I think the hardest part of writing a great song is knowing when you’ve written a great song. You’d think you would know. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you think it’s horrible and it takes hundreds of people slapping you on the face with a wet fish before it sinks in that it’s got legs.
The song, not the fish. They had their chance.
Good is the biggest stumbling block there is on the way to great. Sometimes it’s easier to go around good and strike out towards great from the safe and familiar ground of being totally shit. You might be wondering what I’m talking about. And yes, I am drinking whisky.
What I’m trying to say is, you can work on a song and make it good. You can endlessly write a more appropriate chorus, work on the perfect drum fill, put in your favourite chord shapes. And you’ll end up with a good song, pat yourself on the back, and feel like a right little songsmith.
Doesn’t mean the song’s great though. It might be insipid. It might not move a mollusc, let alone a discerning music lover. But because you can point to all the good things in it, you’re blinded to the fact it just isn’t inspiring or inspired. And conversely, a song can be shit and then suddenly make the leap to brilliant. You can point at all the ways it doesn’t work, is boring, or fails in its intent, yet for some reason it all suddenly clicks together. We’re lucky – it sometimes happens to us. I’ll let you in on a secret: I didn’t think Poker was a very good song. It was terrible for the longest time, only when Mez and Whitty performed it with such wide eyed conviction did we see that there was more to it that a workout on the bass guitar.
We’re working on songs now. Songs that started life as acoustic demos I recorded during my sojourn from work in May, while the leaves grew on the trees and the sun shone down unnoticed by me. I was in a little bedroom with recording gear and an acoustic guitar. The curtains were shut, and I was on my own. Now we’re hammering them out in the practice room, sometimes reeling off new ideas with ease, sometimes bouncing off the walls in anger and pent up frustration at the songs, each other, our own fingers…
The things I’m noticing are interesting. As we make these songs our own, they change. They become leaner, we distil them down. Songs that I thought were ok when it was me and an acoustic become forces of nature with the band pounding them out. Songs I arrogantly thought would be immense and emotional might not work at all, or prove to be flat and samey. Then one of the guys will take the song and fix it with an idea so simple or so obvious that I’d never have thought of it in a million years. More than at any point in the last few years I’m feeling a connection with my three brothers. I can’t describe how it feels to watch these guys take my ideas in their hands and actually treat them with respect, with passion, and with belief.
When I first played the other guys what I’d been working on, they were my songs. Now I listen to that CD and it sounds so boring and flat. Those songs have changed, grown up, and they’re not mine any more. They belong to the band. I absolutely cannot wait to start recording them, because thanks to Alex, Mez and Whitty I think we’ve got something special on our hands.