Got questions for Little Bobby? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Little Bobby…
I just joined my first band and we will soon begin writing songs for a new record. I would like to contribute to the songwriting, but I’ve never written a song before. I have no idea where to even start. How can I put my ideas into words?
—Stuck at the beginning
Great question! I’ve written hundreds of songs, and I’d even say that a couple of them are good. Despite all of those songs, I occasionally get writer’s block too, but usually not for long. The bigger issue for me is actually WRITING down a melody or lyrics that I am enjoying, before I forget it.
That being said, I will assume that, to some degree, you and your bandmates all want to contribute to the songwriting of this album. Make sure that you are all clearly communicating things like, “I would like to write a song,” or, “I have some lyrics—would you all like to help write some music for them?” or whatever the case may be. I frequently just hum an idea for a melody to my bandmates and ask them to please work it out with me.
What to write about? Do you have something that you want to say? About the world? About love, life, politics? Something that you want to say TO somebody? Maybe someone you care about? Or maybe speaking truth to power? I would guess that the answer is “yes.” That is why you find yourself WANTING to write. What feeling or feelings do you want the listener to feel? Are there feelings of your own that you want to express, to get out? What do your bandmates think about your subjects? Are they subjects your bandmates also find interesting?
As far as lyrics go, sit down and start writing what first comes to mind. Feel free to use a dictionary/thesaurus. Maybe even Google “what rhymes with…” if and only if you want your song to rhyme.
But maybe you just can’t get your brain to even begin writing those phrases. What can you do?
Many artists (Burroughs, Bowie, Cobain and others) have used a technique called cut up. They might write a few paragraphs about a certain topic (or maybe even use a newspaper), and then randomly cut the sentences up into sentence fragments or individual words, which can be rearranged or added to. Maybe one fragment sparks the idea for a song, title, or main riff. Or maybe those fragments encourage you to open up that thesaurus and see what rhymes with any given fragment.
Usually the beginning of a song just comes to me (from any number of places) and then the work, and actual craft, of songwriting comes into play after that beginning, when I find myself needing to finish the song.
There are many, many different approaches to writing songs. Try different ones until you find what you like. And after that, I recommend that you keep trying different methods for fun. This will also help you as you continue to grow as an artist. Good art is constantly evolving. And as you keep writing you might find that it becomes easier, like riding a bike.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
—Leonardo da Vinci
Dear Little Bobby,
How can I get my bandmates to help me with promoting our live shows without being a dick?
I ask them to—at least—share, like, invite, etc., to the social media event pages that I create. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.
To help us have good crowds at the shows, I would like everyone to be involved in the promotion, but I don’t want to be a dictator. Is interacting with social media too much for me to expect from them?
—Frustrated and feeling alone on this
Social media promo can be a real chore, especially if you feel like you are doing it alone. The music is not played alone, but sometimes other aspects of a functioning band are left for one person to handle.
I have seen firsthand one person take on many responsibilities and not share them because of ego, fear, control issues, etc. This person got burnt out after a number of years ago and quit music altogether. I have tried to take these lessons with me into subsequent bands, so that I (and others) did not follow in these frustrating footsteps.
Your first priority should be communication. Maybe have a band meeting to discuss show promotion responsibilities. Be clear and be kind. You could directly ask, “What more can we do to promote the shows?” You could say clearly and kindly, “I am feeling overwhelmed with promoting these shows, can you guys help me?” Ask THEM what to expect from THEM, so that you all know where you stand on this. Keep in mind that if they don’t want to…then they don’t want to. Or maybe your bandmates have children, other bands, demanding jobs or other big “issues” or important commitments that require a lot of their time. If this is left unaddressed, it will be a problem that will continue to frustrate you.
On many occasions I have decided to be okay with someone not helping me promote. Maybe they didn’t have the time to, but they’re still a great musician and perhaps a friend. This meant that I had to be downtown, sometimes late at night in the cold, handing out flyers and putting posters up by myself. Sometimes I get help from others, sometimes not. But I have received a lot more help when I communicate to my bandmates about it. Even those who are busy at home can perhaps help more online. They might just need a reminder. They might just need to know that you are frustrated. Discuss it with them so that they know. Maybe they will appreciate your dedication.
But…I am reminded of a friend who once told me, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” Work WITH the situation. Do what you can, but do not forget that, while you cannot do everything, your bandmates are only as human as you are. Remember to keep it fun and keep it light. That will inspire your bandmates to WANT to help.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Together we stand, divided we fall”
—Pink Floyd, “Hey You”, 1979