I’ve been talking about making my own album and then not actually making one for so long that my friends think I have a very specific form of psychosis where I believe myself to be a songwriter but am in fact spending hours alone in the bathroom banging a colander with a wooden spoon. Things changed in 2022 when I realised that I could simply get on with it.
Obviously the first thing I made was a spreadsheet, I’m not an animal. I catalogued every song I ever wrote with its key and time signature and (sorry about this) vibe. I was careful not to edit anything out at this stage because who knows, maybe 13 year old me really had her shit figured out. Spoiler: she did NOT. At the end of this process I had over 250 songs which as a musician I can inform you is Too Many for one album.
But how do you filter and refine decades of songwriting? Here’s a handy checklist.
1) Become overwhelmed and decide you aren’t, in fact, going to do it. Binge-watch Gilmore Girls, Poirot and Star Trek: Next Generation.
2) Cry for months over the words you wrote when you were broken or letting other people break you, and wonder whether it is possible that anybody could survive hearing them.
3) Start having therapy again and revamp your most traumatic experiences so that suddenly every song carries a profound insight into your psyche and the natural order of things and must be protected at all costs.
4) Realise that none of them are any good and why would you even bother and the colander and the wooden spoon sound pretty good actually.
5) Get over yourself and take a scythe to them.
So I lost the ones I already recorded with somebody else. They may be the best thing I ever wrote, but in the words of Fleetwood Mac, “Never going back again.” I’m not here to rehash things, especially when they carry so much damn weight.
I lost the ones that were a pastiche of whichever genre I was at that point attempting to infiltrate (e.g. lyrics about a horse, the open road, a character named Billy and/or jazz-inspired vocal riffs over a standard blues progression).
I lost the ones written by a different person, i.e. the unanswered love letters to a distant fundamentalist, evangelical Christian god. Also the ones containing things I now recognise as problematic. Yikes. I really did not value myself or other women in the 90s.
I lost the ones which said anything too obvious about a specific person or situation that could end in a lawsuit, even though I WAS RIGHT.
And I lost some which were absolute bobbins – repetitive, formulaic, embarrassing, navel-gazing nonsense.
But I confess, I have killed many, many darlings. May they rest peacefully in the box in the spare room, only to be discovered years after my death and used by future historians to conclude that Generation X, on the whole, worried way much about everything.
I am left with 16, so there is a little killing still to do, and I’ve had to enlist some help with the executions. But later this year I will present you with just 11 songs about joy, drugs, houses, death, mental health, hope and love. Mainly love.
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