The quest to write, record, produce and release a brand new song each and every week. To read why I'm doing such a thing as well as being a full-time producer and musician for others, check out the first 'A Song A Week' blog post HERE
It's best if you listen to the song whilst you're reading, (which you'll get sent directly to you before it's released if you become one of my patrons!) but you can also listen on...
It's also available on all major streaming and music stores worldwide, so just search for 'Tom B. Cooper ILLUSION' and it'll show up!
Anyway, welcome to Week 6 of the A Song A Week blog. I'm going to dive straight in with how 'ILLUSION' came to be...
A Different Sort Of Entry
I’m going to do things a little differently with the blog entry for Illusion. Rather than recap on the song and what I did where and why and how, I’m going to talk to you about some of my specific songwriting methods and some of the things that us songwriters might face when we’re writing a song.
I want to talk to you specifically about the following…
- References and influences
- Going with your gut
- Other peoples opinions
References and Influences
For those of you that have followed A Song A Week from the start, or that have reached out to me on social media (thank you all, love speaking with you) then you’ll notice that I’m absolutely NOT ashamed to talk about my influences and reference tracks. Not a single thing I’ve ever written has been totally my own and nor has anything you’ve ever created either. Everything has been done before, we’ve just done it in a different order or packaged it in a different way.
Now the key for me is to listen to lots and lots of different songs and just nab some bits from here and there.
I’m not talking about sampling, nor am I talking about stealing – I’m talking about drawing influences from artists and producers that are usually being paid far more money than me to write and produce a song that I’ve already noted that I like.
I’m also not saying that I sit down to write a new song and think ‘who can I rip off this week?’ It’s not like that at all. I’m making mental notes of anything from a snare sound I like, or rhythms that have got me moving, or instruments being introduced in certain places, or arrangement techniques, or hearing when the drums are going half time, or listening for when a vocal is doubled. So many little things just get stored away in my brain, or my phone or wherever.
In the case of Illusion, I grabbed a little bit of influence from The Killers, a smidge of an idea from RHODES and some sort of something from Bombay Bicycle Club and a million other different songs and artists from years of studying songs that I couldn’t even tell you where they’re from any more.
Could you listen to Illusion next to a track by any of those artists and hear influences? Sure you could. Could you also listen to Illusion next to Dolly Parton or Biffy Clyro and hear some influences there too? You bet.
You see, I’m writing pop songs. You can call it rock or indie or alternative or whatever the hell you want to call it, but at the end of the day, I’m writing pop and so are all the bands and artists I’ve mentioned so far. I wouldn’t be at all upset if you compared me to, for example The Spice Girls, in fact, I’d take it as a damned huge compliment.
So what am I getting at? Well, Illusion is an idea born from one tiny little idea from my fingers on a guitar, that rather than think to myself ‘I’d better play around some drum ideas for a bit’ which if you’re doing blindly, could take forever and you might never end up on anything good (for want of a better word.) The entire time I’m writing I’m thinking ‘Oh The Killers are really good at making a chorus really hit you after a nice melodic chorus, what do they do?’ and who knows where that little thought might take me, but it’s ended up with Illusion and it’s ended up with it quickly.
Going With Your Gut Instinct
Going with your gut instinct is just about the most important thing any songwriter and producer can do. Why? Because it’s almost always right.
Whilst it’s what you’re thinking of, just write it down or record it, no matter how half formed or badly performed or silly the idea might be, go with it. There’s always room to explore some new ideas later on.
What’s this got to do with Illusion? Well, the pre-chorus that goes…
“And when am I going to fight this illusion and trouble that’s so hard to shake, again and again I’m just trying the feeling of being awake”
… that was the melody I very first came up with. When I first thought of it, I recorded it and I just thought to myself ‘right, that’ll be changing – that’s one cheesy melody that has no place in this song’ and there it is now, loud and proud, twice in the song.
I spent a good couple of hours trying different melodies, different instrumentation, different arrangement (not having the section at all) before I landed back on that melody.
Am I annoyed I spent 2 hours on trying out different things? No way! Do I wish I’d spent another 2 hours trying to get something instead of what I’ve already got? No way!
If I’d never put that melody down to begin with because I thought it was silly, I’d be more annoyed. I might have forgotten it or convinced myself that there’s something better around the corner.
You can only ever be true to yourself and who knows, that bit of your new song that you thought was silly could be the catchiest bit that connects with the listener more than any other.
Other Peoples Opinions
I did something with Illusion that I haven’t done with any other of my A Song A Week releases so far. I got the opinion of someone else on it before I was finished with it.
Part of the reason I haven’t done that up ’til now is because there isn’t really the time to get the opinions before I release it. I write the song, I record it and I release it all in the space of 2 days and as such I don’t have time to wait to hear people’s opinion.
In the case of this song though, I had a feeling it was good and I wanted to absolutely make sure I was doing it justice.
I want to make sure every song I write, produce and mix is done justice, but I particularly want do with Illusion.
So I sent it to my great friend and fellow band-mate, Stu from Lux Lisbon.
Firstly, I greatly value his opinion as a human being AND a fellow songwriter/producer, secondly he’ll tell me if he thinks any of it’s shit, but most importantly WHY he thinks it’s shit. If I showed anyone a song or a piece of writing or painting or a doodle on the back of an envelope and they say ‘I like it’ and that’s all they can say, I’m not interested and more should you be.
The other reason was because I felt like it had a bit of a Lux Lisbon feeling to it. You can make your own mind up about that one.
The MAIN reason though is that in doing A Song A Week, I’m constantly writing for myself and not to a brief, which I would do for other artists and TV/film, so it’s easy to just sort of get lost in what’s working and what isn’t.
When you’re living and breathing your own project for a couple of intensive days at a time, you lose track of yourself and your own abilities a little bit. Anyway, I felt I needed to share it and even in just bouncing it down for him and sending it to him, when I listened back myself, I listened to it in a completely different way than I had been sat in the comfort of my home studio. You analyse things differently, you notice things in the mix you hadn’t even thought of, you realise there are some arrangement things that still need ironing out.
For the sake of the blog, Stu’s feedback is irrelevant, it’s what I thought when I listened to it from a different perspective that mattered.
I realised I was singing flat on the start of ALL the chorus’s, the synth bass was way too prominent and overpowering and I hated the last line of the chorus. All things that jumped out IMMEDIATELY when I knew Stu was sat there listening to it too.
Funny what a bit of perspective can do for you
A different sort of entry this week, I know. Take from it what you will, but it felt the right thing to do with Illusion.
I’d love to know what you think of the song and about anything I’ve said in this (or any other) entry.
I hope you’re seeing that I believe there’s absolutely no right or wrong way of ending up at a released song. I’ve taken months to finish some songs, never using a reference track at a all, keeping it myself and I’ve done completely the opposite and everything in between.
Whatever works for you on Song A might not be the same approach for Song B.
If you find the magic formula that works every time, do yourself a favour and write a book with the instructions… you’ll make a fortune.
Thank you so much for reading. The absolute best way you can support me and this blog is by listening to and sharing 'SO SURE' (which you'll get sent directly to you before it's released if you become one of my patrons!) but you can also listen on...
And it's available on all major streaming and music stores across the internet, just search for 'Tom B. Cooper ILLUSION' and it'll show up!
I'd also love it if we connected via social media, so hit me up on...
Peace and happy music making.