I just finished Life by Keith Richards. Not surprisingly Richards talks about songwriting in a similar way as Bob Dylan and Neil Young. They all say that they’re not sure where their great songs have come from, but they acknowledge that they appeared when they got out of the way of the song.
Paul McCartney woke up with the melody of “Yesterday” in his head, Keith Richards wrote the “Satisfaction” riff in a similar dream like gift. In both cases they weren’t “trying” to write a hit song. They were just open to whatever inspiration they got at the time, they didn’t judge it in the moment. If you watched the Neil Young interview we posted yesterday (reposted below) you may have noticed that Neil Young goes as far to say that he doesn’t write songs, he “Remembers” them and the artists only job is to “take care” of the song.
Often when we write songs we judge them before they’ve even arrived. You start to judge the melody before you’ve explored it. You start to edit words that are pouring out and start “trying” to write a song. Neil Young says that his worst songs are the ones he’s “tried” to write.
If you let go of your ego as you’re writing and let all your inspiration out first, then good things will follow. Read Keith Richards book Life, or read Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, or watch the video below. When you try and control the inspiration you typically choke it off. Don’t judge your music until you’ve explored it. That doesn’t mean that editing doesn’t have a place in music. It does, just not at the source of creation. Let it flow and get out of the way.