2 December, 2018
The writing of a song

From heartbreak a sliver of light is born… 


When its ‘time’ to write a song it feels like something is niggling away at me from inside. I start to feel uncomfortable in my skin and I get fidgety. My brain starts to think up lyrics and listens for melodies on the radio, in shops and hunts down songwriting stimuli wherever it can until my body takes action and I go to the piano. Well, that’s usually how it starts….

Unless you experience a painful break up.

This time was different. For someone who has until recently, never been in love, I found myself not only gravitating to my piano like an old friend, but also finding comfort in its keys.

And the source of my need, a man that I fell for who, although he said he loved me back, failed to show that love through his actions. So, love aside, I ended it.

Back at the piano the song came flooding out like a wave of tears and I wrote the majority of it within a couple of hours. There were parts of the chorus which weren’t quite sitting right however and so I let them roll around in my head for what ended up being a few weeks…….

As writers we find solace in our art. Like penning your thoughts in a diary or sitting for hours on a therapist’s couch. Our music is the friend we need.

Let the melodies reveal themselves to you.

I get my best ideas in the shower. I don’t know why but maybe its because I’m relaxed, and my mind is wandering without distraction from things around me. So instead of cutting my showers way too short or get the carpet soaked because I’ve run out to my phone to record an idea, I’ve taken to bringing my phone into the bathroom with me.

This was where the melody for the chorus came to me for ‘I Still Miss You’. It gave me a whole new direction to the melodies I was trying out before and once I had the melody, it took another week until the lyrics came out.

Yes, I could have forced the song and finished it all within a few hours (I’ve done plenty of co-writes where coming up with a song within a few hours is considered normal) but considering my lethargic state, I had the luxury of just letting the song take its time.

Its strange. You hear of authors saying that after a while their character’s take over the book and write their own stories. Songs are similar. If you give them time, they eventually just slot into place like a mini jigsaw puzzle.

Then once it was finished, I played it only a couple of times before recording it and uploading to YouTube. In hindsight, I should have taken the time to learn the lyrics and melody off-by-heart, but you know what its like; when you finish a piece of work you’re itching to show the world. 

So that was my process of writing I Still Miss You. A combination of feeling like crap, needing to get my feelings out and having time to let the song roll around in my head and write itself for me. 

The silver lining of a break up. 

PS: I wrote TWO songs – the next one is coming soon…..

Nicola xx


I write in pen and scribble stuff out

Some of my songwriter friends think I’m ridiculous for doing this, but I prefer to write in pen than pencil. 

No, it means I can’t erase what I’ve written BUT I actually prefer a page littered with scribble and crossed out lines to a perfectly neat page. Call it an extension of the internal chaos of a creative mind! 

Besides, it also means I can see what I wrote before which may give me ideas for later. Especially if I’m looking for words that rhyme. I’ll often go to Google and type in ‘Rhymes with xxx’ and it pulls up a bunch of options I can play around with.

Sometimes I get half way through a song then kill it

Don’t be afraid to scrap your work if its not happening. I do this all the time… but I’ll keep bits from it that I do like as fertilizer for the next song. 🙂

I save song snippets on my phone

If I ever lost my phone it would be an inconvenience due to the lost contacts yes, but more so because I’d lose my song snippets! My phone is like my diary; it has hundreds (yes hundreds!) of little song snippets where I’ve recorded a song I’ve heard in a shop or sung a cool melody into it, or tapped something out on the piano to store for later.

Then when I want to write a new song but I don’t have anything in mind, I scroll through my phone and I pick a snippet I like to use as a starting point.

I keep folders of lyrics I wrote years ago

Before mobile phones (Yes, I’m THAT old now… OMG!!!) I used to write all my lyrics down in a folder. I’ve kept it for years. No I don’t really refer to my good old folder anymore but occassionally when I want a walk down memory lane I’ll flip through it and get some inspo, or read some of the poems I wrote and use them for drawing inspiration. Its also really fun to see how far you’ve come as a writer when you look back on old material.

Some ideas I've sat on for years and years

Its ok to keep your lyrics/ song snippets just sitting there for ages (like years). Some songs have taken their sweet time to come out and I’ve scrolled through my phone and picked up a snippet that was begging to think it would never be written. Its a journey, and sometimes you’re just not ready to write in that style, or to finish that snippet. Sometimes you just need to let life take its course and pick things up later. The trick is to keep that diary/ phone full of ideas so you don’t forget them.

Writing at the piano doesn't always work. Try new things

Most songwriters have a go-to form of songwriting. For me that’s my piano…. but it doesn’t always work and I encourage you to try new ways of writing to mix things up. For example, my song ‘Midnight Storm’ (super rough demo below) was written completely on my computer. It helped me write a completely different style of song to what I’d usually write, which is refreshing.

Did you find this post helpful or interesting?
What are some of your songwriting methods? Let me know in the comments below.


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