How to write a song – songs and poetry continued…

Following on from yesterday’s post on songwriting I’d like to delve a little deeper.

It certainly helps me when I sit down to write to know what it is I’m going to be writing, ie whether it’s a song, or a poem. If my drive is to write a poem, I won’t grab one of my instruments. All I need is a pen and piece of paper. I feel an incredible sense of freedom when I write poetry. I let my mind and emotions free and follow the stream of consciousness as it appears on the page before me. My poetry tends to follow this pattern. When the poem is finished I often feel washed clean, purified – somehow the world changes when a new poem has been written.

Here’s one of my poems – a seasonal one for Imbolc:

By Damh the Bard

As the dark, cold morning gives way to light,snowdrops1.jpeg
And the world shows its face dazzling in her nakedness,
So the twigs and leaf-bare branches,
Bow to the passing dance

Of old Jack Frost.

His crystal breath on the earth,
And the corners of houses weep icicles of joy.
But where is the Sun’s warmth?
Where is life?

A small flower, delicate and pure-white,
Looks to the earth,
As if talking to the waiting green,
“Not yet,” it seems to whisper.
“When I fall, then you can return.”

And she nods her head,
as the Lady passes by,
Leaving more flowers in Her wake.

Writing a song is a very different experience.

I’ll often feel the need to write a song, so will grab an instrument and just noodle, playing with chords, fingerpicking, singing nonsense words to find a melody that fits with the chords. Sometimes something comes, sometimes it doesn’t. But the melody is the hook of the song for me, so other than two of my songs when I wrote the words first and then found the tune (Only Human and Immrama, both from my new CD), the tune always comes first.

I can sometimes have a tune for months before I discover what the tune will be about. The song The Cauldron Born from my new CD, I had the tune for nearly 3 years before the words finally came through. Others, like Merlin am I, I’ll write the tune and the words in one sitting, and will often look at the page afterwards, totally exhausted, and wonder where it all came from.

Either way, for me songwriting is more like giving birth to a child. It can be painful, exciting, frustrating, risky, but at the end there is something that breathes for itself, and like a child, continues to grow and change with every performance.


The Seven Gifts of Druidry video

I created this little video some months ago, and I don’t know why I didn’t post a blog about it then. The words are from a poster produced by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, written by my good friend Philip Carr-Gomm. The music is Merlin am I from my Hills they are Hollow CD. I can’t believe it’s been viewed nearly 10,000 times already. Let me know what you think of it!