!

Read her full post here.

Inspiration Radar Award: Little Wings (LA, CA)

Kyle Field, the songwriter-hobo-hero that is the legendary Little Wings, gets the Inspiration Radar Award. He recounts the live-in-the-studio manner in which he sort of wrote the lyrics of “By Now” by describing some stuff and images of one of his best friends from the last few years. He sang some stuff just trying to get Tommy to laugh on the other side of the room and that made him happy. Someone bookended a mixtape for me ten years ago with Little Wings songs on either end, and I’ve never looked back since. If you haven’t heard this song yet, your life is about to begin.

On the value of experimenting in the studio: “This song added a facet that I have never quite had on a record in my mind and I am thankful for the process and the freedom to create live in the studio which is what I ultimately aspire to.

Read his full post here.

Pseudo-U2/Joy Division Synth Hook Award: Shapes on Tape (Brooklyn, NY)

The only award I can possibly think of for Shapes on Tape is the Pseudo-U2/Joy Division Synth Hook Award. There’s something so joyously “Love Will Tear Us Apart”-y about their track “Still Believe in Love” as a frightfully epic indie ballad. As the instigator behind their #SongwritingWeek challenge, I’m pretty amused by their reenactment of our conversation here as well, not to mention the Shakespearean influence of their lyrics. Nice all around, boys!

My favorite opening line: “@learntosoundfly told us it’d be fun and weird if talked about ourselves. We couldn’t agree more.

Read their #SongwritingWeek post here.

Just Hum Award: Spelling Reform (Philadelphia, PA)

Well, it’s no Grammy but Spelling Reform managed to pick up the Just Hum Award, since singer Dan Wisniewski wrote most of the tune while on his commutes and lunch breaks from work in his car. This band has a really nice Death Cab for Cutie thing going on, they have a way of enveloping you completely with their songs, and their group singing makes me think only of the Great Lakes Myth Society.

On finding creative/treacherous places to write: “I also used to bring my guitar to work, and during my lunch break drive to an empty parking lot, climb into my backseat and work on songs. (Before that, I used to work on songs on the side of Route 29 until a cop stopped one day and told me I had to go somewhere else. The cop was very nice but it was still scary.) I write best when no one else can possibly hear what I’m doing; the backseat of my car in an empty parking lot in a business park is the best place.

Read Dan’s harrowing tale of taking on the Man in order to write music here.

Relatable Practice Space Award: LAVACHILD (Brooklyn, NY)

Chantel from LAVACHILD wins the Relatable Practice Space Award, since according to her account, they have “an insanely good death metal band underneath [them] and a sick dance guy next door,” and well, that’s just something we all have to deal with in Brooklyn apparently. Do we share the same rehearsal building? So, props to the LAVA-gang for powering through and waiting until 2am to record her vox to this awesome track. Also, is #afterwave the next synth-pop genre to hit the ground running, signaling the demise of #vaporwave? If I’m the first to announce it, props to me too!

Showing some love for her collaborator: “Nikki has a beautiful, well-curated, individual sense of music and often sets the tone as ‘vibe-maker,’ and this song in particular really was built out of hearing that distant, evasive loop ringing in my mind over and over.

Read her #SongwritingWeek post here.

Inspired to Write a Story of Your Own? Check out our month-long intensive course, The New Songwriter’s Workshop, and get writing today!

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