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Lyrics or Melody

EOE Lyrics or Medley

Over the years, I’ve been asked a lot about my personal approach to the songwriting process and, more often than not, the first question I get is, “do you like to start with lyrics or melody?”

My go to answer in the past had always been “melody” but, over the past couple weeks since I’ve gotten back in the studio, I’ve noticed my approach changes with every new production because, for me, the creative process has become more about the journey, not the destination.

For instance, I used to go into the studio and sit down at the piano or pick up my guitar and play around with different chord progressions and rhythms until I found something that caught my attention and would start to craft the story and lyrics from the emotion conveyed through the music.

Now I find myself sitting in silence until I start hearing a melody or lyric in my head and then I’ll record a quick scratch track and use that as the inspiration to further develop the song.

A great example of this process is how the producer, Timbaland, approaches his craft. When he goes to produce a new record, he starts simply with a mic and his vocal, hits the record button, and begins laying down the various rhythms and melodies he hears in his head. He does this so he can keep his focus and attention on the song idea he hears within. Only once he’s completed that process does he start to craft the production with actual instruments & samples.

I love this approach because it allows me to live in the moment and focus on listening and discovering the depths of the creativity within rather than searching for something outside of myself. All that said, the next time someone asks me, “do you like to start with lyrics or melody?” My reply will be, “whichever I hear in my head first.”

If you write songs, I’d love to hear about your thoughts on your creative process in the comment section below!

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24comments

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1
Luz Dary Villalba

Wowww
ThankU Nathan ❤️
I’m going to try practicing the song too

2

Right on! Can’t wait to hear;)

3
Brandy Burkett

I really love the Modern Icon launch as well. I am so excited for what’s to come. I love getting a glimpse into what inspires you! Writing and Music used to be my life. I loved words and being able to mold them into stories, poetry and the occasional song…but then I acquired an autoimmune disease just out of high school that gives me the worst brain fog. Most days I struggle to find words for what I am trying to say, and it is beyond frustrating. I’ve been dealing with it for 15+ years. I would love to have the ability and clarity to write again, but I’m not sure I have it in me to try, and I have no idea where to start. I completely agree with the words you have mentioned so many times… music is indeed medicine for the soul! It is one thing that never fails to make me feel better in just about any situation. Life would be so empty without music!

(on a side note, your music inspires me so much…and I love to hear you and Chyler sing together, your voices complement each other so well, I could listen to you guys sing the dictionary!)

4

Thank you so much for your kind words:) Writing, creating & performing are such a huge passion for me. It’s nice to hear that it’s well received.

So sorry to hear about the enormous challenge you face on what sounds like a daily basis:/ (I might sound naive in saying this so please hear the heart behind what I’m about to say.)

Although I don’t know what its like to live in your shoes I do wholeheartedly believe that the challenges we each face in life can actually be used to help us. Obviously, by no means am I trying to minimize what you’ve been going through for the past 15+ years. I just think perspective is such an integral part to addressing the personal challenges we face. Remember we can’t always control what life throws our way, but we can control how we respond & how we respond makes all the difference;)

That said, I’d like to offer you my outsiders perspective on maybe helping you to find a new perspective on how you can continue your creative writing journey:

First & foremost, simplicity is not the enemy… in fact it’s quite the opposite. Whether is the chord structure, the lyrics themselves or a riff/melody, the most powerful & memorable songs are rooted in simplicity. Why? Because they are easy to sing to & remember. For example, U2’s most iconic anthems are based on 2 or 3 chord structure that they continually build upon throughout to evolve the story & journey for the listener. So for starters why not try taking up the challenge of writing a 2 or 3 chord song?

