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Playbook of a songwriter – serial monogamy in a what’s next game

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Simon Jackson - "Not that I fall out of love with a song, just that a new one comes along"


Simon appeared on earth and did his early schooling in Port Moresby (also living in Rabaul and Bougainville) and, later, briefly worked for a mineral resources company in the highlands, which was a learning experience but not one that impressed him. He's now a New Zealand-based internet guru and songwriter (link to his website here). Of consuming interest to me as a journalist, though, Simon not only writes melodies and lyrics for some great songs, he also logs for followers the creative machinations that tussle in the background of the mental processes of musical invention. Here’s his latest communication, which includes a composition he mentions that I particularly like. At present it's an instrumental - no disturbing lyrics, very contemplative, 1950s group The Ventures maybe…. You can also follow Simon on Twitter@si_jackson - KJ

AUCKLAND - It surprises me how finicky I have become. I'm more of a "what's next" guy than "let's keep improving this one". But 'Still Feels Like Home' is different.

I felt there was a note missing in the intro, so I added it, then found another section in the bridge I felt was a bit out of time. It's a matter of listening to myself, being able to feel when I'm reacting to or against something, and fixing it.

I made a bunch of changes to the song most people won't hear: cross fades, the mix in the backing vocals, the timbre of the acoustic guitars.

Funny how small things all add up. I guess I wouldn't bother if I didn't think so much of the song. Working with my daughter was a wonderful surprise.

Also funny thing about this recording, the vocal is on fairly dodgy, noisy equipment so there's a lot of ‘hiss’ which I've disguised, mostly with the tambourine. But it's such a good comp I don't want to remove it.

And I got a nice fade on the ending. Lovely piano courtesy of EZ Keys. Feels like it was meant for this song.

So I've decided to include this in 6Pack because I love the song and we never know what's happening next, right?

Madz has agreed to do the cover art for the new album which I'm excited about. I love having family involved. Maybe I should marry Trav then he could the work for me free. I'll ask him.

A recent songwriting tutor said concentrate on one thing at a time. But I'm so much more chaotic than that.

My mind will not be regulated. It jumps all over the place, easily bored, finding a line for that song, something about that one to fix. Having a whole album to work is on is both highly frustrating and essential.

Working on one song over and over would bore me to tears. We have to find our own way to work, to wait actively for inspiration. I call mine 'servo' from Psycho-Cybernetics’, one of the best books I have read on creativity. Odd title but written in 1960 and still holding its own.

I have a habit of falling in love with songs. I can just listen over and over. I guess it's a necessary requirement of writing and arranging. It can take all day to get a bass line. You've got to love the work or it'd drive you crazy.

My current beau is this one - not yet titled. Although I don't have much of it, yet just the intro and first verse I love where it's going and that I nailed the intro.

Honestly, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do the song but bit by bit I built it up and now I'm happy with it and dying to hear the rest.

New song

But I'm a serial monogamist (with songs). Not that I fall out of love with a song, just that a new one comes along. Which is great because that loss of ardour makes it much easier for me to write lyrics to the track. I don't know why.

When my blood is high I can find it quite difficult to make the tough decisions on lyrics - nothing seems good enough for the music.

With this song and the inclusion of ‘Still Feels Like Home’ I think I have the album playlist settled: 14 songs, which feels about right. It's a nice milestone because now I can get down to finishing the songs - the tracks, melody, lyrics, arrangement, vocalists, etc.

It's a lot but I have a list, unless something better comes along! New ideas never stop and must never be stopped. It's important to always have the tap open - I never know when a good one will drop.

Often when I write I have a listener in mind, someone I hope will enjoy the song. For this one (track only) it's my Dad who liked the original and rough demo I put on Soundcloud a few years ago. Trav straightened out the timing and did the two guitar tracks - electric and acoustic behind:

One Day

Obviously, I'm aiming for a 50s early rock (e.g. Buddy Holly) style. I have the melody and most of the lyrics for this one. Back to my usual problem: the vocals.

I can't sing this one and it has some complex backing vocals and harmonies which need a pro. I'm thinking of opening my wallet and going to Studio Pros who are relatively expensive but do an excellent job.

Trav also did new guitar tracks for ‘It Only Takes One’, an existing song I have refreshed for the album.

The playlist for the 6Pack newie has 14 tracks, many still works in progress. If you want to keep up with that progress, link here or contact me here. Or, preferably, both.

Have a great week.


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