5 Artists Share How They Work
Pick and choose, try, copy, find what works for you. Quick.
All excerpts are from this recent Guardian article.
Martha Wainwright, musician
I definitely don’t have rules – I’m pretty disorganised. In fact, I often have to guilt-trip myself into sitting down to write. It is so easy to let your life get filled up with other stuff – cooking, cleaning, going to the bank, looking after your baby.
These everyday things do come through in my songwriting, though. Most of my songs are defined by a sense of loneliness, of isolation, that I probably get from spending a lot of time on my own.
The little images that I get from sitting alone in my apartment – the way the light is falling through the window; the man I just saw walk by on the other side of the street – find their way into snatches of lyrics. I write in short spurts – for five, 10, 15 minutes – then I pace around the room, or go and get a snack.
When I first moved to New York some years ago, I used to go to concerts every night – I would see six or seven musicians a week. Now that I’m a songwriter myself, I find watching other musicians can be frustrating – I want to be the one up there performing.
But every so often I see someone who inspires me to try something different. That happened recently with Sufjan Stevens – I saw him perform in Prospect Park, and his sound was so huge and poppy that I went home thinking: “I should really try something like that.”
Guy Garvey, musician
Just start scribbling. The first draft is never your last draft. Nothing you write is by accident.
If it’s all getting too intense, remember it’s only a song. I learned that the hard way: when I was younger, I played the part of the erratic, irascible drunk in order to have something to write about.
Tamara Rojo, ballet dancer
Learn to trust your instinct, and your creative empathy. Don’t over-rehearse a part, or you’ll find you get bored with it.
Hard work is important, but that comes before inspiration: in your years of training, in your ballet class, in the Pilates classes.
That work is there just to support your instinct and your ability to empathise. Without those, you can still give a good, technically correct performance – but it will never be magical.”
Mark-Anthony Turnage, composer
Forget the idea that inspiration will come to you like a flash of lightning. It’s much more about hard graft.
Routine is really important. However late you went to bed the night before, or however much you had to drink, get up at the same time each day and get on with it. When I was composing [the opera] Anna Nicole, I was up at 5 or 6am, and worked through until lunch. The afternoon is the worst time for creativity.
Fyfe Dangerfield, musician
We all have that small voice that tells us we’re rubbish, and we need to learn when to silence it.
Early in the songwriting process, comparisons do nothing but harm: sometimes I put on a David Bowie record and think, “Why do I bother?” But when it comes to recording or mixing, you do need to be your own critic and editor. It’s a bit like having children: you don’t interfere with the birth, but as your child grows up, you don’t let it run wild.
All sourced from the Guardian
Image: Luis Buñuel (Spanish, 1900-1983) and Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989). Film still from Un Chien andalou, 1929. France, 35 mm print, black and white, silent. Gift of Luis Buñuel. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.