AcousticByLines Quotes, Jokes, Stories

Quotes, Jokes, Stories

Please don't read these pages if you are easily offended.

Quotes about Writing / Songwriting / Creating - 2009 and before

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." — Mark Twain, contributed by Chris North

"[Steve Goodman]'s hunched over a desk writing a song. All he had were two lines, it was a real sad song: 'It was all that I could do to keep from crying. / Sometimes it seems to useless to remain.' Well, I jumped on the bed and started playing this imaginary fiddle and sang, 'You don't have to call me darling, Darling. But you never even called me by my name,' and we started laughing and starting goofing on the whole premise of the song, the standard things you put in country songs. We did it for about an hour and went to bed and I forgot about it. About five months later, Steve calls me up and says, 'Hey, I did it. I just recorded our song.' I said, 'What song?' 'You Never Even Called My By My Name.' 'I said, 'Man, that's no song.' He says, 'I added this and that.' I said, 'Steve, you take that one. That's your baby. We're just making fun of country music.' He added that whole verse about mothers, trucks and prison on his own and made it into a song. And it became a hit, so Steve said, 'Now do you want your name on it?' and I said, 'No, I'm not an Indian giver. It's your song.'
"The next morning he delivered a $14,000 jukebox. I still have it in my office." -- John Prine, quoted by Serene Dominic in "John Prine talks about writing songs, country music today," The Arizona Republic, November 15, 2009

"Maybe [poetry]'s not so important, but ... it makes life worth living." — Arda Collins, quoted by Kathryn Mayer in "One to watch / Arda Collins, creative writing," University of Denver Magazine, Winter 2009

"For [Arda] Collins, writing is where 'things I imagine become real.'" — Kathryn Mayer, "One to watch / Arda Collins, creative writing," University of Denver Magazine, Winter 2009

"The thing I'm writing now, I have various characters, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this couple dies. And they have a daughter. ...I thought, 'OK, we have to do something with the daughter' ... then I realized she's not really their daughter. She has her own story. And she's become the most interesting character. She was this throwaway character that I didn't even conceive of before I started writing her into it, and now she's become very important in this book." — Sandra Dallas, quoted by Greg Glasgow in "Author Sandra Dallas," University of Denver Magazine, Winter 2009

"An airplane flies over a row of suburban houses. Parents have a conversation while watching their children play baseball. A woman stands inside a bedroom, peering throu a window to the sunny street outside.
"They're scenes of mundane, everyday life, but as depicted by painter Joel Sheesley ... they become magic moments frozen in time; the opening scenes of short stories whose plotlines are left up to the viewer."— Greg Glasgow, "Artist Joel Sheesley," University of Denver Magazine, Winter 2009

"Just because English lyrics rule the U.S. charts doesn't mean that English is the most important language in getting a song across. In most pop songs, that distinction would fall to the music itself: a combination of melody, chord progression and beat. And if a songwriter has a good grasp on those elelments, his mother tongue need not be English." — Jewly Hight, "Hitmakers / Espionage," BMI MusicWorld (received Dec 2009)

"Well, [bluntness in songwriting]'s a lot cheaper than therapy.... There's been a lot of things going on for the past 10 years that I just never really confronted, or used metaphors to do so. This time out I wanted to make sure that everyone knows what I'm talking about and where I'm coming from." — Brent Smith, quoted by Kevin Zimmerman in "For Shinedown, 'The Sound of Madness' Is the Sound of Success," BMI MusicWorld (received Dec 2009)

"There's room for everyone. There's room for pop country, for 'rock & roll' country, for stone-cold country, and everything in-between. Great music is great music." — Miranda Lambert, quoted by Russell Hall in "Miranda Lambert's Revolution," BMI MusicWorld (received Dec 2009)

"I definitely still have ... angst but I also wrote some songs that say it's okay to love, now. I'm happy in my life, and it's a bit easier to write happy songs when you are actually happy." — Miranda Lambert, quoted by Russell Hall in "Miranda Lambert's Revolution," BMI MusicWorld (received Dec 2009)

"But the only rhyme he could summon for 'out' was 'sauerkraut,' which lacked poetic glory. He let it go. The right line would come in time. That was the thing about poetry. It crept up through the draws and coulees of the brain." — Annie Proulx, That Old Ace in the Hole

"More and more creative people find they do their best work when they're feeling healthy and secure. We know writers who no longer need to be drunk or in agony in order to shed the numbness of their daily routine and tap into the full powers of their imagination. We have filmmaker friends whose best work flows not from the depths of alienated self-doubt but rather from the heights of well-earned bliss. Singer-songwriter P.J. Harvey is the patron saint of this new breed. 'When I'm contented, I'm more open to receiving a lot of inspiration," she has testified. "I'm most creative when I feel safe and happy.'" — Rob Brezsny, PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

"Anything too stupid to be said is sung." — Voltaire, from Good Earth tea bag tag

"Be serious. Life hurts. Reflect what hurts. I don't mean that you can't also be funny, or have fun, but at the end of the day, stories are about what you lose." — John Irving, quoted by Daniel Stashower in "Wrestling With Success / John Irving Pins Down His Role Models," AARP November&December 2009

"So much of what I do is personal experience. There's a bit of poetic license, but it's always something that happened to me—or somebody I know. It just makes a better song if there's some ring of truth to it.
"I try to write so the listener gets involved; 'Yeah, that happened to me. I know exactly how that feels.' Sometimes you accomodate them with room to get inside it, leave holes to allow for it. That truth... they pick up on it." — Guy Clark, quoted by Holly Gleason in "The Songs Still Ring True / Guy Clark," American Songwriter Sept / Oct 2009

"The images are largely from my own experience or stories I've been told. I always try to concern myself with the details in the lyric first. The details will take care of the mood, the theme, and the broader sense of the song. It's not enough, for instance, to tell the audience that a girl has beautiful eyes. They want to hear that she wears hornrimmed glasses and too much eyeliner." — Trapper Haskins, " Amateur Lyric Contest Entrant, American Songwriter Sept / Oct 2009

"Songwriting is like ... being possessed. You try to go to sleep but the song won't let you." — John Lennon, answer to the Celebrity Cipher, The Denver Post, July 30, 2009

"If you're going to be a songwriter, you have to believe that every minuscule slight has importance. You have to believe that every little loss that you've had is meaningful and can, therefore, be broadcast out in the world and be exaggerated and amplified into a song. There's a trick at work, and once you recognize it, you can either use it or it can also end your writing career. I've seen people lose their ego. They've become much more mature and developed as humans, and are unable to write from a first-person perspective. For me, I've long realized that any individual is about as important as an ant colony on a hill in West Texas. I didn't have any problem with my ego dissolving over time, as it naturally should, unless you're a sociopath or a megalomaniac." — John Vanderslice, quoted by Matt Fink in "Portraits / John Vanderslice on track," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"I spent a fair amount of time editing the lyrics and allowing the song to kind of evolve. … anytime there’s anything worthwhile, it certainly ‘feels’ like it happened on the spur of the moment, but it’s a composite of lots of spurs of the moment, hopefully. And over time, you catch up with those, and then you have a full set of lyrics you’ve thought of and you feel comfortable singing." — Jeff Tweedy, quoted in "Wilco: the Interview," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"…music seems to have an ability—beyond any other art forms, in my opinion—to stir up emotional memories. And, I guess, literal memories. The best I can get at it over the years, is that music exists to help people remember emotions. Not necessarily the emotions that are contained within the song itself, but most accurately the emotions that are contained within people that they have trouble getting to. And songs are functional in that way, in a lot of cases. And music, handed down over many, many years, helps people remember, not necessarily what happened, but what people felt like when things happened. And it has an ability to communicate over generations, the idea that we’re not that different." — Jeff Tweedy, quoted in "Wilco: the Interview," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"I like to make up songs. And it’s my opinion that all these songs mean a lot to me, but that doesn’t mean I think everything needs to leave the house." — Todd Snider, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Todd Snider / Man with a Plan," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"If [a song] holds back the storyline, stalls the plot, your audience will reject it." — Dorothy Fields, quoted by Paul Zollo in "American Icons / Dorothy Fields," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"A song doesn’t just come on. I’ve always had to tease it out, squeeze it out. ‘No thesaurus can give you those words, no rhyming dictionary. They must happen out of you." — Dorothy Fields, quoted by Paul Zollo in "American Icons / Dorothy Fields," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"Fearlessness, absolutely. Discipline. You also need open-minded creativeness that lets everything in. You never want to lose a word or a phrase, yet every one should count. Always the best language possible. And, finally, knowing when to leave it alone. Stop when it’s done." — Ben Harper, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Role Models / Ben Harper," American Songwriter July / August 2009

"…especially on Broadway, composers and lyricists fretted over their creations, obsessed over every rhyme, every critical chord or interval. The stakes were so high. On Broadway, people were watching and judging, especially newspaper critics who knew a thousand ways to slice and dice a songwriter for the entertainment of hundreds of thousands of faithful readers. There was no anonymity for the Broadway songwriter. Even the best could find themselves stripped naked the morning after by the tastemakers and their readers." — Michael Kosser, "Street Smarts / Can Today’s Songwriters Write Songs?" American Songwriter May / June 2009

"Glen Campbell told me, ‘Stay out of the way of a good song.’ I think it’s true. If a song’s good, don’t overdo it." — Chris Isaak, quoted by Evan Schlansky in "Turntable / Chris Isaak on Record," American Songwriter May / June 2009

"It seems like songwriting for most songwriters is only one season in their life, a five or ten year period. For me, I don’t worry about it, but I know there might come a day when I can’t write anymore, or don’t have good song ideas or the fire to do it anymore." — Rodney Clawson, quoted by Ken Beck in "Row Writers / Tales from Country Hitmakers," American Songwriter May / June 2009

"I think if you sing a song for the first time to your mom and dad, or your friends, and they go, ‘That’s pretty cool’—if you’re playing at the local bar somewhere, or the coffee shop, singing songs, or if you have a gig somewhere and you’re singing your own songs, I think that’s some version of making it. … It’s not just about having commercial success; it’s about having a great life." — Dierks Bentley, quoted by Craig Shelburne in "Dierks Bentley / Can You Feel Me?," American Songwriter May / June 2009

"Anyone involved with songwriting will testify to the fact that each song, no matter how pure or from the heart, has its own story, its own peculiar way of getting written." — Carl Sigman, quoted by Paul Zollo in "American Icons / Carl Sigman," American Songwriter May / June 2009

"I don’t think I have any right to say I belong to that [Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan tradition]. I think that’s something that eventually maybe you get inducted into. I’m just experimenting." — Justin Townes Earle, quoted by Matt Fink in "Role Models / Justin Townes Earle," American Songwriter May / June 2009

"...there was no single moment when I thought, Aha! What a great idea! Rather there was a slow and gradual accumulation of numerous small ideas." — Diane Setterfield, "A Conversation with Diane Setterfield" in "The Thirteenth Tale"

"At the time I begin writing a novel, the last thing I want to do is follow a plot outline. To know too much at the start takes the pleasure out of discovering what the book is about." — Elmore Leonard, "Making It Up as I Go Along," AARP The Magazine, July & August, 2009

"It might be a meaningless moment, but those sparks that ignite the song.... It's mystical maybe, those magic moments. And to make music for a living, to perform these songs over and over, you have to safeguard those sparks. If you can do that, they'll last a lot longer..." — M. Ward, quoted by Holly Gleason in "M. Ward Making It Up As He Goes," American Songwriter March / April 2009

"I like using concrete imagery, but I don't feel that's what it's about. It's a combination of concrete and abstract to take the listener somewhere they know better than you. That's true for music, seeing a painting, watching a movie... it's all some kind of an escape." — M. Ward, quoted by Holly Gleason in "M. Ward Making It Up As He Goes," American Songwriter March / April 2009

"If I'm writing... even a piece of a song... I write it down. If it still resonates six months down the line, a year, even five, those are the ones you put in your bag and you take to the studio. You come to realize, the ones that don't make it, they were only meant to live for that moment in your notebook or on the 4-track—and plenty of songs never get any farther than the 4-track." — M. Ward, quoted by Holly Gleason in "M. Ward Making It Up As He Goes," American Songwriter March / April 2009

"It was Rick's [Rubin] idea to have the 'Brooklyn' verse repeat. It already was a story, but having that made it a folk song. Instead of this rambling march of verses, Rick understands that music needs hooks. You need that repeated chorus, that everyone can sing along to." — Scott Avett quoted by Brian T. Atkinson in "The Avett Brothers / Life and Art, Ambition and Vision," American Songwriter March / April 2009

"I had a dream that Louis Armstrong was playing the 'Swept Away' melody. I have no idea where it came from. But Louis Armstrong was playing it and singing the song to me. I woke up—it's a borrowed melody no doubt—and wrote it down. If I hear a song and I choose not to put it down, that's me neglecting to accept that song. I think there's a very spiritual and godly-type ting that happens, and it happens to way more people than we know. It's just that very few of us choose to engage it." — Scott Avett quoted by Brian T. Atkinson in "The Avett Brothers / Life and Art, Ambition and Vision," American Songwriter March / April 2009

