The Songwriting Process: Interview with Joseph VanBuren

Posted: November 12, 2010 in Interviews
Tags: , , , , ,

CD Baby is currently conducting this interview of its members, to put together a songwriting guide. I don’t know yet if they’ll use any of my quotes, but here is the Q&A for anyone that might be interested in my songwriting process.

Q: What does your songwriting process look like? What are a few of the more common ways in which you compose a song?

A: Usually the first line of lyrics, melody or beat will pop into my head randomly, possibly inspired by something I just saw or experienced. I frantically search for something to write on, jot down some notes. I always have a pen on me for such occasions. Once I get my notes home, I can flesh out the rest of the song in my solitude (usually).

Q: Think of your favorite songs. What do they do to or for you? What is it about the song (technically, emotionally, thematically) that moves you?

A: My favorite songs are almost always sincere, passionate and often personal. Genre and style do not matter – if the lyrics are meaningful to the writer and the music comes from the soul, the result is usually going to be powerful.

Q: What are your common frustrations with songwriting? What are the ways in which you get stuck?

A: For me, the process of songwriting is completely enjoyable – liberating and satisfying. The only frustration I ever feel is having to interrupt my songwriting to go to my day job.

Q: How do you overcome the frustration? How do you get un-stuck?

A: If I get stuck on either lyrics or music, I give myself about three minutes before I just move on to another song or take a break altogether. I can typically come back a few hours later and pick up right where I left off. I don’t believe in writer’s block for true songwriters – getting stuck just means your brain is tired. Take a little break.

Q: Do you envision an audience or outside listener when you write? If so, how would you describe that audience? What effect does this have on the writing process?

A: It depends on what kind of song I’m working on, whether it’s intended to be a spectacle or subdued. Normally, I’m probably too involved in the process to envision an audience, at least until the song is near completion.

Q: Do you collaborate or enlist outside opinions during the writing process? What effect does that have on the writing process?

A: If the song I’m writing is a collaboration, then I’ll share it with the other writers/performers, and together we‘ll decide what‘s best for that particular song. If it‘s a song I‘ll be performing myself, I keep it personal.

Q: Songwriters are known for loving most of their “babies” equally. This is why artistic coaches have the mantra “Kill Your Babies!” How can you tell when one of your own song is really good? How can you tell when one is bad or misbehaving?

A: Like actual babies, the only way to know if your songs will turn out good or bad is to care for them, nourish them, raise them in your image, and then let them out into the world. I made 102 babies in one year, so I don’t feel bad about disowning the ones that disgrace or embarrass me, knowing that the others carry on my name proudly. Parents have to make a lot of tough decisions.

Q: What do you get out of being a songwriter? Do you imagine you’ll write songs forever?

A: As a songwriter, I make sense of the world around me, then get to present my view to others through the universal language of music. Songwriting is all at once a job, therapy and part of my religion. If I get bitten by a vampire (fingers crossed…), I’ll write songs forever.

Q: What roles do “inspiration” and “perspiration” play in your writing process?

A: Inspiration, wherever it may come from, is the seed planted in the garden of the mind, from which the song shall grow. Perspiration, to me, comes after the song is written – performance, marketing, etc. In fact, I think the only thing about the music business that doesn’t make me sweat is songwriting.

Q: Imagine the greatest song you haven’t written yet. Describe it.

A: Evanescence, Tech N9ne and The Prodigy having a three-way.

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Comments
  1. Joseph VanBuren is no doubt the Best Lyricist in the Songwriting Venue for his Generation.!!!!! His Lyric’s are so in tune with what is going on in the world today.!!!! He puts dynamic energy into all of his Songs.!!! What caught my Attention most with his Songs is the way he puts his whole self into them with his Heart, Soul, and Spirit.!!! I only wish more people would actually listen to the Lyrics, and the message that they convey.!!!! In my opinion Joseph is the most Brilliant Songwriter of his generation.!!!!

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