Second, when it comes to lyrics, the most profound are those that are honest & founded in truth. So to add to the challenge above I would like to suggest you speak to the challenge you face on the daily basis. Maybe write about the honestly about your struggle to overcome & make the crescendo of your story one lyrical line of wisdom that you would share with someone else that is on a similar journey (maybe answer this question, after all you been through over the past 15+ years, what knowledge or wisdom have you gained from all those years of experience that you wish you would have known when it first happened?) then you could either repeat that line over and over or expand it to a full stanza to fill the bridge or chorus outro section towards the end of the song.

If you do take up this challenge here’s a starting idea for the verses:

Intro/Verse 1- Write about what you experienced early on and what you felt when you realized this was your new reality. (Doesn’t need to be a tell all or melancholy unless you feel you want it to.)

I think it would be cool if you actually wrote from a metaphorical standpoint that connects the listener and makes it more relatable giving it a more universal theme. Like using the changing of seasons or the feeling we get when a terrible storm is brewing and there’s no way to out run it. Your backs against the wall and there’s no other way than through it to survive. If you like that idea then it could represent the changes you seen and/or how you have weathered the storm you faced over the years. (Important to note: the whole storm thing actually came to mind from you talking about having the worst brain fog so it got my wheels turning;)

Verse 2 – Write about walking down the roadless traveled that you are on now having learned to cope, making a choice not give up and/or holding on to hope & persevering.

If you feel like trying this out or maybe adapting it to some other form of creative writing like poetry, definitely keep me posted on how it’s going. And if not, no worries… Just wanted to offer some support & encouragement.

Cheers!

5
Clarissa Castillo

Wow! Thank you so much for the advice Nathan! Going to definitely use this as a tip when writing my next song. Asa matter of fact I just wrote one recently where the lyrics came to me rather quickly. I put all that i was feeling in that moment into such beautiful words. I haven’t added a melody to it yet but it’s something that I definitely want to do in the future❤️

6

Oops accidentally deleted one of my comments. Didn’t want to do that

7

I haven’t attempted lyrics or songs yet, but I write stories and I find it’s similar for me? I used to sit and craft an outline of what I wanted to happen in the whole story… but recently I’ve been trying it to jump around and go where the inspiration is? Sometimes that means writing scene by scene, but sometimes that means stopping work on a scene and setting it aside to work on at a later time and working on what is exciting me to write even if it’s a scene way further in the story.

Declan

8

I love this approach, Declan! Follow the creativity & inspiration. I do that alot when I’m actually writing lyrics. So important to realize that our creativity & approach doesn’t have to be structured top to bottom or beginning to end. Sometimes the best thing we can do to free ourselves up is trust our intuition:)

9

Inspiration literally pouring out from you ,I read these words and I think I want to go right now and start writing ,but the past two weeks I have block writing ,I can’t seem to think about the right words or the right thing to start my poems ,so I just took a little break ,but I miss it so much my poems and my writing it’s my safe place ,where I can express my self in the best way I can . like you always say “music is medicine for the soul” I feel the same way when I start to write .
but nothing seem to be working these days.
so ,if you don’t mind I’d love to hear if you have any advice for me I’ll appreciate it

10

Who are some of your favorite singers? Also I would love to know what your favorite Disney movie is and who your favorite character is? ❤️

11

Sting is one of my all time faves. His voice is so unique & he’s a brilliant performer. I’ll have to think on the Disney movie/character. That’s a hard one:)

12

What do you think is the most challenging thing about writing songs?

13

Finishing them! LOL. No, in all honesty I think sometimes the most challenging thing is keeping the initial creative inspiration for a song alive & present through the entire writing process. It’s easy to get distracted or lose track of what your initial intent & theme for a song was overtime. That’s why when I write I make sure to not sleep until I’ve at least outlined & flushed out the overall structure of a song musically & lyrically. Of course it can change the next day but it would have to be a better idea than the day before. If its not, I stay the course.

14

Okay I know it was a smart ass () reply. But honestly “finishing them” hits home to me with so many forms of writing ❤ (okay that’s SUPPOSED to be a red heart… I know we’re in a pandemic but really computer???)