"...I had a lot of time to myself, and I would listen to a lot of music, mostly music that I knew fairly well and had a relationship with. And I'd think, well, what is it that I've never been able to do that this person or people are able to do with this song? Why haven't I been able to do it, and what can they do that I wish I could do? And then I'd try to do that. I'd start each day getting into the songs, and I'd think about how I might get closer to this music that I love, but haven't been able to make before." — Bonnie 'Prince' Billy quoted by Matt Fink in "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy / Now He Sees a Darkness (Again)," American Songwriter March / April 2009

"You can find me in the melodies, the chord progressions, the song style and structure. The lyrical places you find me most are in the lyrics that 'show' more than 'tell.' I like to describe what the listener is seeing and let them make up the middle rather than telling them." — Kristian Bush, quoted by Jewly Hight, "Turning Stories into Songs / Sugarland's Kristian Bush," BMI Musicworld, Winter 2008-2009

"...my biggest lesson ... was to try and create narrators that were believable. ...[so] the listener becomes really invested in the story or the song." — Kristian Bush, quoted by Jewly Hight, "Turning Stories into Songs / Sugarland's Kristian Bush," BMI Musicworld, Winter 2008-2009

"I don't think I ever saw Hank with anybody, say, 'Let's go write a song.' One Sunday morning we left Nashville to go to Birmingham to do a matinee and a night, and he said, 'Hand me that tablet up there.' And he wrote down, 'Hey, good lookin', what you got cookin'' and before we got to Birmingham it was finished." — Don Helms, quoted by Michael Kosser in "And Some Steel Guitar! Don Helms and the Songwriting of Hank Williams," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"My favorite song he ever wrote was 'Cold Cold Heart.' If you think about it, the lyric to 'Cold Cold Heart,' see how many two syllable words are in that song. Very, very few. ... Verses and the choruses have very few two syllable words. 'I tried so hard my dear to show that you're my everything.' One three-syllable word." — Don Helms, quoted by Michael Kosser in "And Some Steel Guitar! Don Helms and the Songwriting of Hank Williams," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"The melodies were melodies that anybody could sing or hum or whistle. And the words were just about that simple. I think the stories Hank told in his song fit so many people. Nearly everybody in the audience acted as if Hank were singin' to them alone." — Don Helms, quoted by Michael Kosser in "And Some Steel Guitar! Don Helms and the Songwriting of Hank Williams," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"I think the best pop music writers are the ones that can communicate complex emotional things in very simplistic terms, and in a very direct way, that gets across in the restricted format of a pop song. You don't have 86 words. You've got four words, and in those four words, every word has to count...you've got the added restrictions that they have to rhyme, too, for the most part, and you've got to be able to sing them. So you have words that have to be able to roll off the tongue and be sung, they have to somewhat rhyme or at least have a rhyme scheme, and they they have to say something—all in a very, very short period of time. To me, that's the mark of a good pop song." — John Oates, quoted by Ken Sharp in "Soul Survivors Hall and Oates," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"When you have that first flash of what you think is going to be a great idea—from the mouth, from the hands—that's an amazing feeling. I don't think anything's quite as good as that." — Daryl Hall, quoted by Ken Sharp in "Soul Survivors Hall and Oates," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"There's a lot of craft in songwriting. The divine inspiration is when the idea comes. It may be a riff. It may be a word. It may be a phrase. It may be a title. Sometimes, in the best of both worlds, that divine inspiration extends through the whole song. I've literally sat down and written a song from beginning to end, almost complete lyrics and everything without ever stopping...in two minutes. The chorus of 'She's Gone' was like that.." — John Oates, quoted by Ken Sharp in "Soul Survivors Hall and Oates," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"I do not havea hook-book or rhyming dictionary. I do not know where the ideas come from. Some of those lines come through me. I tell the co-writers, 'That's God-given.' I do not have a book of lines. Sometimes when I am going to sleep and get an idea I write it down, but usually do not go back to them. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a gospel song—had the idea before going to sleep one night. I wrote the song a couple of days later without the notes that I had written. ... Those ideas were in the song, but I did not use ...the notes on the songs. When you are going to sleep, your mind relaxes and those lyrics or ideas come into your mind. You'd better write them down." — Hank Cochran, quoted by Doak Turner in "Humble Captain Hank Cochran," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"I was intently listening to the lines in the movie, and the woman in the movie said something, 'How do I look?' The guy replies, 'You look like you could make the world go away.' I grabbed my date's hand and she asked,'Where are you going, the movie ain't over.' and I said, 'The hell in ain't' (sic) come on let's go'! (sic) .... So I drug her out and we got in the car and I started to write the song and got my guitar out as soon as we got to my apartment. I thought I had a good one. I told my publisher ... the next day.... He told me to play the song for him. He looked at me and said he thought it is the worst song that I had ever written. I told him, 'Everyone wants to make the world go away and get it off their shoulders.'
"I knew I was right and he was wrong. He told me I had proved him wrong before and I was determined to do it again. ... I got it cut in a week by a girl named Timi Yero [a minor pop hit] and then by Ray Price [a No. 1 song]." — Hank Cochran, quoted by Doak Turner in "Humble Captain Hank Cochran," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"Not too many [songwriters], when they write songs go for broke. When someone does who's really good, it's astonishing. There's a reason a three-minute song can devastate you, or make you get up and dance, stop what you're doing and go, 'What is that?' It just hits you. And it's a very potent thing you're playing around with." — Lou Reed, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Lou Reed Transformed," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"You have to visualize a really vivid, very quick [truth] where you can feel the attitude of the person you're singing about. It's very 3-D. You have to be able to picture it. For me, the red Porsche hopped over the curb and ran over the small dog. That's real quick. There you go. You're a hard person to flame, standing over the pizza oven...
"We can do this all day. One of them will work. There'll be another one...on a good day.
"Used to [write them down]. Then I just stopped. They don't come back, either. That's what's really strange. I know if I don't write it down, gone forever. So I listen to in my head for me. They go wherever they go." — Lou Reed, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Lou Reed Transformed," American Songwriter, January/February 2009

"He felt himself in suspension between the two worlds, the warm, neat civilization behind his back, the cool, dark mystery outside. We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words." — John Fowles, "The French Lieutenant's Woman"

"I'm always writing ideas down and then I stick 'em in my pocket and put 'em in that folder so I don't lose them. Like, somebody might say something, and I'll go, oh that's a good line, and that goes in the folder, too. It's kind of an ongoing process for me." — Lucinda Williams, quoted by Evan Schlansky iin "turntable / Portraits / Lucinda Williams on Record," American Songwriter, November / December, 2008

"...if you get a song right for its usage at the time, it can be useful to others. ...Those songs are more friendly to other artists looking for material." — Rodney Crowell. quoted by Peter Cooper in "Rodney Crowell / Closer to Heaven," American Songwriter, November / December, 2008

"Every now and then I'll get seduced by the idea of money, and I'll take a stab at that...and I fall flat on my ass. I've never written a lasting song with that mindset. It doesn't work." — Rodney Crowell, quoted by Peter Cooper in "Rodney Crowell / Closer to Heaven," American Songwriter, November / December, 2008

"[Taylor] Swift seems to understand how a narrative song uses imagery to give us a glimpse into her state of mind, and to show how sharply she notices the world." — Edd Hurt, "Taylor Swift / Elevating Teen Dreams into Art," American Songwriter, November / December, 2008

"'If you get the code and the syncopation and the melody and the emotion just right, the words can absolutely bounce off the page. I love syncopation—the way you can take a chord structure and play it and lay a bunch of different melodies and lyrics on top of it. It's almost conversational." — Taylor Swift quoted by Edd Hurt in"Taylor Swift / Elevating Teen Dreams into Art," American Songwriter, November / December, 2008

Teacher: "Problem?"
Monty: "Um, yeah. Ms. Morton, I think I have writer's block..."
Teacher: "Billy Joel once said he thought time spent staring at a blank page was wasted time...until one day he realized it was just time he needed to get to his next idea."
Monty: "Great. Now I can't get 'Uptown Girl' our of my head." — Jim Meddick, "Monty," Rocky Mountain News, November 11, 2008

Danae: "So what do you want to be when you grow up, Kate?"
Kate: "A writer."
Danae: "Oh, good choice! You chould get a lot of guilt-mileage out of that!"
Kate: "Uh...what are you talking about, Danae?"
Danae: "Well...writers have an image of wallowing in boozy self-pity over a rotten childhood...so when you tell daddy you want to be a writer, he'll think it's because he's been a bad parent...then treat you like a princess!!"
Kate: "Oh, dear...I never thought of that *SIGH* I can't do that to daddy / Maybe I'll just tell him I want to be a cartoonist"
Danae: "Hmm...I don't think he'll believe you're that pathetic..." — Wiley, "Non Sequitur," Rocky Mountain News, Oct. 19, 2008

"It's not that we're sad all the time. It's just that neither of us sits down and writes a song just for the sake of writing. Something has to hit me pretty hard for me to write about it, and usually when something affects me strongly enough, it's a negative encounter." — Hardy Morris, quoted by Evan Rytlewski in "turntable portraits / Dead Confederate on the Horizon," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"...I had been writing songs in that Southern rock tradition, making up stories or using composite characters, but Brantley [Senn] started writing these songs that were completely honest, completely un-fabricated. I started trying that, and sure enough, the songs that were more direct were so much better." — Hardy Morris, quoted by Evan Rytlewski in "turntable portraits / Dead Confederate on the Horizon," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"I enjoy writing songs that could have been written before [my time]. When I feel like I'm tapping into a deep vein in the body of American music, it gives me strength as a writer, like I'm dipping my pen into a deep ink well. That's the folk music tradition. Like Pete Seeger said, 'Everyone's a link in the chain.' It's a strong chain, so rely on it. ... I believe it takes all those great songs in the past to make your song even a little bit good." — Ketch Secor, quoted by Geoffrey Himes in "Old Crow Medicine Show Strengthens the Chain," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"Though Medicine Show is now based in Nashville, they still write songs about the people they knew when they lived up in the mountains: the meth cookers, barbeque chefs, bike gangs, chain gangs, hungry babies, street whores, train tramps, truck drivers, ex-lovers and panhandlers. Old Crow tries to document these lives without romanticizing them. When [Ketch] Secor sings, 'Methamphetamin,' he may explain the reasons for taking up the trade...but he's also blunt about the damage done....." — Geoffrey Himes, "Old Crow Medicine Show Strengthens the Chain," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"I think it is good for people who are incarcerated or who are bound up one way or the other—people like Lily Kimball and all the prostitues of Memphis. This gal, she needs some wings, and a good song can make that happen." — Ketch Secor, quoted by Geoffrey Himes in "Old Crow Medicine Show Strengthens the Chain," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"Write great songs from the heart and get a compelling live show together." — Terry McBride, co-founder of Nettwerk, quoted by Brian T. Atkinson in "Nettwerk More Than a Major," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"'While I was writing these songs,' [Jackson] Browne said in 1987 of Lives in the Balance, 'I wanted to be careful not to harangue people. I wanted to talk about these things in a way that was from the heart, an not put people off, because people are uncomfortable with political songs and talk because it implies they have to do something, or should.'" — Holly Gleason, "Jackson Browne Summoning a Sky Blue and Black," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"So it's not really whether you talk about politics, but how well were you able to do it. Peter Gabriel and Sting get away with it...U2...the examples are there, of people being able to carry these subjects in the music, and the audience is absolutely able to embrace subjects that aren't just the stuff they already know about. And they're actually able to learn stuff." — Jackson Brown, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Jackson Browne Summoning a Sky Blue and Black," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

"Working from a realm of questioning rather than finger pointing, [Jackson] Browne has elevated the notion of the gentle tug or soft reveal to leave haunting realizations in his listeners' consciousness." — Holly Gleason, "Jackson Browne Summoning a Sky Blue and Black," American Songwriter, September/October 2008

Johnny (sung): "We're celebrating Christmas in August / Little Johnny ain't gonna last 'til December / We're settin' up the Christmas tree and it's not even Labor Day..."
Johnny (spoken): "Boy, is it just me, or does that kind of music really stir the soul?"
Heart: "I'm pretty sure it's just you." — Mark Tatulli, "Heart of the City," The Denver Post, August 24, 2008

"Funny how song writers can squeeze a novel into a few verses. I suppose that's why poets are the ones who make us feel what we can't say." — Patrick Bone Patrick Bone: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

Hillary: "This is the summer that will feed my soul and define my creative endeavors. This is the summer that will inspire all my art!"
Sally: "This is the summer you all but wasted on video games and naps."
Hillary: "And I'll harness that regret into my future songwriting!" — Francesco Marciuliano, "Sally Forth," The Denver Post, August 3 2008

"The business has really changed, but the classics stay with us. Singing songs live to real people, not just music people, I rediscovered the desire to write a song that moved real people, not just a song that could make an industry professional believe radio might play it.
"I think it's hard as hell to write a song that moves real people, but it's worth trying. If we can't do that, the least we can do is try to write a song that moves us, and let fate take care of the rest." — Michael Kosser, "Street Smarts / Facing an Audience: A Whole Other Perspective," American Songwriter, July / August 2008

