Songwriter's Diary Entry 1: Mandolin
Right. This is the start. This is the part where I'm fully aware I have a collection of songs in my brain, but no simple way of acquiring them. It's like an intangible Indiana Jones expedition. I don't think any songwriter knows how to most accurately explain their process, but for me, it begins with nonsense. I can't prepare a well-written literary masterpiece. I let the words and intonations be guided by the music. But at this point, the words don't exist. I choose a mandolin and my fingers move swiftly between positions, cadence after cadence, as my mouth makes shapes and my voice forms a melody that swims alongside the noodling mandolin. Gradually, the nonsense becomes a projection of the words I want to say as an artist. I get a kick out of the fluent conversational wording of an honest songwriter. But why did I choose the mandolin!? I've always known it's not a common solo instrument. It's relatively thin in texture, its frets are harsh on the fingers, it's not easy to envisage the wholeness of a song. But what it does instead is it gives me a fresh idea that I can translate onto guitar or piano. I hear a lot of piano and guitar everyday, and while I'm not bored of their sounds, I can get into a creative habit. The habit leads me into predictable song ideas and further frustration. So to begin, the undervalued mandolin is my weapon of choice. With hope, Joseph