I just wrapped up my first long songwriting session in, well, too long, and I'm ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound! A couple new rough drafts in the can, and one song that’s existed without a bridge for several months now has six to choose from.
Once I have some decent working ideas, I hit the town stand-up comic style, landing short sets at whatever venue will have me and road testing new material, low-key and unannounced. If a verse has a solid first line but that’s it, I’ll sing random words and see if anything sticks. If a song has six potential bridges, I’ll play a different bridge each set and gauge the crowd’s reaction - easy, when people are sitting in rapt attention (which is rare), and difficult when the audience is checking their Bitcoin portfolios (which is more common). Just like a comic, I record everything, listen back and tweak. Rinse and repeat until a tune’s ready to be recorded or performed at a “real” show.
My songs get exponentially better when they’re dancing around, gloriously half-naked, in the real world, out of the echo chamber of my over-active mind. If an idea exists solely on a hard drive, or god forbid in my brain, for too long, I start losing my grip - if I’m not sharing, I don’t feel like a songwriter, and if I don’t feel like a songwriter, I feel like a schmuck, and if I feel like a schmuck, I descend into Howard Hughesian, patchy beard-y whack job land.
It's an unorthodox approach I grant you, but fun! Try it sometime. If you're apprehensive, I understand, but also understand that Sir Paul could play unannounced at the 5 Spot and random industry guy in attendance still wouldn’t look up from his phone. It’s safe to be yourself out there, it really is, and changing up the creative process always reveals hidden gems.