I am at a point where creativity is winning over functionality. Where weird might somehow be cool? To keep a song interesting and not to stray too far? Well I got there. Especially transition parts. Good news however, he is now gainfully employed again
That’s a cool song idea Paul, and I like the musical ideas!
I would encourage you to do a storytelling or ballad style song, of course paint a picture of difficult life on the streets and the realities, but then lead it to an inspiring message of hope. I read news articles almost every day about some celebrity or group helping build housing communities for the homeless, or help with mental health and outreach, etc. It’s obviously a huge problem. I have been reading that Los Angeles is really struggling with it. There have been some successes though. And part of the root of the problem is our society and income inequality etc. We’ll never completely solve this without social and cultural change. You can talk about that too if you like.
I was going to comment that I couldn’t understand the words, but that explains it. For the main message I’d say keep the words very clear and poignant. What you could perhaps do is have a dialog type lyric with the concerned citizen talking to the homeless person (let’s say a man for this example) and the homeless man responding back with his story in a gravelly weathered voice (that’s where you can do your heavy processing). That might be lyrically complex and challenging, but my goodness how compelling to show both points of view!
Hi Stan. We go back awhile don’t we I actually never thought of having a conversation between the street dude and the business man. Great idea. I will first try to figure out who will make the first move. Easier for the guy going into work to veer of course and introduce himself with the homeless guy. Not sure if I should have them go back and forth every lyric line or maybe go 16 counts for each. Have to experiment there. And your idea of having the street guy having a rough voice is perfect.
I might use the California idea with an early intro set up with a street crazy guy doing a "welcome to California, the place where…) ha ha
As you said, having two personalities from complete opposite lifestyles is going to be challenging for sure. There are not so nice feelings expressed from both sides through complete misunderstanding. Great place to air those in this song. I keep trying to thing of subject lines that have not been explored. I think I found one.
Thanks so much for taking the time and coming up with your take on this
It wont really matter if you pitch your vocal down there in the doldrums… your message won’t even be heard, pitch it just a couple notes above the octave if you want somebody to pay attention to your message.
Songwriting 101, I promise…
Hi Vaughan. Not sure what “pitch your vocal down there in the doldrums” even means. ha ha I have read for years so many posts on forums I don’t understand at all. The songwriting 101 is a perfect example of my talent level. So many here including yourself are light years ahead of me. It’s all good.
I threw this out there in the early going just to ask for ideas on the format. Now I have some direction and will start building. Take care
It could be an adversarial thing, but I was thinking more of someone with “white privilege” reaching out to the homeless man with compassion. Trying to understand and help. But conflict could make a better story?
One of the success stories I was referring to involved Ted Williams. You might find some inspiration in it. His story was big news back in like 2011. There was a driver who got to know Ted and his wonderful voice at an intersection I think. So one day he made a video of “the voice” and it went viral. People came out to help Ted and gave him opportunities. Ted had been homeless for a long time I think (from drugs and alcohol), after an early career in radio, and it was hard to re-adjust to a structured life.
What a cool guy. He might have gone to school, but that voice is something you just can’t learn. ha ha love these kinda stories.
I have my work cut out for me Stan. This will be tricky. My kids and grands (6) are coming home in a week and my wife has a LIST of prep for me. Will have to hide and get going on this
I know its not really a big thing for you… WHERE you pitch your vocal against your music, its all about style and feel,… but I know that other people strive to improve their songwriting skills and look for bones that get thrown by anybody who might care to, … so this is one. It doesn’t really matter if you pick it up yourself, but somebody else might. It really might be important to them, if they are looking hard enough.
loving the experimental directions you are travelling in musically…
And while I enjoyed the idea of dialogue between a have and a have-not… I also really like the idea of a ‘tone poem’ sort of thing where you just throw words out and paint a picture in the moment, rather than a more formalised storytelling thing. Now, what is the song that came to mind? Ahh ‘Aqualung’ by Jethro Tull .
Hi Emma Yes, I am going to experiment with this one. It’s just great to get some ideas whey you first dip your toe in. ha ha Good to hear from you. Gotta listen to Jethro now:)
I’ve always liked the “it could be you” angle of this type of story. “There but for the grace of God go I” type of thing. Check out how that is explored in the lyrics of “Anthem to the Estranged” by Metal Church. Shows empathy while also reflecting upon how good you might have it compared to these poor souls.
“…And the flowers bloom like madness in the spring…”
That was one of my favourites when I was a lot younger. And a fantastic bit of song writing about a homeless guy. What I like about it is that despite everything you feel there’s a core of pride and (self)respect going on. The songwriter doesn’t put on a stance of superiority (“Aqualung my friend don’t you start away uneasy, you poor old sod you see its only me” - I still know most of the song by heart ;)). Good one to listen too for a reference Paul! The music you wrote had a bit of Neil Young vibe. I can’t remember if he wrote about homeless people, but he certainly wrote songs about the oppressed (e.g. Montezuma). That’s another direction you could take: a protest song about why society allows such things to happen.
Skua and evert I always turn down the window and hand out a fiver when I see them along side the road. I am from a very remote area and don’t ever see street folks. I can’t even imagine what their day and might is like? makes me sad
I have been singing to the track, but not coming up with much. The tough part is that it is hard to have a conversation not singing a melody line. And just talking doesn’t work for me?? I think I might keep it in the first person, but have his feedback as well. Very seldom do I get stalled. ha ha
I like Skua’s approach for this type of song. Subtlety in approaching the topic lyrically would be the key in my opinion. It would be very easy to comment on how lousy it is to live on the street, but much more interesting to explore how quickly things can change, and make people realize how fragile our lives truly are. Stan touched on this too; the difference between a reasonable existence and a disaster is sometimes only one or two paychecks. Talking about that aspect allows for more depth than overplaying the living conditions. Maybe focusing on the erosion of self confidence and how you get stuck in that situation could be the theme.
As Emma pointed out, it would be hard to outdo the imagery of Aqualung, where you get a perfect picture of a day in the life of someone who has obviously been down on his luck so long that his lousy existence has become routine. I guess if you can’t beat that, it makes sense to approach it from a different angle.
Hi Bob I have three crumpled up lyric sheets sitting on my studio floor right now. This is a tough one. I want to catch the listener right off and keep their interest throughout. One of the sheets was about life in a cardboard box etc. The next was a dialog between a business man and a street guy. The last was an angry homeless guy yelling at a passerby. All failed miserably. I think the gradual decay sinking into life on the street is the way to go. I hate to even listen to Aqualung because I would not like to use somebody else’s ideas?? Great thoughts Bob Thanks
What about figuring out one, specific and unusual detail that happens in that person’s day and starting with that. Then as the lyric goes on, more of the backdrop is revealed. And you slowly realized he or she is homeless?
Hi sven That is a great idea and one that would be easy to start with. Ahh back to my notes sheets again. I have never started a song with lyrics before. I always just blurt something out and refine later.
I’m on it…thanks
Real quick idea to get you started:
My 3 bedroom ranch is now a cardboard box
Happened in the blink of an eye.
Woke up one day and here I was
No use for my morning razor.
The plant shut down and my market crashed
My world was lost in the translation
Learning how to live with friends like this
Is a crash course in lower education.
Or something like that as a rough starting point.
Don Walker is a great writer of these types of lyrics. Here’s one of his more recent works:
…and of course “Cheap Wine” is a classic (well, at least it is here!)
Wow, my kinda music. I really got into that first song. We still play that kinda three chord progression stuff. Left it all behind