Inspiration is the starting point for any creative medium, especially songwriting. Every artist/musician has been inspired or influenced by something or someone to help create their song. But it can be difficult if you are new to songwriting to pin down how to look for and use inspiration. So, let me take you through my best methods for finding new ideas and translating them into a song.
Firstly, inspiration can come from anywhere. It may be a phrase, an image, even a memory, all that matters is that it is a starting point. I draw from experiences, seeing actions happen in real life. For example, one of my songs “A Girl I Met on The Tube Last Week” came from riding the Manchester tram early one evening. While the events described in the song didn’t transpire in real life it was the action of riding the tram that kicked off the thought of turning the idea into a song. Billie Eilish has stated how her ideas for songs come from dreams, waking up in the middle of the night and then writing out whatever she just dreamt about. Alternatively, Noel Gallagher describes his writing process as “going fishing” often just sitting with a guitar and waiting for something to happen. It doesn’t matter where you find that initial spark, as long as you’ve found it. Sometimes you can benefit from trying multiple methods as I also often find written phrases in books an interesting way to find ideas.
It differs from person to person however, wherever you find inspiration it’s important to not let those ideas go. You never know when one might creep up on you and if you’re not prepared you might have let slip the best song of your career. My advice for this is to write it down. The best way to do this is in a small notebook that is easy to carry around, but scraps of paper can work too. You’ll find most writers will do this as it can be easy to lose track of every idea that pops into your head. Films about creatives like “The Personal History of David Copperfield” and “Tick, Tick… Boom” have both represented this as it is such an important trait for a writer to remember. It doesn’t matter how messy or nondescript it is as long as it is decipherable to you at a later date.
The difficult part is taking these ideas and turning them into a song. Sometimes it will just come to you and other times an idea may just sit in your notebook but that’s okay! Not every inspiration is destined to work. I won’t go into songwriting methods as there are so many and even then, they may not work for you. But my advice on how to expand an idea is to plan it out before you start writing individual lines. Occasionally a song can write itself, seamlessly flowing line to line. However, if you know where you would like to go with an idea it makes it much easier. This might be an emotion you want the audience to feel or a story you want to tell, it’s up to you. I sometimes don’t stick to my own rules, and I can find it difficult to finish the song as I just meander through chords and lyrics with no discernible end. Collaborating with another person can also be a great way to break the mould. They may have a different interpretation of the inspiration or be able to take your idea further than you initially thought. Working with another artist can also help with inspirations that you haven’t been able to develop. However, try not to give up.
Leaving a song unfinished is common but try to complete it as much as possible even if it sucks. Then, once you have left it for a while, come back and you may suddenly have a million ways to improve it because of the experiences you have had in the meantime. It’s amazing what walking away from an idea can do. I’ve had many an idea that after months I have revisited and had a newfound interest. These have gone on to become some of my most popular works among audiences. One, Autumn Glow, had a rewrite and is one of my personal favourites. You can listen to a live home recorded version on YouTube - Autumn Glow.
I hope this has helped any budding or struggling songwriters out there. As I know from experience it can be a strange field to navigate, but always keep writing. If you would like to send me a message or follow what I do you can find me on Instagram and Facebook (@samnixmusic).