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Songwriting Advice and Inspiration in Our Rooftop Sessions with Joe Marson

When we first started talking to Joe Marson about offering songwriting advice, he was very wary. Joe rose to prominence last year as one of the finalists of the Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter Competition, where his bluesy, soul-infused performance caught people’s attention in a serious way. Since then, he’s toured constantly and released an acclaimed EP called Electric Soul Magic that contains 5 full-band tracks, featuring, above all, Joe’s versatile voice.

We sat down with Joe this summer between tours and talked about his reluctance to give songwriting advice. As it turns out, it comes from a place of profound respect for how personal the songwriting experience is. According to Joe, the best songs come about simply by listening to the people you love, learning from their example, and then applying those lessons to whatever sounds are going through your head. In other words, there’s no simple formula. You have to listen. A lot.

+ Learn more: Find more songwriting tips and inspiration in our course, “The New Songwriter’s Workshop”

Nevertheless, we did manage to convince him to share some of his approaches to songwriting and some of the lessons he’s learned along the way. Among them: he often starts writing a song by noodling, he sometimes just wakes up with a song idea in his head, and he thinks that by knowing the rules of songwriting, you’ll have a better understanding of how to bend and break them. As big fans of Joe’s music, we’re happy to oblige.

We also asked Joe to break down one of his favorite songs and how he pieced it together. This song “Goddamit Julia” contains a beautiful sweeping chorus that dramatically captures the nostalgia and regret communicated through the lyrics. Hear from Joe how he wrote it, with snippets of the song in between.

Like what you hear? Quick! Joe has a Kickstarter running to support his next album and time is about to run out! Consider supporting his next project here.

Find more songwriting tips in our course, “The New Songwriter’s Workshop”!

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Ian Temple

Ian is a pianist, entrepreneur and professional musician. He started Soundfly to help people really find what gets them most excited musically and pursue it. He's toured all over the world with his experimental trio Sontag Shogun. Check out his most recent course Building Blocks of Piano or follow him on Twitter at @ianrtemple.