The Evolution of a Song, Part 3
(In Parts 1 and 2, I explained that I’m writing a song for a local contest, and I shared the first few steps of the songwriting process. Part 3 continues the story, but it isn't the end. You'll have to wait until Part 4 for that, and you will be rewarded with a link to the song!)
Saturday, August 31 (continued):
8:35 a.m.: Time to come up with some words to go with that major/minor movement. Major is kind of hopeful, while minor sounds sad, so I might write about the poignant life of a homeless cat living on the streets. I pick up my pencil and I write:
Been livin' on the streets
Long as I can remember
Straight through to December
It's a tough life for a feline
So I decided to make a beeline
To this lady at the shelter
Thought my face would melt her
I add “furry” before face, because I love using alliteration (lots of letters that line up with lovely little similar sounds).
OK, now I have a story. I try singing these words with the chords as a backdrop, and a melody bubbles to the surface. It works. I’d better write it down before I forget how it goes. I slowly pluck out my melody on the guitar and write down the tune, note by note.
Then, back to the story line. What will happen to poor Romeo next? I pick up my pencil and the words come. I write:
Well, she wanted to keep me, but
She had so many others
We were one big family of
Four-legged sisters and brothers
I pause, and change “big” to “huge.” I turn the paper over and immediately I know that I want to say something about how cats always get “fixed” at the shelter. But what rhymes with fixed? Nixed? Or maybe there’s another word … spayed? neutered? I start penciling words in the margin, a technique I learned in a songwriting class. I jot down the word “tutored,” then cross it off. Cats aren’t tutored. Or are they? They are taught certain things, like how to use a litter box. What’s that called? House-training. OK, I guess I have another line:
We were house-trained and tutored
We all got neutered
But the rhythm isn’t right. Oh, how about “We all got spayed and neutered.” Yeah, that fits. Now I write more words in the margins. I write “rough,” because that’s life in a shelter. Then I write “stuff,” and several other words that I might keep or toss.
8:42 a.m.: Now my song has a chorus and two verses. I probably should add a third verse. A line from a Robert Frost poem comes to me, about a cat that pads around on little cat feet. Why not steal that line, too? Robert Frost sure isn’t around to complain. I keep writing.
8:54 a.m.: I’ve got a general idea of a song now. An intro, three verses, and a chorus. Let me try playing the whole thing from start to finish on the guitar.
8:57 a.m.: It works! I’m excited. I think I’ve got a winner!
9:00 a.m.: I tell Chuck, and he immediately says, “Let’s turn the studio on and we can record it.” That’s one thing I love about Chuck. He’s very supportive and he makes me feel like a real musician. And he doesn’t even like cats!
In Part 4, you'll read about the recording process, and I'll post a link to the song.