The GDC’s of Songwriting

by Caitlyn O’Connor

The GDC’s of Songwriting by Caitlyn O'ConnorIt is not uncommon for artists to create bodies of work surrounding one incident, such as a breakup; Adele’s 21, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue come to mind as examples of this very thing. Myself, I went through a heartbreaking experience over four years ago which created the agony I needed to inspire myself to pick up a guitar and begin writing in a big way. I believe that that pain was the push I needed to put me where I am today. I released my debut album two months ago.

Listen to the album while reading the text.

Each song on my album stems from a completely different experience. On the album, I have songs about relationships, a song about my grandmother’s passing, and a song literally about being bored. People have asked me in the past about my “process” of songwriting, so here it is:

1. Inspiration

For me, this often comes from watching live performances of other artists with a similar sound to mine, or a sound that I really enjoy. Recently I’ve been incredibly inspired by the new Dearhearts album, Enough to Go Around. They are another Alberta based band who I know quite well, and whose music I appreciate and understand all the better because of that.

Inspiration can also come from any or all of the following: A big life event, a small life event, a new romance, a breakup, the relationship of someone close to me, the weather, feelings, a chord progression, the desire to create something, and silliness. Inspiration comes in infinite forms.

2. Starting Out

I almost exclusively write my first two verses and a chorus before running out of steam and taking a break. If I write a third verse on the same day, then that is unusual. Beginning a song isn’t actually the hardest part for me – you must let go of judgement and just allow it to flow out as best as you can. My fiancé once told me something about making art just for yourself, to start. Make something YOU like and don’t worry about other people will think. Do it for your own delight.

3. Finishing up

Very occasionally I will finish a song on the same day that I began writing it, but more often than not it won’t be complete until the next day, or later in the week. I get really jazzed about new songs, so I’ll often be going back to it every day and playing around with it.

I love strong lyrics, and I want my lyrics to serve the story of the song, so that’s often where I put the pressure on myself to end songs in a certain way. This is the most frustrating part of the process for me, and I have a pile of unfinished songs that I simply didn’t know how to carry on with. Maybe I’ll complete them some day.

4. Finessing

This part of the process can happen any amount of time after the song has been completed (in basic lyrical and instrumental structure, anyway). It can also continue to happen throughout the life of the song. I played a song at a gig last night that I had written and recorded on piano, but because I had no piano at this gig, I performed it on the guitar, and it was a very different song. This stage is where I’m comfortable having fun again and getting fancy with the piece – I often do my finessing when practicing for gigs.

So there you have my crash course for songwriting, I hope you’ve learned a little something about me, and perhaps this may be your first nudge of inspiration to go create something for yourself. Create, and enjoy!

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Artist’s Note
Calgary, Alberta
Alternative, Folk Rock, Indie Folk, Folk, Indie Rock, Singer-Songwriter
songwriting, crash course, Debut Album, heartbreak, breakup, jazzy, inspiration

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