Queens Over Kings has basically always been a cover band. We've just had fun picking songs and playing them for the heck of it. There wasn't a reason to write music. Not to mention differing abilities, distance, and being shy kept us in our comfort zone over the years. Because of this The Blues Song, or Lock and Key, has been our only original song for a long, long time.
I had always assumed that music was a literal step-by-step process that once learned would work every time. "Just do this, then do that, and voila you have a song!" I even Googled it a couple times like any self-respecting Millenial would do. Nothing. On top of searching for the perfect way to write, I was afraid of being told I was wrong. When considering song topics, word choice, tone, emphasis, pitch, and so on there is a lot to think about so there is a lot of personal effort behind it all. If, and only if, you find something you like then you have to share it with someone eventually. Taking criticism for something you put your whole self into is not a lighthearted experience. It's a skill all on its own!
So how do you deal with all of the timing and shyness and attachment? To get the ball rolling I had to just commit to doing my part in the music. I am in no way perfect or on the same level as Jerald or even Hallie, but I can say that I can contribute. Bottom line, I have looked to find out what works for me in the role of lead singer/songwriter. Once I made the decision to do my job things became easier, at the very least familiar. Here are a few tips that I've picked up over the last year that will hopefully help you figure out your own way to write music:
- Remember that music is about balance - If you have ever heard of yin and yang, then you'll know what I'm saying. Everything has its opposite (fire and water, light and dark, feminine and masculine) so look for the compromise in your music. When writing Lock and Key we purposely made the words vague and complicated, but music that is straightforward is enjoyable too (see Taylor Berrett's "Those Days" for a prime example) and we are highlighting more of that now. Also consider what you think is worth sharing. On a scale of private and public display of emotion, do you want to be Sting or Taylor Swift?
- Carry a notebook and pen with you everywhere - And I mean EVERYWHERE. My mini journal is a significant part of my writing routine. Have a place where you can jot down lyrics from single words or phrases to whole verses. You'll thank yourself when it comes time to put something together. You can mix and match however you want or get help putting on the finishing touches. A great alternative is a notes app on your phone. I really like Evernote because I can sync to my computer. It is available for both Android and iPhone.
- Set aside time to relax and write whatever pops into your head - Some of my favorite lyrics have come to me when I've set aside time to just lie on my back and look at the ceiling. For me this is usually when I'm settling down for the night. I've also tried other rooms of the house with great success haha. Everything counts here so write it all down. You just never know! We recently used what I wrote from a session like this into a new song that you can preview on the QOK Show. That first line gives me chills every time!
- Use music you love as a springboard - Put on your favorite tunes and try harmonizing or singing new words to melodies you already know. Learn how to play these songs on an instrument, be it piano or guitar, so you can sing along. I took a guitar class for fun and learned a tiny bit about music theory. That helps, often enough, when I'm in the Green Room with my amazingly talented and experienced siblings. Plus arranging the songs I love gives me practice with song structure.
- Just mess around in a jam sesh - This one has taken me the longest to work up to. I'm so glad I'm getting into it though since we are writing more original songs. I started laying down some nonsense after practice one night and it has really paid off with yet another new song. I think it's going to be our best song yet! Start singing about your pet, your dinner, or your favorite sweater. Good music is universal so those feelings about your car are bound to make sense to someone else somewhere right?