Songwriting – Rob Green
Singer songwriter Rob Green draws upon the varied genres of music he grew up with – including soul, RnB, indie and rock – to inform his own distinctive sound and style. His latest EP debuted in the iTunes Album Chart Top 40 in its first week, and he is fast garnering critical acclaim. Here he shares his thoughts on songwriting, and its relationship to poetry.
What motivates you to write a song?
Personal experience most of the time. I’ll normally start with some chords and be ad-libbing vocals over the top. Normally at some point I’ll accidentally come out with a lyric that I really think links to something bigger that I want to write about -and then I get started from there. When it’s something truthful or funky that’s normally a good motivator for me.
How do you think the craft of songwriting can be compared to poetry and other forms of writing?
Songwriting and poetry have a direct relationship. I actually include spoken word poetry in my live show because it segues so nicely into music. Music creates structure for the lyrics/poetry which is very fun to work with but is also limiting in a way. Especially with its rhyming rules. Poetry is a lot freer and is a great way to start developing lyrics and concepts I think.
How do you go about capturing places – real or imagined – in your lyrics?
Often through small sensory details. I think that we can get a really strong sense of place through the specific and minute detail of the scene, sights, smells etc. A great exercise when you’re next at somebody else’s house is see what you notice about their living space and what that tells you about them. Being able to draw humanity on top of a picture makes a lyric more emotionally powerful; describing a leather jacket left on the floor, a make-up bag with no zipper and lipstick on a wine-glass can create a strong image of not only the spaces themselves but the people attached to it.
Are there specific places that inspire you to write, or where you escape to when writing?
I like to be around people when I write. Coffee shops, buses and parks are great. I think its the kind of environment where you can get a bit distracted and let your mind wander but still has buzz or energy to it to keep your mind active. The trick to writing well in those environments though I think is to set yourself a goal (I’m writing the chorus today, or a verse, or the middle eight) otherwise you can end up being distracted a little too much…
What are your top tips for others who are writing about place in their work?
Walk. Drive. Travel. Try and go to somewhere “like” the place you’re trying to write about if you can. And then pay attention to details.
Always have something to jot ideas/observations/lyrics in whenever they come to you. Usually its my notes app on my phone.
Remember how the things you see make you FEEL. If you can map human traits onto the places you describe it makes them FEEL a certain way; which makes them more memorable.
Don’t fall into the trap of just DESCRIBING what we see. That’s why “The icicles hung menacingly overhead” will always be better than “There were lots of icicles”.
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- Write Away! – a free write activity for everyone
- Teaching Resources – for use in the classroom
- Writers’ Hub – tips and activities for use at home or in a workshop
- Events – all across the UK
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National Writing Day is led by First Story and partners across the UK.