"All the characters on the album are inside me, though none are me. They are sides of me or who I was." — David Berman, quoted by Evan Rytlewski in "Portraits / Carry on Silver Jews," American Songwriter, July / August 2008

"I find that I end up liking songs if I really have an idea of something I wat to write about—some problem in my life or something I want to work through; if I don't have something like that at the root of the song, then I think I end up not caring about it as much. I gravitate towards some kind of concept or idea or situation that I want to write about. Very often I have to write, rewrite and come at it from an opposite angle...and I end up writing the opposite song that I thought I was going to write." — Rivers Cuomo quoted by Jim Derogatis in "Weezer! Heart Songs / The Best of Nerd-Rock," American Songwriter, July / August 2008

"Country music turns the stuff we say every day into a soundtrack...taking an ordinary working man like me into that rough, happy country of longnecks and short tales." — Jay Heinrichs, "From The Editor," Spirit June 2008

"Country music clearly has a way with words, telling stories that play like mini movies in the back of your mind. Unlike much modern pop, the words come first. And the singing, even in a deeply Southern accent, is well enunciated, which is encouraging if you're a lyrics-lover like me." — Elaine n, "The Hits Start Here," Spirit June 2008

"COLLABORATION is a discomforting word. Writing, it is generally acknowledged, is an individual sport. You sweat even the small stuff solo, measuring your personal progress from draft to draft. Even in country music, Kris Kristofferson not only wrote alone a lot, but evoked the loner to great effect in songs....In Nashville's contemporary country music culture, however, you work as a team. It's called 'cowriting,' and it's how songwriters join forces for greater creative and commercial good." — Elaine Glusac, "The Hits Start Here," Spirit June 2008

"...cowriting is very personal. A great song is an honest song, so you have to be able to open up to the person in the room. It's like a blind date. I know in the first five minutes if it's gonna be weird." — Liz Rose, quoted by Elaine Glusac in "The Hits Start Here," Spirit June 2008

"Songs ... are only simple on the outside, typically verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Add a hook, which can be musical ... or lyrical.... But songs live or die on their ability to hit some deeper chord. Then they work, they're a lot more than pick-ups and whiskey; they're about the meaning of life. As Jeffrey Steel, another successful Nashville songwriter, put it, 'Country music cares about the big themes that have been around forever.'" — Elaine Glusac, "The Hits Start Here," Spirit June 2008

"Like poems, the best country songs are short and powerful. When you've got so few words to deliver the emotional punch, each word must be laden with meaning." — Elaine Glusac, "The Hits Start Here," Spirit June 2008

"Much like screenwriters or playwrights, songwriters also talk about character and backstory. They may develop a life history for a fictional character that motivates his every move and makes the song believable. And stories, they say, are everywhere. It's just a matter of listening for them." — Elaine Glusac, "The Hits Start Here," Spirit June 2008

"I can't write from the subconscious actually, because a lot of the time when I co-write with other people, I'm writing for them as opposed to for myself. When it comes to lyrics, I tend to want to give them their voice, since it's most likely going to be on their record, or somebody else's record. And I find for more commerial-style music, people want simplicity, less vagueness, and less space to fill between the lines, so to speak. So I can't be quite as ethereal and mystical." — Gary Louris, quoted by Evan Schlansky's in "Q&A / Flying Solo with Gary Louris," American Songwriter, May / June 2008

"The primary thing I've got going for me is just being me. Whether it's the singing or the stories, I'm just relaying what I see and experience in the only way I can. ... Writing Hayes Carll songs...there's no one else doing that. I think I take a common experience and maybe put something a little different on it, 'cause I am all over the place. ... Move towards what you like and who you are...and you're gonna be fine." — Hayes Carll, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Hayes Carll gets his gig," American Songwriter, May / June 2008

"Through a meticulous curriculum of conversational exposition, breakdown and reconstruction of the writing process, interactive exercises and other devices [Andrea] Stolpe makes the same point about creating lyrics that Julia Child did about gormet cooking: Crafting words, like conjuring coq au vin, is more science than art.... In the end, while applauding any method that can elevate musical discourse, one hopes that something more than a willingness to follow someone else's lesson plan defines genius in writing." — Robert L. Doer-Shuk, "Reviews further reading / 'Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Story-telling' by Andrea Stople (Berklee Press), American Songwriter, May / June 2008

"Kristofferson's version was first-rate, but the song truly came to life once country veteran Ray Price wrapped his lush pipes around it. ... 'For the Good Times' has been recorded by everyone from Kenny Rogers to Irma Thomas. However, aside from a gorgeous, wildly reinterpreted version by soul star Al Green, most of these cover renditions have failed from an artistic standpoint. It is tempting to consider why, since the ingredients—melody, evocative lyrics—are all there. ...[Hal Bynum] hit upon something when he marveled at how Price phrased 'in a manner that forced the listener to pay attention to the words of the song' and 'broke the notes down into patterns of human speech.'" — David Freeland, "Behind the Song / 'For the Good Times' written by Kris Kristofferson, American Songwriter, May / June 2008

"Ezra Pound believed that each line was a minor component of the poem and must be tested for its authority and rightful place. He advocated a line-by-line examination; after the poet is certain that he has accomplished his purpose, he should move to the top of the poem and remove the first line. If the music or meaning of the poem isn't altered, that line has no place and must be deleted. Then the weight of the second line is judged, and again, if it doesn't alter the music or meaning, it has no place. Line by line, the poem is trimmed of excess fat so its essence is distilled." —Keith Flynn, "Poetry / Poetry That Swings / Words Like Music," Writer's Digest, August 2007

"Every story we remember is a novel. Novels make things more universal." — Dave Eggers, quoted by Mary Curran-Hackett, "Gone Far," Writer's Digest, August 2007

"If you think of each word as a note, then language is like a piano, and the poet has a medium, just as the painter has his variety of colors and the sculptor the physical presence of wood or stone. One the poet's keyboard, each word is also a breath inside the reader and stands for something that isn't physically present." —Keith Flynn, "Poetry / Poetry That Swings / Words Like Music," Writer's Digest, August 2007

"...starting is hard so I really need to give myself permission to do a bad job. I always give myself leave to write total nonsense for as long as I need to release the pressure, because it's really hard to start if you feel like that first sentence you write has to actually mean something." — Ann Brashares, quoted by Kara Gebhart Uhl, "The WD Interview: Ann Brashares / One Leg at a Time," Writer's Digest, August 2007

"There are going to be moments of deep, deep doubts, and you have to have faith that your initial idea was good and just muddle through." — Ann Brashares, quoted by Kara Gebhart Uhl, "The WD Interview: Ann Brashares / One Leg at a Time," Writer's Digest, August 2007

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves." — Gilbert Highet, Writer's Digest, August 2007

"...everyone has his own particular talent, niche and interests. Which isn't to say that you shouldn't try new genres or styles or explore forms other than the ones you're most comfortable with. But you should be willing to recognize that when writers try to make themselves into something they aren't or, more important, don't want to be ... they aren't going to be doing their best work." — Kevin Alexander, "This Writer's Life / The Road More or Less Traveled," Writer's Digest, August 2007

"Whether your characters journey daily to a distant moon or just down the street to the corner bar, what matters to the reader is the singular event that distinguishes one such voyage from all the others and makes for a story worth telling." — Peter Selgin, "Errors of Substance," The Writer, September 2007

"How to avoid cliche at the root of conception? Practice sincerity. If we've come by ... material honestly, through our own personal experience or imagination, we may rightly claim it as our own. ... The way to make material your own is to look for it in yourself. ... It should be a story that only you can tell, as only you can tell it." — Peter Selgin, "Errors of Substance," The Writer, September 2007

"Story, a complex extension of language use, is most powerful when it slips past emotional defenses into the primal heart of the reader. When character emotion drives a story, the story evokes reader emotion much like a child's emotion evokes a parent's emotion." — Eric J. Witchey, "Engage Your Reader / Get the Emotion into your fiction," The Writer, September 2007

"Few writers achieve literary magic with their first drafts. Ernest Hemingway once told an interviewer, 'I rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.' Award-winning poet Donald Hall has been known to take a single poem through 150 drafts before he considers it publishable. The 'magic' of writing often emerges during the editorial process." — [ed. note: I apologize for failing to attribute this quote to it's source article], The Writer, September 2007

"I want to examine the writing process and not the finished product, because the most essential fact about revision is this: You must have something to revise. The first draft. ... Writing a first draft should be easy because, in a sense, you can't get it wrong. You are bringing something completely new and strange into the world, something that did not exist before. You have nothing to prove in the first draft, nothing to defend, everything to imagine. And the first draft is yours alone; no one else sees it. You are not writing for an audience. Not yet. You write the draft in order to read what you have written and to determine what you still have to say." — John Dufresne, "From the Writer Archive / Write a first draft to Find Your Story," The Writer, September 2007

"The novice I'm thinking of is the person who claims to have dozens of brilliant, compelling ideas for stories. He can describe his story to you in elaborate detail; it's often about his own experiences. He can articulate theme, explain how he'll go about revealing character, lay in symbols, build tension. Be he never gets the story written, though he feels and urgency to do so. Often it is this very urgency that aborts the narrative. He wants to dodge the drafting process and write the story immediately. He doesn't know ... that the story does not exist before the act of writing, that it emerges through the flow of images and the rhythm of words. He fails to understand that while life may be spontaneous, art is not.
"And so he makes mistakes. He sets unrealistic goals for what he may not acknowledge to be, but is in fact, the first draft. He undermines his effort by holding unrealistic expectations of his own imaginative and organizing powers. ... What had seemed like an exciting and noble undertaking now seems impossible." — John Dufresne, "From the Writer Archive / Write a first draft to Find Your Story," The Writer, September 2007

"Every sentence has its drumbeat. rhythm is one of the most powerful dimensions of language: it separates tribes, united families, soothes children, and shocks us into new awarenesses. Every good writer, marching to his or her own drumbeat, marks out a vibrational field as home territory. The cadences of our sentences carry echos of ancestry and influence as surely as the double helix that orchstrates the life of the body." — Marily Chandler McEntyre, "Off the Cuff / Staying in touch with life's rhythms," The Writer, September 2007

"Something like going to get the newspaper can increase your writing efficiency by taking you away from the material. When I'm doing other things, writing stuff will be swirling around in my head, and sometimes I'll see a new way into the material." — Nathaniel Philbrick, quoted by Chuck Leddy in "Interview / Nathaniel Philbrick on the pleasures and challenges of Narrative History," The Writer, September 2007

"People think I live here on Nantucket and just gaze at the ocean, getting my inspiration. Not so. I work in my basement and gaze out onto a single window that shows me a cement wall. This is a profession, and it's important to have professionalism about the writing." — Nathaniel Philbrick, quoted by Chuck Leddy in "Interview / Nathaniel Philbrick on the pleasures and challenges of Narrative History," The Writer, September 2007

"Enthusiasm is big. When I write a book, it's a three-year commitment. Toward the end, I'm writing seven days a week, and it's exhausting but thrilling. The only hope is to have some real enthusiasm for the book. ... Above all, you need some strong emotional or personal connection to your material." — Nathaniel Philbrick, quoted by Chuck Leddy in "Interview / Nathaniel Philbrick on the pleasures and challenges of Narrative History," The Writer, September 2007

"Writing is a way I ground myself, what keeps me sane. Writing is the way I try to make sense of my life, try to find meaning in accident, reasons why what happens happens.... Sometimes just holding a pen in my hand and writing milk butter eggs sugar calms me. Truth is what I'm ultimately after—truth or clarity. ... Writing ... is a way to figure out who you used to be and how you got to be who you are." — Abigail Thomas, "Everyone Has a Story to Tell," AARP July&August 2008

"...half of writing is deciding what to leave out. Learning what to leave out is not the same thing as putting in only what's important. Sometimes it's what you're not saying that gives a piece its shape." — Abigail Thomas, "Everyone Has a Story to Tell," AARP July&August 2008

"A lot of writing consists of waiting around for the aquarium to settle so you can see the fish. Walking around muttering seems to hasten the process. Taking public transportation nowhere helps. Looking out the bus window lets the back of your mind move forward. Don't listen to anything but natural sounds. Do look at anything you have to turn on. This is about the pleasure of silence. This is not meditating; this is reaquainting yourself with yourself. Something interesting might enter your head if you let it alone." — Abigail Thomas, "Everyone Has a Story to Tell," AARP July&August 2008

"I say nobody works harder than the songwriter. On some level, it's a 24/7 job. Sometimes the writer is simply being alone and quiet so the mind can wander. Other times she is entering thoughts into some kind of recorder whether it's her own voice mail or a pocket digital recorder for use later in the construction of the song. Or... maybe scribbling on any piece of paper that's available even a napkin so as not to lose the thought that was just gifted." — Bob Cantonwine, "The Song," Intermountain Acoustic Musician, May 2008

"Then there's the the music part...working on melody, harmonies, chord progressions and patterns, etc. To be sure, it's an understatement to say that the making up or writing of a song is a process!" — Bob Cantonwine, "The Song," Intermountain Acoustic Musician, May 2008

