Song Academy had the pleasure of chatting to Imelda May about what she thinks is important about songwriting. She shared some ideas for young songwriters to help develop their talents. What stands out during our conversation was how passionate Imelda is about the art of songwriting and the positive difference it makes to the songwriter.
Imelda believes that songwriting is an art and there’s no right or wrong way to approach writing songs. During her songwriting journey, from her first song aged 13 to becoming one of Ireland’s most celebrated artists, she has gained a number of insights which have helped her develop and enjoy the songwriting process.
Focus on the song not the end of result
Make sure your song has strong roots and don’t worry about whether it’ll be a hit or whether people will like it. Approach songwriting as a personal journey where you can be fully self expressed and take a stand for what’s important to you . The beauty of songwriting is that you can write from personal experiences or what’s going on for those that are close to you. You can change the roles whenever you want. The power of songwriting is that it’s universal and non-judgemental. Songwriting is a wonderful way of saying something to someone when you’re uncomfortable telling them directly. It’s also a great outlet for releasing your emotions.
Imelda writes mostly about personal experiences so she has all the fine details to craft into a song. If she’s writing for someone else – she’ll ask many questions and do a lot of research to get the fine detail. You need to immerse yourself in what it’s like to be that person and capture exactly what what’s going on in the story of the song. Memories can be described across all the senses that are unique to the particular person.
Enjoy the songwriting process, don’t be afraid & keep writing
Songs are important but let yourself be free writing and don’t worry about getting it ‘right’. Learn from your mistakes – it’s a journey. Songs will be ready at the time and then you often look back on your songs and think oh I’d change that part now.
When Roy Orbiston was asked, “What’s your best song”, he answered, “I haven’t written it yet”. It’s important to keep being inspired to write better and better songs.
Always carry a notebook to capture ideas
Inspiration for songs can happen at anytime. Always carry a notebook, and jot down words, sentences, poems and thoughts when they arise out of the blue. Then when you sit down purposefully to write you have inspiration for your songs ready if needed.
Listen to as many songwriters as you can
Listen to many songwriters’ songs and read their lyrics. See what inspires you. Some songs have full lyrical stories, others have space for melodies/composition and lyrics are repeated. The opening lines are crucial for getting the listener’s attention, drawing them in and making them keen to know more. Here are a couple of Imelda’s favourite songs:
Roy Orbiston – In Dreams
The Pogues & Kirsy McColl – Fairytale of New York
Sam Cook – A Change Is Gonna Come
What two words sum up the value of songwriting?
Expression and Connection. Through expressing yourself you connect with others and connection is so important and what makes us human & happy.
Imelda is excited about listening to our Young Songwriter 2018 competition songs! The entry deadline is the 8th April – make sure you enter your original songs and connect to an international community of young songwriters all passionate about songwriting.