But the not sleeping until you’ve outlined and flushed out the sort of framework (that may give the wrong picture but I see that as sort of what you’re saying the overall structure of it) of something is something I think I may have to try. It’s really good advice as the number of times I’ve gone to sleep thinking “I’ll stop here and finish in the morning” and then in the morning I can’t find the right feeling or I’ve forgotten where I wanted to go with a piece.

15

that () next to the “smart ass” is supposed to have a winking face… but since my computer and the website don’t agree on putting it in there, this reply is to explain that fact lol

16

Thank you for the response Nathan! It means a lot to me

17

Hello Nathan! I love what you do! Your such a big inspiration to me. I love listening to your music!

18

I absolutely love everything about this Modern Icon launch! What a rad way to connect! The flow of the aesthetic is so ethereal too, I dig it! Words are absolutely the greatest love of my life. Writing is truly the only way I can make sense of the world around me. Your words resonate so deeply, especially through song, and I feel it is because you have that innate need to emote verbally as well. Passion and love of the craft can’t be faked, and when a heart is truly open and vulnerable- I believe actual magic bleeds through. I love that you’re sharing a glimpse inside your personal creative process for this reason. I find that inspiration usually hits me at the most inopportune times, so I am constantly pulling out my phone and adding things to the ‘Notes” section. Music is definitely what inspires me most often, as it brings emotions that were lying dormant to the surface. When I face those things, I usually want to work them out via some sort of writing medium. Often times I will start something in that place, and not have the emotional bandwidth to finish it. I almost always stumble back upon and finish them though. I believe those things(and all things)happen in perfect time. I believe in energy, and that it is the thread woven through all things in life. I also believe music is so powerful is because the energy it emits is directly linked to our heart chakra. As Beethoven himself said, “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.”

19

BRAVO I LOVE EVERYTHING YOU SAID!!! I especially love the phrase, “magic bleeds through”. Such powerful imagery! I immediately got a vision of magic pulsing through my veins. Have you ever thought of using that as a lyric? Or have you used it in the past?

20

Quick update! I took your advice and put it in a poem(for now), that’s slowly being worked into a song. Wanted to share since you had a part! Be well.

21

I actually haven’t, but now I’m inspired to! You’re right about the imagery! I feel like that’s exactly what happens! You can almost see it when you feel it deeply! Are you familiar with Cymatics? It essentially shows that music is alive, and even presents itself in various patterns. Many of which are ancient geometric symbols! It’s fascinating, and absolutely puts that left brain logic at ease, while that right brain creativity soars. Here’s a link should you be so interested! 🙂 https://www.delamora.life/cymatics

22

hi nathan!! i talked about with you once in a comment, you encouraged me to write songs. i really want to impact people with my music, but nothing seems good enough. everything i write seems so cliche or weird, idk. do you have any advice?

23

Yes, I do! First & foremost… I love that your desire is to impact people with your songs:) And although that is an incredible focus to have sometimes having that focus can become more of a burden because as songwriters we end up placing this unnecessary pressure on ourselves to create within the confines of our own self judgement which stifles our creativity.

My best advice would be to go in the opposite direction. Even if only for a short season, look inwards & write a song or two or even three for yourself. I did this for almost the whole year prior to the release of my first EP. Not every song ended up on the record but a couple did & they ended up connecting to the hearts of so many people and as a result have even helped to save lives. After that season in my life I found myself once again refreshed & inspired to write for others but more importantly from a place free of self Judgement. Hope this helps!

24

wow!! thank you so much, nathan. ironically, i was with my guitar when i read your comment hahaha, so i already tried to start doing this. it’s something that still struggle to do, put my feelings on the things i write. i believe it’s a matter of time, of learning how to open myself. i believe that music is something that really shows who you are, and what you believe and how you feel, so sometimes i feel vulnerable writing it, but it’s really worth of the journey. anyways, thank you so much again!!

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