"So how long does it take to write a song? Beth Nielsen Chapman, one of the most prolific songwriters or our time, shared a couple of examples relating to this. her song, Child Again took her 6 years to write while another of hers, Strong Enough to Bend which because a #1 hit thanks to Tanya Tucker, was written in 20 minutes." — Bob Cantonwine, "The Song," Intermountain Acoustic Musician, May 2008

"...all songs are already perfectly written. It is the writer's job to find it and get it on paper." — Beth Nielsen Chapman, as paraphrased by Bob Cantonwine in "The Song," Intermountain Acoustic Musician, May 2008

"The singer-songwriters are perhaps the bravest of the songwriters as they put themselves out in a way that doesn't allow for modesty, privacy, or in some cases, humility as they present to all who will listen their questions, emotions, thier humor, and their love life (good or bad...blissful or miserable). And we ask them to do it time and time again as they validate us and our similar questions, emotions, humor and love life. It is a daunting task that some writers will tell you is not a choice. The songs just keep coming through them and they have to process them and get them ready for gifting." — Bob Cantonwine, "The Song," Intermountain Acoustic Musician, May 2008

"Sometimes the sudden alteration in point of view depends on the ambiguity of the language.
"I suspect that no language is utterly clear and straightforward; I suspect that no language can be. ...I strongly suspect that of all languages English lends itself the most easily to ... ambiguities of word and phrase. It has the largest vocabulary of any language, and a vocabulary, moreover, drawn from the most various sources.
"The result is that more games can be played with it than with any other language, and to anyone who loves English — who truly loves it — who loves the intricacies of its countless words and phrases and all its ridiculous and unruly idioms, those games represent the purest fun one can have with nonmusical sounds." — From "Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor"

"When I began writing, it was a cosmic thing: Inspiration! Wham! Short spurts of time when I felt out of touch with reality, temporarily insane and the result: a song!" — Ann Reed, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"Songwriting is an art. It is also a craft. The inspiration still strikes, but after that 'timeless time,' when every word and idea seems to pour out faster than you can write them down, is when the craft becomes important. That is the time to listen critically. Is this saying exactly what I want it to say? Is this how I wanted to say it?
"This is also an execellent time to ask this question: Did I get lazy and go for a quick rhyme?" — Ann Reed, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"What's interesting about songs where the writer is genuinely in love with words is that it's easy to read the lyrics like a poem." — Ann Reed, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"Writing a song isn't that hard. Writing a good song is difficult. Let's face it, we're faced with taking a complex feeling or event, making words rhyme and saying exactly what we want them to say in a short amount of time. ...the primary reason for keeping it short and to the point is to be certain that you're not boring your audience." — Ann Reed, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"Besides my fast and slooow songs, I further divide my work into three main song types: the ballad or story song, the variation on a theme (saying the same thing over and over and over again) song, and the weird song. It's important to have weird songs, but I find that a little weirdness goes a long way." — David Massengill, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"I admire the ballad form most of all. Stories are irresistible. I've always had a passion for stories, the endings being of particular importance." — David Massengill, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"...stories were primarily verbal to begin with. Before there were cave paintings, stories were told over generations. We tell each other thousands of stories in the course of everday life." — David Massengill, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"I use three main tools in writing: instinct, hard work and dumb luck. Dumb luck is missing a train and, while you wait for the next one, writing a key word, line or verse. When this happens often enough you begin to believe in Fate." — David Massengill, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"I give myself the luxury of time in shaping a song. It's very common for me to work three months or more on a single song. Plotting takes time and effort, for there are many false turns. I fill up pages and pages with my mistakes, thereby eliminating them. Eventually a trail is broken through this mountain of mistakes. Sometimes it's as easy as putting eggs in a basket; other times it's like trying to pound a ton of sand into a diamond." — David Massengill, "Courting The Muse," in "Songwriting and the Creative Process" by Steve Gillette

"Songwriting is a craft. Writing good songs on a a consistent basis doesn not happen spontaneously. In fact, most of our best songwriters learned to write good songs by writing a lot of not so good ones. Education matters in songwriting, just as it matters for physicists, chemists, doctors, lawyers and MBAs. Education lays the foundation on which to build experience." — Michael Kosser, "Street Smarts / More Advice to A&R...AND Publishers," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"These days I keep a journal, so I'm constantly sketching down my thoughts, or lines that come to me...ideas for songs. And then when I have a moment to myself, I'll sit down with my guitar and open my journal, and start kind of massaging things together, and see if a song takes shape. Or sometimes, I'll just be hanging out with my guitar and come up with a chord progression or a lick, and that'll sort of sit around for a while waiting to marry itself to some words. So it's sort of haphazard and it's like...junk culture. I go around finding shiny objects and I glue them together [laughs]." — Ani DiFranco, quoted by Evan Schlanskyin "Ani DiFranco / A Joyful Girl," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"These days, I find I'm applying a little more patience to my process. If I look back on my work, I can see those songs I bailed on could have been better, that had those great two verses and then I kind of coasted from there. These days, if a song is giving me trouble, I put it aside and pick it up later, and keep doing that, for a year if I have to, until it takes shape." — Ani DiFranco, quoted by Evan Schlanskyin "Ani DiFranco / A Joyful Girl," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"...my writing just kind of exists out there in the air—it's all sort of intended as spoken, or sung, word. So, to commit them to the page...that way was kind of intimidating to me, yet intriguing, to try to reflect the rhythms and connotations and emotions that you can deliver, speaking-wise, on a page." — Ani DiFranco, quoted by Evan Schlanskyin "Ani DiFranco / A Joyful Girl," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"I noticed with older songs that I perform that I'm coming from a different place with them now...it mutates the vibe and even the meaning of the same words when you have a different spirit, if the person singing is different. I like that, to be able to sing an emotionally wrought song from a more centered place, or to sing an eager, youthful song from a more experienced place. It kind of colors the songs differently, and it keeps them fresh." — Ani DiFranco, quoted by Evan Schlanskyin "Ani DiFranco / A Joyful Girl," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"Lyrically, 'less words mean more' is a pretty good rule of thumb. Try to cut out the fat and get to the meat of what you're saying." — Chris Stapleton, quoted by 'Brian T. Atkinson in "The Steel Drivers / Growls and Grits," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"It's all too sad to be true, and that's the thing. [Stephin] Merritt purposefully drops pathetic characters into ridiculous situations, because, he says cooly, 'Drama is more entertaining than resolution.'" — Nicole Boddington, "The Magnetic Fields / Psycodandy Noise Solution," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"For me, a song doesn't really take flight until it has a lyric on it. ...Without a lyric that I'm happy with, it could be the greatest song ever melodically or arrangement-wise, but it doesn't have any resonance." — Ben Gibbard, quoted by John D. Luerssen in "Death Cab For Cutie Gets Analog in a Digital Age," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"I want to write songs with complete sentences. I almos have this obsession with short-changing words. I would never be so pretentious to say that my lyrics are poetry. ... Poems are poems. Song lyrics are for songs." — Ben Gibbard, quoted by John D. Luerssen in "Death Cab For Cutie Gets Analog in a Digital Age," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"...more times than not, it's a failed endeavor. You will fail more times than you succeed. But I think you need those failed endeavors." — Ben Gibbard, quoted by John D. Luerssen in "Death Cab For Cutie Gets Analog in a Digital Age," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"During our first few records, I would just kind of wait until I felt like writing. I got some pretty good songs that way, but I firmly believe that being a writer or artist in any capacity, you have to flex that muscle. You have to kind of go to work every day and do what you do. ...I am a professional songwriter and singer, and this is what I do for a living. I get paid to do this, and I should treat it as such. It is a job...and it's a difficult job. ... You have to go through crippling self-doubt, and once in a while, that perfect song comes and it is like the best day of your life. And then the next day it starts all over again." — Ben Gibbard, quoted by John D. Luerssen in "Death Cab For Cutie Gets Analog in a Digital Age," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"'Geometry Et Cetera' started with the chorus/hook, and that's sort of how most of these songs start. I find myself singing something to myself, and as long as I don't have access to a phone or computer, I can usually take an idea and get writing accomplished. ... Usually, I get inspiration from something that just happened in the quiet of the day...where I'm walking around a lake...or I'm on tour on a street in a town that I'm unfamiliar with. Or maybe I'll wake up with a song in my head that I can't identify...or I'll be in a car or on a long drive and starting to get sick of listening to public radio through the static" — Chris Walla, quoted by John D. Luerssen in "One on One with Walla," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"Paul Simon once said that a songwriter's supreme challenge was being complex and simple at the same time—writing songs with lasting depth that are also simple enough to be memorable. Jimmy Van Heusen was a master at this kind of song. His music was complex, with deeply rich chord changes any jazzman can embrace, but also possessed catchy, crystalline melodies of exceeding sing-ability. His songs were meant to be sung, not just listened to, and they were sung by the best, with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby at the top of that list." — Paul Zollo, "American Icons / Jimmy Van Heusen," American Songwriter March / April 2008

"The "Kumulipo" is an old Hawaiian prayer chant that poetically describes the creation of the world. The word literally means "beginning-in-deep-darkness." Here darkness doesn't connote gloom and evil. Rather, it's about the inscrutability of the embryonic state; the obscure chaos that reigns before germination." — Rob Brezsny, Pronoia

"I wanted to be a singer, of course, but there was something about the songwriting, then and now, that is the most important thing. It's how I express myself, how I express how I see things. When I see people struggling with emotions and feelings and don't know how to put it down, I'm able to do that. It's really like a therapy, and it's like a buddy and a friend. It's a way out of a lot of things." — Dolly Parton, quoted by Edd Hurt in "Dolly Parton / Queen of the Backwoods," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"In the early days, Porter [Wagoner] would not exactly scold me, but he's [sic] say, 'You're writing too many damn verses. You're makin' these songs too damn long.' And I'd say, 'Yeah, but I'm tellin' a story. I have a story to tell.' And he'd say, 'Well, you're not going to get it on the radio.' If I start writing a song, I'm writing it for a reason. People would say that I had to have two verses, and a chorus, and a bridge. I tried to learn that formula." — Dolly Parton, quoted by Edd Hurt in "Dolly Parton / Queen of the Backwoods," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"As a songwriter, you're allowed to write anything, and as a person, I am all colors in the rainbow. I've been through everything, you know, so I can write a positive song like 'Better Get to Livin'' because that's my attitude. But that doesn't mean I'm happy all the time. You can't be a deep and serious songwriter without feelings. You kinda have to live with your feelings out on your sleeve and get hurt more than most people. The fear I might get hurt means I might not be able to write another song." — Dolly Parton, quoted by Edd Hurt in "Dolly Parton / Queen of the Backwoods," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"Tom [Collins] was a great influence on me. He really pushed me...constantly demanded rewrites. And, as much as I despised them, it was the best thing that could have happened because he just wouldn't settle for less. It had to be right, and it had to be good." — Dean Dillon, quoted by Michael Kosser in "Dean Dillon / Putting Heart on Paper," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"I don't turn on the radio. I write songs for a living and I try to keep it at that. I don't understand why radio plays what it plays, but I can promise you this: The masses out there listening to country radio aren't hearing the top drawer stuff. To me, country music radio's become vanilla, chocolate and strawberry...I don't begrudge anybody makin' a living. Hell, I gotta make one myself. But if I thought that I had to write some of the stuff that I have heard at guitar pulls and stuff...if I thought I had to write that to make a living' I can promise you Michael, I'd quit and I'd go do something else. There has to be part of your heart on that piece of paper sometimes." — Dean Dillon, quoted by Michael Kosser in "Dean Dillon / Putting Heart on Paper," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"I knew a lot of chords, but they weren't the chords that came with the melody that came with the idea I had for the song. Melodies are simple things. If you see a train wreck, there's a melody. If you see a little daisy blowing in the breeze, there's a melody." — Tom T. Hall, quoted by Peter Cooper in "Tom T. Hall / Old Dogs, Children, Watermelon Wine and Other Stories," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"Some of those early songs like 'The Year That Clayton Delaney Died' and 'Homecoming' were written in a kind of zone. It was hard to get in there, and it was kind of a weird feeling coming out of that kind of trance. ... After I'd written the song, I was satisfied that I'd rounded up the emotions involved with that thing, so I could just have it in this one little page. I could just put it in a corner and go on to something else. But when I was writing those songs, I would put myself back in that place. In my mind, I was just a little barefoot kid back in Kentucky. I went back and wrote what I saw while I was there. ... I just tried to tell what happened and tried not to tell why. I didn't want to write a bunch of big allegories. I thought it was presumptuous to tell people that somehow I had some insight into right and wrong." — Tom T. Hall, quoted by Peter Cooper in "Tom T. Hall / Old Dogs, Children, Watermelon Wine and Other Stories," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"['If You Could Read My Mind'] was written during the collapse of [my] marriage.... It's a great song. No one has any gripes about it. I wondered what my wife and daughter might think. My daughter is the one who got me to correct 'The feelings that you lacked' to 'The feelings that we lacked' when we do it on stage. There could be feelings on both sides, and I should have done that in the first place, but the song was written in a bit of a hurry. I didn't get a chance to rewrite that one. You have to watch out for that stuff. You start writing those personal songs, and you get personal attachments. You've got to be careful, and I am. It's kind of restrictive in a way. During my first marriage, I could be more open about what I wrote, because I had fewer restrictions." — Gordon Lightfoot, quoted by Matt Fink in "Gordon Lightfoot / Sunrise to Sundown," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"There are many way [songwriting] works.... I collect a lot of scraps as I go through my day, wherever I am. I find myself either pulling on the side of the road as I'm driving and taking down a note, because of something I saw on the corner...and maybe even how I felt about it, because it might inspire a plot. Something will seem that important, even though it looks small. And then when I get back home, or to wherever I'm held up for the time, I'll develop it and see if it develops into a song.
"That's one method. And others...you just feel. It seems like a song begins to play through you. You just latch on to it and hold on to it, and it'll take you someplace. That's the inspirational way. Many times, just a hook-line will come—the hook, or even sometimes just the first line of it. And you can tell that this is the first line of a song. It sounds like, 'Yes, I know where I'd like to start going with it.' Then I'll see where it takes me." — Allen Toussaint, quoted by Bill Dahl in "Allen Toussaint / Musical Gumbo Man," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"[David] Raksin distinguished himself by writing the entire score [to the 1944 movie Laura] around a single haunting theme song—a use of melody in a score which has rarely been matched since—yet cunningly never used the melody in its entirety, which created a fleeting sense of musical yearning, connecting, as he said, 'the ephemeral girl and the interrupted melody.'" — Paul Zollo, "American Icons / David Raksin," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"[Raksin] worked for Alfred Hitchcock, about whom one of the most famous Raksin anecdotes was spoken. The legendary director declared he wanted no music at all for the oceanic Lifeboat, because he felt audiences would wonder where the music was coming from in the middle of the sea. Raksin said, 'Ask Hitch where the cameras are coming from.'" — Paul Zollo, "American Icons / David Raksin," American Songwriter, January / February, 2008

