Well, as it happens I didn’t wake up so early, but nevertheless, I’ve made a start and feel like 1 month, 4 songs is properly underway. The first question was what to start with – music or lyrics. Either choice is as good as the other, yet whichever one you start with is going to influence what happens subsequently. I have an odd predilection for letting fate have its hand in such things, so the first thing I did was flip a coin.
Heads = Lyrics
Tails = Music.
We got a pharaoh. The project starts with the words.
Although the aim is to write four songs, I’ve made the starting point eight. My idea is that as I develop these eight sets of lyrics, certain songs are going to prove stronger than others. Later down the way, we’ll cut loose the weaker half and focus on those stronger songs. With this in mind, I started looking through my notebook, and found the following concepts I wanted to develop:
- A Different Kind of Light
- Confide in Me
- When The City Is Home
- Avril Lavigne’s Doppelganger Laments
- Bold Little Weasel
- Dusty, Dirty & Polluted (a Cairene Love Song)
- Pass Without Trace
- Let’s Make Our Bed Together
Most of these are little sparks that have been knocking around in my head for a while, but aren’t really developed beyond a title (which may change), a vague idea of the direction the song might head, and in two cases, just three or four lines already written.
The plan over the first couple of days is to develop these ideas as ‘streams of consciousness’. By this I mean my aim will be to write as much as possible for each song; a side of A4 for each. At this stage, I want to resist being distracted too much by structure or rhyme, instead striving for a ‘wall of text’. Then I’ll have plenty of material to start work with when I begin trying to pare things down to something more songlike.
I’ve noticed that I get easily diverted from the task at hand when I’m at home, so another thing I wanted to try with this project was getting out the house semi-regularly. I live in Zamalek, a part of Cairo which has a nice array of coffee shops well-suited to pseudo-intellectuals, hipsters and part-time songwriters. One of my favourites is Sufi Café, which is where I spent the morning writing.
As usual, Sufi Cafe’s Internet wasn’t working. The Internet is a help and a hindrance when songwriting. A bigger source of distraction can’t be found, but it is useful when you want to find out a bit more context for a song subject (such as the daily habits of certain mustelids) or when you need to listen to a little music to refresh your creative energy. Still, being offline for the morning did at least leave me feeling weirdly ‘purer’ in my writing – a notion which is patently rather silly when you think about it. At the very least, Sufi Café also provides its own inspirations, it’s a warren of old Art Deco rooms stuffed with books on all kinds of weird topics, and offers the best music of any such establishment I’ve visited in Egypt – unsurprisingly, most of it is Sufi music.
So far I’ve filled up half a page in my notebook for each of the song ideas. Tomorrow I hope to continue riding those streams of consciousness and leave the pages full.