thoughts on song exploder episode 70

a few nights ago, i listened to an episode of song exploder in which rivers cuomo explained the writing and recording of a recent weezer song. his songwriting process is extremely methodical, and utterly fascinating.

in brief:

  • he keeps a spotify playlist of songs with interesting chord progressions. he picks a song and draws upon it to write a chord progression and a vocal melody.
  • he puts this song’s title into an online anagram finder, which becomes the working title of his new song. this helps him separate the new song from the source song, but makes it easy to refer to the source material in the future.
  • he sings a guitar solo over his chords. this ensures the solo is not noodley, and because he has to breathe, the phrasing is natural.
  • as he’s going about his life, song titles will come to him, which he’ll put into a spreadsheet.
  • every morning he does stream-of-consciousness exercises for 25 minutes, during which he’ll write self-contained lines for songs. he puts each line into a spreadsheet, where it is searchable by its number of syllables and its stress patterns.
  • he searches his lines spreadsheet for lines with stress patterns matching those in the song, and thus composes the lyrics for the song.

this idea of a fine-tuned framework for creativity really resonated with me. i often struggle with open-ended creative work, like writing or music composition. even writing this small post has been somewhat of a challenge, but the interview inspired me to push myself, because in the absence of a systematic approach to writing, i should at least improvise, so that i can reflect on my work later, and perhaps improve next time around.

thanks for reading.