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures." — Henry Ward Beecher, answer to "Celebrity Cipher," Colorado Springs Gazette, September 20, 2007

"I wish I could say, 'Oh, that would be great to write a song about.' But what I'm doing is assembling and minimally directing what is sort of unconsciously coming out. It's not something I can direct or control. I just end up being the first person to hear these songs. That's what it feels like...that I don't feel as though I write them. Then there's a phase when you button it up and finish it. But it all starts with a lightning strike. A melody will suggest itself in the context of whatever I'm playing, and then the cadence will suggest words. And those words don't come from a conscious place." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I typically will work on a lyric in a three-ring binder. On the right side, I'll write the lyric, and on the left side, I put in alternate things...and things that might be alternates or improvements. I'll turn the page and do it again. I'll turn the page and do it again, or incorporate the improvements. Eventually, I end up with some material, and often it needs to be ordered." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"But it's only after you've played it on the road 20 or 30 times that it becomes really finished and polished...and you realize what it means, and you get the phrasing right." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul ", "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I picked up my car in Elizabeth, New Jersey, ...[and] I was driving it down to North Carolina to see my brother Alex and his wife, who had given birth to little James. They had named a kid after me, and I was gonna go down and see the little baby. I was driving down there thinking of a cowboy lullaby, what to sing to little James. Rock-a-bye sweet baby James. I was very excited that they had a kid and very moved that they named him after me. And I was behind the wheel for 20 hours or so, straight, driving straight down. That song just assembled itself as I was driving down there. My memory was good enough in those days that I remembered it all." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"'Millworker' arrived whole. I was asleep on Martha's Vineyard, and I woke up with the song entirely in my mind. It was a moonlit night...I walked down and turned on the light on the desk that was in the library. I wrote down the song, went back upstairs and fell back to sleep. In the morning, I really didn't know if the song was down there. I came down and there is was. Amazing." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

Q: "Speaking of George [Harrison], he wrote his song 'Something' based on your song 'Someting in The Way She Moves.'"
"It was actually a couple of weeks after I turned in the demo of the same song. [Laughs] I never thought for a second that George intended to do that. I don't think he intentionally ripped anything off, and all music is borrowed from other music, so I just completely let it pass. I raised an eyebrow here and there, but when people would make the presumption that I had stolen my song from his, I can't sit still for that. Actually, the end of 'Something In The Way She Moves' is 'I Feel Fine' ... 'She's around me now almost all the time / and I feel fine.' That was taken directly from a Beatles song, too." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Songs are like myths. Myths are useful because they allow you to cast yourself and your life and your own experience. And for some people, 'Fire and Rain' speaks to them in that way." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"['Fire and Rain'] is sort of almost uncomfortably close. Almost confessional. The reason I could write a song like that at that point, and probably couldn't now, is that I didn't have any sense that anyone would hear it. I started writing the song while I was in London...and I was totally unknown.... So I assumed that they would never be heard. I could just write or say anything I wanted. Now I'm very aware, and I have to deal with my stage fright and my anxiety about people examining or judging it. The idea that people will pass judgment on it is not a useful thought." — James Taylor, quoted by Paul Zollo, "James Taylor / Artist in Residence: The 'American Songwriter' Interview," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Harlan Howard used to say to me, 'You can write; you just ain't got nothing' to say. Get divorced and married a few times.' And I did, and then more things than that happened. Now I wish I didn't have as much to say. But since I do, I'll write down everything I can." — Gary Allen, quoted by Peter Cooper, "Gary Allen Writes His Way Through the Pain," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I have a hard time writing when I'm out and busy. Last year, I started writing early in the year, instead of waiting for December when I got off the road. You just get up in the morning and ask yourself if you have something to say." — Gary Allen, quoted by Peter Cooper, "Gary Allen Writes His Way Through the Pain," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"If I came to a stopping point where I thought, 'I can make this good, but somebody else's insight might make it magic,' I call people in. The ones with Old Blackmon and Jim Lauderdale—we usually write from scratch. You just kind of talk and they fall out." — Gary Allen, quoted by Peter Cooper, "Gary Allen Writes His Way Through the Pain," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"The result of [songs written by committee] is we won't get the Kris Kristoffersons, the deep thoughts of anybody. You'll get the surface thoughts we think are the most marketable." — Gary Allen, quoted by Peter Cooper, "Gary Allen Writes His Way Through the Pain," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"If you put them right down the pike, it gets on the radio but it doesn't sell records...and if you do one from the heart, it doesn't go up the chart. But my worst charting records are the ones that sold all the albums." — Gary Allen, quoted by Peter Cooper, "Gary Allen Writes His Way Through the Pain," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"We were on a tour, and there were some chord formations that were tough for me to play when I was a kid...it had become apparent that there was some stuff I wanted to do that [would require me] to learn how to do that. So I wrote the song and used some of these chord formations so I would have to play them. I thought it would be a great teaching vehicle for a while, and it was, but it ended up as a performance song." — Jorma Kaukonen, quoted by David S. Owen, "Pickin' & Grinnin' with Jorma Kaukonen at Fur Peace Ranch," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"...I started with the chorus of that song, kind of like a fun bouncy thing to play, and then one of the lines popped up: 'I got things to do today, people to see, things to say.' I wrote about a dozen verses for it, but no song needs to be that long unless you're Bob Dylan. So when we recorded it I started to tear it down to some of the lines I thought were the funniest." — Jorma Kaukonen, quoted by David S. Owen, "Pickin' & Grinnin' with Jorma Kaukonen at Fur Peace Ranch," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Some hit songs are really stupid, and who knows why they're hits. But a lot of hit songs are really good. I agree with Jim [Lauderdale] in that I think the really good ones are songs that when you hear it [sic]...there's just something about it that touches your heart, and you don't know why." — Jorma Kaukonen, quoted by David S. Owen, "Pickin' & Grinnin' with Jorma Kaukonen at Fur Peace Ranch," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I write one step at a time, always finishing off the part I'm working on before even thinking about the next part. I need to hear it all together before deciding what goes next. I even mix before moving on...in other words, I write by recording." — Beirut a.k.a.Zach Condon, quoted by Matthew W. Shearon, "Beirut, An American in Paris," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"The way Jacques Brel writes a story, getting into the character, bringing out all his faults and qualities in the same song.... Not that I could ever write in such an epic way, but it really is a different way to go about writing lyrics...and I find that quite inspiring." — Beirut a.k.a.Zach Condon, quoted by Matthew W. Shearon, "Beirut, An American in Paris," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I was a music teacher, and we were trying to come up with some songs the second graders could sing at the Christmas program we were putting together for the parents. All of a s sudden, it dawned on me; the children had stopped talking about songs. They had changed the subject. The were talking about the gifts they hoped Santa would bring them for Christmas. Over and over, the phrase 'All I want for Christmas ...' was used.
"There were about 25 students in that second grade class. I made a joke, and I remember the youngsters started laughing. I couldn't help but notice about two-thirds of them were missing some teeth up front. That's when I had the idea for my song." — Donald Gardner, quoted by Richard W. O'Donnell, "All I Want For Christmas," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"What inspires me is anxiety and the quest to try to change things in my life. ...I got addicted to endings and beginnings and to the idea of always moving around. ...Obviously, whenever you're going through something that's the best time to create, if you're going through something amazing, or horrible, or nothing at all you should be creating. Unfortunately the songwriters of today generally torture themselves to make sure they're writing good songs and take it a little too seriously." — Kevin Drew, quoted by Murray Sharp, "Q&A," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I get stuck sometimes, and I have a hard time getting unstuck. It means time for something different. If I have been playing guitar for the last three weeks, then I try writing on the piano. If I've been writing in the key of E for the last four days, then it's time to bust out some chord books and learn something. Or, beauty of beauty, I try a new tuning! There's nothing that inspires me like a brand-new tuning. For some reason, I find notes in a new tuning that I wouldn't have heard in the 'same old, same old' tuning.
"So that works for a couple of days...then what? I go find a good book. It's like deep knee bends for my gray matter. It loosens and strengthens all at the same time. Then I finish the book and it I don't know what to do or what to write about. Then it is time to hit the old movie theater. Anything...I'll watch anything when I need refreshing. I believe some entertainment puts my branin in neutral and allows me to rest. Have you ever been brain tired? It's the kind of tired that you can't explain to anyone....
"If you've tried everything to fill the glass again, then maybe it is time to try nothing. Sometimes I just need several days full of nothing to relax and really rest.... It almost feels like and 'unwinding.'...Another name for this time is 'creative starvation.' ... Hard to imagine, NOT writing is part of the writing process." — Bonnie Baker, "Muse Monitor / Try Something ... Or Try Nothing," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"[Johnnye] Allee relates that fragments of sound and disconnected phrases might spark a lyric or melody. 'I hear things in the wind...maybe read a line in a novel.' And he quotes Saul Bellow's line: 'A writer is a reader moved to emulation.'" — Dan Kimpel, "Dramatic License," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"There are a lot of songs ... that find a hook and drill it into people's head [sic]. It diminishes the impact. One big thing we were challenging ourselves with was trying to write a song that was there for a second...then it's gone, and it pulls you in more." — Mystic Warriors, quoted by Matthew W. Shearon, "On the Horizon," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Like Steely Dan and the kings of reggae, [Joni Mitchell] understands the value of space in music—eschewing sustained chords that bleed over many measures to savor and mingle the colors in a delicate sonic dance. Her smoky vocals, confident and strong, etch the lyrics like charcoal on an eggshell. These are songs that require and reward repeated listenings, as she mines fresh melodic territories, liberating her tunes to twist and turn in unexpected directions. ... But her songs have always been about her, about the experience of an artist in these times. And perhaps better than any songwriter of our era, she's a genius at zooming in and out of songs, presenting the big picture by showing the tiny, telling details." — Paul Zollo, "Reviews / Joni Mitchell 'Shine'," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"You have to know when and where to use rhyme... Rhyme implies education. And one of the most embarrassing moments of my life was after a run-through of 'West Side [Story].' ... I thought the lyric [to 'I Feel Pretty'] was terrific. ...I wanted to show that I could do inner rhymes, too. That's why I had an uneducated Puerto Rican girl singing 'It's alarming how charming I feel.' You must know that she would not be unwelcome in Noel Coward's living room... So there it is, to this day embarrassing me every time it's sung, because it's full of mistakes like that..." — Stephen Sondheim, quoted by Paul Zollo in "American Idols / Stephen Sondheim," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Poetry exists in its conciseness, how much is packed into it; it's important to be able to read and reread it at your own speed. Lyrics exist in time, second to second to second. Therefore, lyrics always have to be underwritten. You cannot expect an audience to catch more than the ear is able to catch at the tempo and richness of the music. The perfect example of this is 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning,' the first part of which I'd be embarrassed to put down on paper. It's just ridiculous. What Oscar knew was that there was music to go with it. The minute that Dick Rodger's music is added, the whole song has an emotional weight. I really think that 'Oklahoma' ran seven years on that lyric." — Stephen Sondheim, quoted by Paul Zollo in "American Idols / Stephen Sondheim," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"A song is such a short form ... that 'the slightest flaw seems like a mountain.' And so every song needs to be revised 'til it's close to perfection... But achieving perfection takes a lot of energy." — Stephen Sondheim, quoted and paraphrased by Paul Zollo in "American Idols / Stephen Sondheim," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"As a moving work of art, 'Seven Bridges Road' radiates the kind of yearning, magical quality that has made [Steve] Young a true embodiment of the oft-used description, 'songwriter's songwriter.'
"But for all its influence, the unique composition almost didn't make it onto Young's first album, 'Rock Salt and Nails (1969). ...
"'One day we ran out of songs to record in the studio...so I started performing Seven Bridges Road because I didn't have anything else to play... After it was recorded, [producer] LiPuma had to admit that, original or not, it was good.'" -- Steve Young quoted by David Freeland, "Behind the Song," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"There really are two different schools of songwriting—American and Canadian. It's interesting. You guys have this history of guys like Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb, and they're different than Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. All those weird voices come out of Canada. That's because it's so cold here we can hardly open our mouth[sic]. We get much less light in Canada. No wonder the writing's dark." — Fred Eaglesmith, "Role Models," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"I wrote 'Millie's Cafe' driving out of Ft. Worth, Texas one time. I was in a dust storm in my old bus. Beer inside. It was like a sailboat, you know...we couldn't see anything. Some things about Texas are so different than Ontario. I was just thinking about how different it is from where I live and, you know, whatever happens [to inspire a song] happened." — Fred Eaglesmith, "Role Models," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"You need to work at the craft [of songwriting], but not only the craft. When I see people working both on themselves and the craft, and they combine those things...I just go, 'That's just fabulous.'" — Fred Eaglesmith, "Role Models," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Songwriters have some magic. We have an idea. It comes out of our fingers and becomes a written word. Think about that process; it's pretty weird. We can't describe it. You can't say, 'I have an idea and now I'm writing it down.' That doesn't even compute. There's some magic in songwriting as it filters through your heart and your mind and your body. If you work on those things, what comes out of your fingers isn't just craft, but it's your heart and soul and everything. The only way to do that is to live a real life, to be conscious of all things—spiritual, nature, fellow human beings, compassionate things, all that. When you combine all that and it comes out your fingers, you're writing songs. I can always tell how hard a person's lived by the way they write songs." — Fred Eaglesmith, "Role Models," American Songwriter November/December 2007

"Photographs are like stories—if an image universally resonates with readers, and if a reader can personally relate to the image and connect it with his human experience, the image is successful. Books and photos—captured moments—are mirrors which obscure and distort or perhaps at best distill humanity and remind us who we are or were—an amazing feat for little black marks on wood pulp." — Taylor Kirkpatrick, "A moment captured," University of Denver Magazine, Winter 2007

"The creative mind is the playful mind. Philosophy is the play and dance of ideas." — Eric Hoffer

"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." — Truman Capote, answer to Celebrity Cipher, Colorado Springs Gazette, Nov. 28, 2007

"A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line." — Joseph Conrad, answer to Celebrity Cipher, Colorado Springs Gazette, Nov. 14, 2007

"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible." — Arthur C. Clarke, answer to Celebrity Cipher, Colorado Springs Gazette, Nov. 13, 2007

"Sometimes the most exciting journey you can make is through your own imagination." — David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds." — Percy Bysshe Shelley, quoted by David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"Listen to what children have to say—their windows to the soul are unclouded." — David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"Read something that YOU want to read, not something that you feel compelled to read." — David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"Try writing...a list, a letter, a journal, a novel, a declaration." — David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"Say a thing well and it will be remembered—and so too will you." — David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"Try to begin things you feel you can do. To begin is enough—there is a boldness in beginning. And in boldness lies genius and magic." — David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness

"In dreams you may gain new insights about personal relationships or develop exciting new ideas.
"Many artists have experienced this phenomenon: Paul McCartney awoke with the music for the Beatle's hit 'Yesterday' in his mind. Architect Frank Gehry has said that his building designs were influenced by his dreams.
"'The waking mind is thinking inside the box; the dreaming mind is thinking outside the box,' explains David Kahn, a professor at Harvard Medical School." —Robert Moss, "Waking Up To Our Dreams," Parade, Oct. 28, 2007

"Needless to say, there was no one around remotely fitting the description of a normal person: I was at a writing conference." — Anne Lamott, "Traveling Mercies"

"A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist." — Vladimir Nabokov, answer to Celebrity Cipher, Colorado Springs Gazette, Oct. 24, 2007

"My second husband and I were going through a bitter divorce, and I didn't have the money for a fancy-pants attorney. I didn't know how to fight, so I'd lie awake at night and think of ways to kill him. But I knew I'd get caught, so I decided to put it in a book and get paid for it! I always think it's odd that a whole career came out of that homicidal impulse." — Sue Grafton, "Sleuthing for Truth / Sue Grafton's on the case," AARP November&December 2007

"...there are moments of supreme frustration, when it seems there is virtually no chance to take your music to the world.... Meanwhile your psyche must survive. I believe the best way to survive is by taking your songs seriously.
"Songwriters generally can divide their songs into two categories: valuable and worthless. ... I now urge you to ignore that ... because your 'worthless' songs might be valuable.
"There was a reason why you expended good creative energy writing these songs. At the very least, they are windows to your creative past. You need to look at songs you haven't visited in years. You need not only to listen to them, but get out your guitar or keyboard and sing them, paying attention to the lyric, melody, rhythm and phrasing. Seek to recapture whatever magic may have gotten you started on that song in the first place. You may find that: 1) You want to bring that song back into the sunshine. 2) You want to rewrite it or re-demo it. 3) You still like the idea, or it reminds you of a new idea and it's time to cannibalize it for the sake of art and career.
"More important, revisiting with love and care should remind you that you believe your songs are important to you ... because you've committed much of your life to writing them. ... Respect yourself by respecting your songs." — Michael Kosser, "Street Smarts," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"I guess when we're happy, it's easier to go with the flow, and when that happiness or joy is interrupted, that's when we get contemplative and break out the guitar or pen and write about it." — Jeremy Fisher, quoted by Evan Schlansky in "Q&A," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

:"[Kris] Kristofferson resided at the [Buckhorn Music] publishing house from 1965-1968, shortly after he landed in Music City. The legendary songwriter logged 75 songs while at Buckhorn, and most of them were not cuttable. ...
"However, with the help of Marijohn Wilkin—Buckhorn's owner and an award-winning songwriter ('Long Black Veil')—Kristofferson excelled. 'His literary background and songwriting talent came together after three years, and his skill went up to another level,' says [Sherrill] Blackman. 'That's when he wrote For the Good Times. Blackman notes the moral of the story: 'Songwriting is a learning process.'" — Lizza Connor Bowen, "Adventures in Songplugging," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"I went into Darrell [Brown]'s house one day, bitching about something—venting—and he was writing on the computer the whole time. I was wondering if he was even paying attention, but he was typing everything I was saying. And we wrote the verses that day...just took what I said and put the words and phrases into the verses...and then tried to figure out where the chorus was leading us. We came back a couple of weeks later and wrote the chorus, and this is probably one of the most special songs I've ever been a part of." — LeAnn Rimes, quoted by Douglas Waterman in "Introducing LeAnn Rimes," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"My main instrument is my voice. ... with people sitting around playing chords, I just start singing. Someone might hit something that piques my interest, and I'll sing over it and see where it takes us. Sometimes melody doesn't come first. Sometimes I definitely have a specific lyrical idea and try to work around that. I think most people would think that, because of my voice, that melody would be my first thing that I would jump to. But really in the past, it's been the lyric." — LeAnn Rimes, quoted by Douglas Waterman in "Introducing LeAnn Rimes," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"...we definitely set out to make a great 'radio' record. We set out to write great hooky choruses—but with verses that said something." — LeAnn Rimes, quoted by Douglas Waterman in "Introducing LeAnn Rimes," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"When [Steve] Earle arrived in Nashville circa 1975, it was still a land of 'us' and 'them.' The writers were given keys so they could access the publishing buildings long after the staff had gone home. They were viewed with a mixture of amusement and reverence...allowed to follow their muse for the creative catalyzing they created for everyone around them." — Holly Gleason, "Steve Earle, The Last Hardcore Troubadour," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"Back then, the business depended on bohemians. ... They needed Kristofferson and Roger Miller ..It was the tail end of something...the last Tin Pan Alley. ...and we were the night shift! They gave us keys, because they knew the best songs weren't written in daylight.... We got our keys taken away several times...me and Guy [Clark]." — Steve Earle, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Steve Earle, The Last Hardcore Troubadour," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"I wrote 'Tom Ames' Prayer' and 'Ben McCulloch' when I was 19. And Guitar Town's conciseness wouldn't have been possible without learning the craft. But there's a decision you make. I met Townes Van Zandt when I was 17. Whatever he was—an alcoholic, and forget the mental health problems—the most lucid he was was when he was making decisions about his art. He decided to write songs at a certain level, whether he made money off it or not. ... Townes Van Zandt is the best damn songwriter in the world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that. ... We all wanted to be Townes Van Zandt without killing ourselves...and the music was better then because the guys were better. It was that simple. And you know, we all knew we weren't gonna be country stars." — Steve Earle, quoted by Holly Gleason in "Steve Earle, The Last Hardcore Troubadour," American Songwriter, September / October 2007

"If I write a hit song while at Starbucks, do I owe them royalties?" — Richard Stevens, "Diesel Sweeties," Colorado Springs Gazette, September 21, 2007

"Jock [Bartley, guitarist for Firefall and Zephyr (after Tommy Bolin)] also suggested that artists who are songwriters get back to their spontaneous 'childlike creativity' (confident, daring, not afraid) and write songs for themselves, songs that are meaningful & pleasing to themselves, because then, more than likely, those honest heartfelt songs will connect with other people. He said not to worry about writing to try and please record or radio people, promoters and agents - fads and current styles always change, but a great song always endures." — Announcements from Colorado Music Association

"I write scripts to serve as skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images." — Ingmar Bergman, answer to Celebrity Cypher, Colorado Springs Gazette, Sept. 19, 2007

"Roger [McGuinn] could cop anything from anyplace, except that he didn't do it like a copyist. He would take a thing and make it his own. that was the genius of it. He didn't just copy somebody; he'd take the essence of their idea and turn it into his idea. Synthesize something with something else and come out with something new. And he did it repeatedly. Y'see, I think that's the essence of creating new music because new music doesn't just appear out of thin air. ... Everything has roots and new music comes from synthesis, from taking other elements, usually widely dissimilar elements, and pulling them together in a relationship that maybe didn't exist before." — David Crosby, "Long Time Gone"

"So we're driving along in this motor home and we come up to a railroad crossing, where we had to stop to let a train go by. This, by the way, is the time when we're writing 'Eight Miles High.' We come up to a railroad crossing and we have John Coltrane blasting on this huge Fender amp in this little motor home and we are groovin' on it heavily. I look up and I see the train that is passing us is full of coal. It is a 'Coal Train.' It was probably the dope and the time on the road and the song we were writing, but I remember thinking, 'Boy, this is pretty ... cosmic.'" — David Crosby, "Long Time Gone"

"We have, all of us, over the years, written things that responded to the world as it slapped us in the face. Me and Nash, singing 'To the Last Whale' and 'Find the Cost of Freedom.' Stills coming up with 'For What It's Worth.' These came right out of the news. People have accused us of taking stances and the truth is we don't. We try to respond honestly to what hits us. It's what Neil Young did with 'Ohio.' When we introduce politics into our music, we're using this wonderful multiplication of effort that happens when you enter mass communications. It seemed to evolve concurrently with the development of the music. We were no sooner in the Byrds than we were writing that kind of song and singing it. Obviously your awareness gets more sophisticated as you go along." — David Crosby, "Long Time Gone"

"The fact is that all the recording science and technology in the world is no substitute for a good song or for real feeling. Music is about feeling and if there isn't any genuine feeling, if the song isn't about anything that anyone gives a damn about, there's nothing you can do. All the technique that exists won't make it any good; it'll just make it technological. All the production values you add won't do anything except make it glossy." — David Crosby, "Long Time Gone"

"I want to write country songs. Bad. Do I have to get arrested?
"Useful experience for a writer, like truck ownership. It's not that bad, really. Clean clothes and 3 squares a day until you talk to the judge. Most judges in these parts are country fans. If you are a good writer, like Willie, then you will not have to bust a lot of rock. He has folks for that." — "Mustangs Q & A by Bubba, the band mangler"
— contributed by Fred Holzhauer

"Musicians always have music in their heads about their perceptions of the world." — Pattie Boyd (formerly married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton), quoted by Walter Scott in Personality Parade, Parade, Aug 26, 2007

"Drinking a chocolate soda, sitting on top of Slick Fuller's cooler at his gas station when I was six, was a very ordinary moment in my life...but, I remember to this day what that soda tasted like and how wonderful it felt on that hot July Texas afternoon. Slick Fuller was one of my favorite people in my whole little world. he was a very gentle man, and he loved me very much. He didn't say much, but when he did, I listened. The fact that most of you don't know him isn't relevant because you probably knew someone very much like Slick. And if I were to write a song about him, you could relate in some way.
"It is hard to take something very personal and make it universal. A journal is very personal, and most people won't relate to it, but if you take one small thing out of a journal and widen the view, then more people will be able to see themselves in the picture. ...I try to document who I am and what I am to other people by telling stories. If my subject feels too big, then it probably is. If I can't get my story into three minutes, I have to refocus on something about that story that is smaller. I look for details wrapped in action. I try to find some movement for the characters to be doing as I tell what is going on with them." — Bonnie Baker, "Muse Monitor / extraOrdinary", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"I've read a lot in my life—a lot of poetry, from Rimbaud and Baudelaire to Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, some of the great poets of our time. It sets a standard. You start to look at how certain people describe emotions, or describe something visual that they see. I think as a songwriter you can get trapped into writing songs that are like the ones you hear on the radio, and sometimes you want to do that and sometimes you don't, because by the time your song comes out, it'll be dated. So you have to think, where am I going for my reference points?
"Visual artists affect me a lot too. Just in looking at, say, a Dali painting...you can start describing it with words, and as you start jotting down what you see, then you can say, 'Oh my goodness! I love this line. I've never heard anything quite like it before.' So I go to different mediums, usually not other songwriters, because you don't want to steal. I listen to the good ones. I know what they're up to, but then you have to go do your wood shedding." — Tori Amos, quoted by Evan Schlansky, "Q&A", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"I was reading The Miami Herald, and I ran across a little item about a man who had committed suicide. I don't remember how he killed himself, but there was a line in the suicide note that struck me, It said, 'I walk a lonely street.' I thought it would be a terrific idea for a blues song.
"The next time I went to Jacksonville for The Toby Dowdy Show, I met up with Mae Axton who was a songwriter. I walked into her house and I said, 'Mae, I've got a terrific idea for a song.' I told her I got the idea from the paper. I said, 'We can write a blues song about it.' ... She sat down at the piano and I walked the floor behind her...and we wrote 'Heartbreak Hotel.' It took all of 20 minutes.." — Tommy Durden, quoted by Ken Sharp, "Writing For the King", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"[Al Stanton] walked in one day with a bottle of Pepsi, shaking it, as they did at the time, and said, 'Otis, I've got an idea. Why don't you write a song called All Shook Up[?]' Two days later I brought the song in and said, 'Look, man, I did something with it.' After that song, the agreement about sharing songwriting credit was washed." — Otis Blackwell, quoted by Ken Sharp, "Writing For the King", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"'Hound Dog' was not originally written about a hunting dog who'd forgotten how to hunt. It was about a woman kicking a free-loader out of her house." — Mike Stoller, quoted by Ken Sharp, "Writing For the King", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"I don't try to perfect my craft, ever. The limitations in the way one person sees the world and their music is what makes what they create so much more interesting. Over-editing is senseless. People always tell themselves, 'I need to edit more. I need to edit more.' Whatever. You need to work more.
"Another thing I suggest is to write as much in your head as you do on the guitar or whatever your instrument might be, because there's a lot of good in there too. Sometimes I let stuff linger in my head and just ferment up there and then when I decide to let it out, something amazing develops. Or I'll dream up a tune and I won't rush to write it down. I'll keep it in my mind. Or maybe I'll write down one idea, stick it in my wallet and pull it out later." — Ryan Adams, quoted by John D. Luerssen, "Ryan Adams Grows Up, Pulls Air, Moves Forward with the Cardinals and Respects His Muse", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"..one of his [Ryan Adams] tricks when he writes a new batch of songs is to make a list of words from grocery store romance novels. 'I scan the book without really reading it for clusters of word forms like, And then she dropped her hat, or It was a dark night. I underline them and make a list of phrases that end up triggering me. Then I go back and try to fill in words around them to find my way back to the story I want to tell in my lyrics. And even if I haven't gotten to my original point, I'm left with something so open; it alludes to something much grander than I originally wanted to say, which could have been something as simple as I think I'm hungry or I wonder if that girl wants me.'" — John D. Luerssen, "Ryan Adams Grows Up, Pulls Air, Moves Forward with the Cardinals and Respects His Muse", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"I'm not one of those people who believes there was something in the air or a song can just come to me. That's really a bunch of bull. It's really about how much time you spend on your craft. It's okay to be spiritual and it's very important to be spiritual about art. It is some form of manifestation. But for me—and this is what I learned from hardcore and punk rock—it is that everyone has that power, if they want to manifest art. It's just an amount of confidence and the willingness to let yourself go." — Ryan Adams, quoted by John D. Luerssen, "Ryan Adams Grows Up, Pulls Air, Moves Forward with the Cardinals and Respects His Muse", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"'He Stopped Loving Her Today' had been kicking around since at least 1978 ... everyone involved felt that the song, as strong as it was, needed rewriting. [George] Jones recounts, '[Curly] Putnam [sic] and Braddock killed the song's main character too soon in their early versions. Billy [Sherrill, producer] kept telling them to kill the guy at a different time and then have the woman come to his funeral...Billy had a notebook about an inch thick that was nothing but rewrites of He Stopped Loving Her Today.'" — David Freeland, "Behind The Song", American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"When you're home or you're working, your mind just isn't allowed to just roll on like it does when you're watching the scenery go by. You're hurdling through space but you're not really moving. ...It's that dreaminess, that ability to just get dreamy while you're looking out the window and you see something...and it makes you think of something else, and all of a sudden the words are just flowing out of you." — Pegi Young, interview by Douglas Waterman, American Songwriter, July / August 2007

"When I say out loud 'I don't care if anyone gets me,' I'm lying. I do care that I write songs that are universal enough to touch people's lives. It doesn't have to be a deep song to make someone dance, tap a toe, sing along, nod their head, shake their 'honky-honk bodonkadon' ... I crave someone telling me I've done good work. Hopefully, it isn't someone kin to me or who owes me money!" — Bonnie Baker, "Muse Monitor / Same Drug, Different Needle", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"...I do believe we should push each other to write better songs and make better music. We do ourselves a disservice if we sit back and float along the river instead of trying to paddle and guide ourselves to a more creative place." — Bonnie Baker, "Muse Monitor / Same Drug, Different Needle", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"Anything that happens after I write a song...that's fine with me. It's up to the listener to read into it what they need from it. And that's part of the reason I write like I do, so I can leave the holes in the right places so people can say, 'Yeah, that happened to me,' and they're able to have their own little fantasy about it." — Guy Clark, quoted by Edd Hurt, "Guy Clark / Walkin' Man in a Digital World", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"I love detail...I like metaphors, I like describing stuff in weird ways and I like the way words sound. I mean, I like songs—it's not brain surgery. It's having fun and trying to express whatever it is on your mind. Sometimes you don't have anything on your mind, but the song comes out OK." — Guy Clark, quoted by Edd Hurt, "Guy Clark / Walkin' Man in a Digital World", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"I think a lot of my interest in history now isn't so much in places and names and texts and public figures, but more in examining all the nuances and idiosyncrasies of particular stories of everyday people. And if that doesn't happen, then I usually transplant myself and my own stories to a particular historical event. Which is why you'll see me, the first person pronoun, interacting in a song about Carl Sandburg, or you'll find my [sic] interacting with Saul Bellow. It's sort of a re-rendering of history and making it my own." — Sufjan Stevens, quoted by Evan Rytlewski, "Sufjan Stevens Narratives, Concepts, and Puzzle Pieces", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"[Jim] Lauderdale began to understand the lesson that most successful writers learn on their way up; you write not for the singer, not even for the style. You write for nothing other than the song itself. 'I found that when a publisher wanted to pair me up with a co-writer with the goal of getting a cut by a particular act, the songs we came up with often didn't work, even though we might think it was perfect for whoever it was, because the producer or the artist couldn't hear that themselves,' he says. 'For instance, every time George Strait goes into the studio, I try to write new stuff or go through the catalog to find stuff I can present to him. One time I'd gone through everything I could think of and kept getting turned down. Then I gave him the song I'd written, called We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This, and bing...he records it as a single.' I'm still learning that lesson, which is that it might be worth trying to write for another person, but a lot of times they don't even know what they're looking for themselves." — Robert L. Doerschuk, "Jim Lauderdale Won't Ever Be Old Hat", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"You have to be honest with yourself and your talents. You can't have much of an ego when people are being critical of your work. I would have them watch strangers as they listen to their music—compared to watching their friends; your friends will praise you on the simple fact that you've written a song. I would also suggest that you play your songs without people knowing that you've written them. You have to listen, study and don't hate on the new trends. There's a market for every songwriter. You just have to be fortunate enough to come up with that amazing idea for an amazing song. Step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself as a songwriter. As long as you do quality work and as long as you're a quality writer, you'll always have work." — "BabyFace" Edmonds, quoted by Will "Deshair" Fosky, "Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds Liner Notes Icon", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"Here's some free advice; like the folkies of yore, you need to be not just a writer of songs, you need to be a lover of songs, a listener of songs and a collector of songs. If you hear a song in a club that knocks you out or you hear an old recording of a great song you never knew existed, it does not diminish you to record it; it actually exalts you because you have brought a great song from obscurity to the ear of the public." — Michael Kosser, "Editor's Note / A Message to Songwriters", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"That is what diminishes the artist and his song. The artist is now hermetically sealed. The publishing company got him his deal and they expect to profit from his songs. So what if he is a better singer than a songwriter; let's put him in a room with a real songwriter. Something great is bound to come...except very often nothing great comes out of such contrived match-ups. Nobody knows where a great song comes from, and that's why so many writers credit the Lord as a co-writer (though I notice they never offer Him half the writer's royalties) when they come up with a real gem." — Michael Kosser, "Editor's Note / A Message to Songwriters", American Songwriter, September / October, 2006

"Tom T. Hall is called The Storyteller, known for writing complete novels that are only 2-3 minutes long. Whether he's writing about his childhood heroes, such as the real life Clancy Delaney, or abut cute little baby ducks, Hall's songs have the ability to suck you into his world." — Jeff Wall, "Heritage Series", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

" 'In My Life started out as a bus journey from my house at 251 Menlove Ave. to town mentioning all the places I could recall,' [John] Lennon later explained. 'I wrote it all down and it was boring. So I forgot about it and laid back, and these lyrics started coming to me about friends and lovers of the past.'
"Eventually Lennon axed the travelogue and zeroed in on the heart of the song—a yearning for the past balanced with a dawning realization that love can redeem a lifetime of losses." — Paul Kingbury, "Behind the Song", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"Music Row needs both breeds of songwriters. Radio stations rely on the commercial, professional songwriters to fill up their airtime with ear candy so the folks will listen to their station when they drive down the highway.
"But it's those artsy songwriters, the ones who DON'T listen to the radio much but play the Bluebird every chance they get, who are likely to come up with the unique song that turns the industry on its ear and heads it in a new direction. Is one breed of songwriter superior to the other? I say, emphatically, 'no!' The commercial guys write a lot of pap, but every so often they write one that's truly inspired; one that grabs you by the gut and slams up against the wall, on one that just makes you feel good about being in love.
"The artsy writers also write a whole lot that's so personal only their cult followers really care, but every so often they write one that's so universal it catches the ears of the millions without compromising its individuality.
"Is it harder for the artsy writers to score in today's business? Probably, but that just means we should reassure our best artsy writers that much more." — Michael Kosser, "Street Smarts", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"...Kristofferson used everyday language. When ya do that it sounds like a real person communicating a real emotion. Keeping a lyric conversational is important. We all know that ...but it's just sometimes hard to do, aint' it? It really works if it's done right." — Kendal Fransceshi, "Kendal's Key", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"Songwriters I've always been drawn to are people who deal with something of depth in the lyric writing. ...I've always been influenced by the folk song, the storytelling tradition in folk music. And so for years I wrote mostly story songs. I still do that, but as I've gone on, it's gotten a little more personal. I used to write mostly in the third person. I write a little more in the first person now." — Bruce Hornsby, quoted by Kristi Singer, "Hornsby Storyteller", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"I think you end up being a product of the music you love. I can't say I ever sat down to write a song with the intention of moving someone. I always sit down to sort of get stuff of [sic] my chest, to communicate. Some of my most successful songs (notably 'Right Here Waiting') are musical letters to my wife. They're also universal." — Richard Marx, quoted by Phil Sweetland, "No Instruments Needed Richard Marx", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"I've always thought that a lot of really good writers go wrong by getting so into the craft and the technique and perfection. Perfection can be the enemy sometimes. Some songs don't need to be told perfectly. Life is messy and has loose ends, and sometimes I think the songs should reflect that." — Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers, quoted by Jeff Wall, "Drive By Truckers Triple-Threat Songwriting", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"Hemingway was very sparse in his writing. Kris [Kristofferson] is like that. He can take four words and say it all." — Todd Snider, quoted by Phil Sweetland, "Kris Kristofferson The Hemingway of Songwriters", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"[Kristofferson] was writing what was really in his heart and saying it in ways we hadn't heard up till that point." — Jeffrey Steele, quoted by Phil Sweetland, "Kris Kristofferson The Hemingway of Songwriters", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"If you're in it because you love it and you have to do it, that's the right reason. If you're in it because you want to get rich or famous, don't do it. People often say that my first years in Nashville, when I wasn't getting anything cut, were tough. Hell, those were great years." — Kris Kristofferson, quoted by Phil Sweetland, "Kris Kristofferson The Hemingway of Songwriters", American Songwriter, September/October 2004

"...the more you do it, the better you get at it. You realize that songwriting is not this fairy-dust gift of things coming out of the air. You've got to work your butt off. You've got to get in the habit of writing songs. You do the same thing a musician does. You learn that, 'That's a dead-end road. Don't go there. Don't play that. Don't sing that. Don't write that.' I don't know if that old adage necessarily holds true, that you've got to write 10 or 15 songs to get a good one. ...they're not all 'The Boxer' or 'Yesterday' Some things are ... to be fun, to be silly, to have a sense of humor—not to be pointed toward trying to get it on the radio." — Vince Gill, quoted in "Vince Gill / Breathing Room" by Robert L. Doerschuk, American Songwriter, January/February 2007

"...For years I walked around with the phrase 'Green River' because I had seen that on a soda fountain drink when I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and I went, 'Gee, I like that.' Another one was 'Lodi,' which I thought sounded really cool. I got this cheap little empty plastic notebook at my local drugstore, and bought a little slab of filler paper and the very first title I wrote in it was 'Proud Mary.' I had no idea what that title meant. ...this was at the height of the Vietnam War, and it was an honorable discharge, and I was done, baby! I went right in the house and came up with the first line; 'Left a good job in the city.' I wrote the rest of 'Proud Mary' right there with that feeling in my mind. When I got to the part, 'Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river,' I realized when I was done that I'd written a standard. I knew it with every bone in my body. 'Dang John, you've written a standard. Look at this!' I felt like I'd wandered down the beach and found a jewel. I was almost shaking with the knowledge that I'd written a song like that." — John Fogarty, quoted in "John Fogarty / Fortunate Songwriter" by Ken Sharp, American Songwriter, January/February 2007

"There's stuff that I do at the nanosecond of creation, especially a guitar part, that's probably for me. But then when I begin to weigh it against how it holds up, I seem to be writing for this other person out there—an audience. Lately I think I've discovered that person might be me out there. Where I get in trouble is if I think, 'This is way hip. So and so critic is gonna think this is really intellectual and cool.' Well, that is the road to ruin right there." — John Fogarty, quoted in "John Fogarty / Fortunate Songwriter " by Ken Sharp, American Songwriter, January/February 2007

"Nobody's ever lived that wrote a 'girl and boy song' with as much feeling as [Kris} Kristofferson. When I met Kris he was a freak of nature. He was cleaning the ash trays at Columbia Records. And I had become a solo artist around 1962 or so and was recording for Columbia. He ... whispered to me, 'I've got a song that you would like. Would you listen to it?' I said, 'Go put it in that box.' And he laid the tape down with the words. And the studio guys said, 'What's up next?' I picked it up and looked at it... 'I'm Always on the Outside Looking In' ... I put it in the tape player, listened to it a couple times and recorded it...The first Kristofferson song to get cut! When he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, his memory was good enough to remember that." — Charlie Louvin, quoted in "The Louvin Brothers / Charlie, The Idea Man" by Douglas Waterman, American Songwriter, January/February 2007

"I think that the ingredients of the America sound are the basic fundamentals that translate internationally. The Italians are huge fans of dance music, but they also love a ballad. They're romantic at heart. It's the same in the Far East. A lot of times in these countries, we see people singing along, and they don't really know what the words mean. Music is truly the international language." — Gerry Beckley, quoted in "America / Harmony Rock at its Purist" by Ken Sharp, American Songwriter, January/February 2007

"Solitude. It is way underrated in our world of writing. We stay busy. We act busy. We thrive on busy. The truth is there is a lot of beauty that lives in the solitude. Quiet is not the enemy. Quiet is necessary for brains to not self-destruct." — Bonnie Baker, "Just Another Manic Monday," American Songwriter, November / December 2006

"I write some crappy songs. ... but every once in a while I get just the right words put together for the right moment, and it feels like magic. There is no explaining the magic. It floats in and then just like that, it floats out. There's no amount of money that will buy magic. I've watched myself try to coax it, but it is only when I relax and totally allow magic to envelop me that it has ever been kind." — Bonnie Baker, "Just Another Manic Monday," American Songwriter, November / December 2006

"[Songwriting is] a mystery. I can't control it. When they come along, like unmistakably, a stampede of horses, I try to corral 'em and not let 'em get away. Sometimes it becomes obsessive to the point where you say, 'Okay! I'm gonna pass. I don't need to write this song. I'm doing something else right now.' you know? 'I'm gonna finish this thing here. I'm not gonna get waylaid by yet another song.' But mostly it's like they come in and I wrestle 'em down." — Dan Bern, quoted by Evan Schlansky, "Eternal Mysteries & Song Wrestling With Dan Bern," American Songwriter, November / December 2006

"I never let reality come between me and a good line. It's the secret of my success." — Vincent Lardo, "Lawrence Sanders McNally's Chance"

"When I write, I never know the endings. What I think works in [my] stories is the fact that when I write, I really want to find out what is going on—I'm writing for myself as a reader. It's like when you dream a dream. I want to know what's behind the door. If I navigate, it's from a place that's totally intuitive." — Etgar Keret, quoted by Rebecca Frankel, "Etgar Keret Has a Cold", Moment, Oct. 2006

"Writing is a way of living other lives. It is a way of expanding your life. It's not actually living a different life, it just means that you're hungry for life. There are so many things you want to do." — Etgar Keret, quoted by Rebecca Frankel, "Etgar Keret Has a Cold", Moment, Oct. 2006

"I'd like to do a song that I wrote today about our government's increasing infringement on our right to privacy, but the lyrics mysteriously disappeared from my guitar case." — Dan Piraro, Bizarro, The Denver Post, Oct. 13, 2006

"As I started writing about loss and grief, I was taking what felt unmanageable and using my songwriting, my sense of poetry and discipline, to try and make it manageable." — Roseanne Cash, quoted by Ricardo Baca in "Rosanne Cash celebrates life with song", The Denver Post, Aug 25, 2006

"Songs such as "Like Fugitives," "House on the Lake" and the title track ["Black Cadillac"] are obvious personal statements, but they're also as relatable as anything else [Roseanne] Cash has ever written.
"'In my mind, they're linked to particular people,' Cash said. 'But I wouldn't want to take that away from the listener, because the other half of the equation is the listener.'" — Ricardo Baca, "Rosanne Cash celebrates life with song", The Denver Post, Aug 25, 2006

"What I have in mind when I start to write could fit inside an acorn—an acorn, moreover, that rarely if ever grows into an oak. Write fiction and you relinquish reason. You start with an acorn and you end up with a mackerel." — Phillip Roth, as quoted by John F. Baker in "Past Imperfect / Phillip Roth on looking back", AARP July&August, 2006

"Frazz: 'If someone grabs a football and pretends he's Peyton Manning, cool. They try to make like Annika Sorenstam on the golf course, great. And you know how much I like seeing people on bicycles trying to be Lance Armstrong or Faris Al-Sultan. I'm not saying auto racing is bad. I'm saying when people try to drive like Tony Stuart, it's not so harmless.'
"Friend: 'What about when a songwriter sounds like Gordon Lightfoot?'
"Frazz: 'Woo! I won't be using that cold medicine again!'" — Jef Mallett, "Frazz", The Denver Post, Dec. 11, 2005

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."— John Steinbeck
— contributed by Stuart Tarbuck

"A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians." — Frank Zappa, contributed by Ed Skibbe Ed Slibbe: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets

"Oddly enough, [Katherine] Dines — who plays the 5-string banjo, guitar and harmonica — doesn't consider herself a musician 'because I don't play them very well. I live and breathe the song-writing part — not the instruments or singing.'" — Janna Widdifield, "Hunk-ta Bunk-ta, Boo", University of Denver Magazine, Jan. 2006

"These days, country music stars are created in a factory in China, molded out of plastic by workers earning 38 cents an hour, then shipped to Nashville, where they are fitted for a cowboy hat and taught to sing ditties written by a committee of moonlighting Hallmark employees. But [Merle] Haggard, now 68, is the last of a more authentic breed." — Washington Post, as reported by Bangs Tapscott, "Clinch Mountain Backtalk" Intermountain Acoustic Musician, Dec, 2005

"There is a fantastic element to some of my words. Instead of saying, 'I went swimming and the sun was bright,' I'll say, 'lake swimming ... enter the sun, marching like a matador, flashing her velvet yellow suit, throwing a red cape on the sky.' I love the natural world (and) find it incredibly beautiful and incredibly harsh at the same time. I like to use those images in songs." — Laura Veirs, in "Three Questions | With Laura Veirs" by Elana Ashanti Jefferson, The Denver Post, Nov. 6, 2005

"People think once you get famous and rich you move out of the public sphere and you have nothing left to write about. I've heard that — Bruce Springsteen was this real street boy, now he's got this big house. How does that compute? If you don't look at the material side of someone's life, if you look at more the emotional side, there's always a wealth of stuff to write about." — Paul McCartney, The Rocky Mountain News, Oct. 29, 2005

"One night, Don Henley called, and I told him, 'I'm washing dishes and bike shorts.' He said, 'It's in the domestic exercises of life that one will find the biggest inspiration.' And he was right." — Sheryl Crow, singer-songwriter, quoted in "Weekend Life", Life, October 7, 2005

"Songwriting is best. It's the hardest ... finest ... tightest. It also requires the most discipline." — Pete Townshend comparing songwriting to writing prose, 5 Minutes with Pete Townshend, Performing Songwriter, July/August 2002

"'Norman Raeben taught me how to see...in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt,' Dylan writes in 1978. 'And I didn't know how to pull it off. I wasn't sure it could be done in songs because I'd never written a song like that. But when I started doing it, the first album I made was Blood on the Tracks. Everybody agrees it was pretty different, and what's different about it is there's a code in the lyrics and also there's no sense of time.' He went on to explain that this artistic renaissance had come at a price: once he learned to refocus his energies on what he did best, his wife ceased to understand him." — Nadine Epstein and Rebecca Frankel, "Bob Dylan The Unauthorized Spiritual Biography", Moment, August 2005

"...songs are not about 'I feel sad.' They're about, 'Let me tell you the things that are on the walls and in the room I'm sitting in,' and between the lines of that is the fact that I'm sad. You know what I mean? It's the real locations, the real names. Even when you don't know the people, it's the names that give you a sense of place. That's what makes poetry or songwriting better than just talking. If a song describes something small you do for someone you love, that description says 'I love you' better than the actual words 'I love you'." — Adam Duritz, "The Summer Sounds of Counting Crows' Adam Duritz" by Richard Challen, Performing Songwriter, July/August 2002

"If the car is otherwise healthy ... a used — a.k.a. junkyard — transmission is probably your best bet. And look for the silver lining, Sky. Maybe you'll write a hit blues song from the experience." — Ray Magliozzi, The Car Guys, The Denver Post, July 25, 2005

"Don't be afraid to write bad songs and then start over and re-evaluate. Songs are like plants, in that you grow them. Some grow really fast, and others need pruning and care...And, finally, a song needs to move you. If it doesn't move you, it will never move anybody else." — Corey Harris, Performing Songwriter, July/August 2002

"[Joan] Gregory [director of the Children's Choir of Washington] says that when you sing, you are communicating poetry that was so beautiful a composer decided to set it to music. By sharing this poetry with the audience, you will feel like you are giving them an unforgettable gift. That's how it feels to be an artist, and when you are up there singing, that's exactly what you are." — Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy, The Denver Post, April 1, 2005

"I see God as a song-and-dance man. If I had my way, he'd be able to carry a tune, too. Preferably, one of mine." — Kevin Kline as Cole Porter, in De-Lovely

"For music to speak to me, it has to have two qualities: a strong, catchy melody and a wicked groove." —Kailin Yong, quoted by Marc Shulgold in "Music world unites in tribute to slain reporter", Rocky Mountain News, October 6, 2004

"To be a musician, especially a singer-songwriter — well, you don't do that if you have a thriving social life. You do it because there's an element of alienation in your life." — James Taylor

"In making movies, time is so short—because it is so expensive—that we tend to neglect the place from which the best ideas come, namely that part of ourselves that dreams. The unconscious is our best collaborator." — Mike Nichols, AARP Jan.&Feb., 2004

"There are only three things you can do with a woman: love her, suffer for her, and turn her into a good song." — Oxygen Channel ad

"In order to compose, all you need to do is remember a tune that nobody else has thought of." — Robert Schumann

"My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer." — Cole Porter

"I'm learning to make music from noise." — Brian, age 11

"I am reminded now ... of a demonstration of the difference between noise and melody which I saw and heard in a freshman physics lecture so long ago... The professor threw a narrow board, which was about the length of a bayonet, at the wall of the room, which was cinder block. 'That's noise,' he said. Then he picked up seven more boards, and he threw them against the wall in rapid succession, as though he were a knife-thrower. The boards in sequence sang the opening notes of 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.' I was enchanted. 'That's melody,' he said." — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Preface to Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions)

"...great writing does not, in itself, guarantee longevity.
"Whether a book will stand the test of time is dependent on a string of variables...
'That has less to do with any of the inherent value of a particular work than it does with the kind of mechanisms that recognize value,' says Mary Klages, associate chair of the English Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder." — Tom Walker in "How to predict the next great novel," Denver Post, April 26,. 2004

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