Rob Lord On Songwriting

The summer solstice has just passed, and San Diego-based songwriter Rob Lord has already had quite a year. He started 2008 by writing 15 new songs in two months (more than he had written in the previous five years years) and then decided to invest in his first professionally produced CD (recorded by musical alchemist Dave Richardson). The result, entitled DREAM, is newly finished. What better time to chat with the artist…

Rick: Why do you write original music?

Rob: I’ve been writing songs since I was a young kid first on the piano and then guitar. Creating original music has always been an emotional release for self expression. I’ve primarily used my music as a form of therapy — I get melancholy or introspective and need to release. I’ve performed solo and in bands, but much more than performing, I get off on the creative process of songwriting. It’s just something I do.

Rick: Yep, I can sure relate to that. So give me an example of how you approach the songwriting process.

Rob: For me, it’s a very nebulous experience. I don’t think it’s the norm from what I’ve read. Kinda unorthodox. I never just sit down and say “I’m gonna write a song” and then write one. I don’t believe in formulaic song formats with hooks or bridges, and sometimes I don’t even believe in a chorus.

My songs are born of free-flowing inspiration and not forced structure. There are no “music theory” limitations. Anything goes. Lately I have no idea what chords I’m even playing as I use frets beyond the 4th. If the chords I’m playing fit, remember them… and use ’em!

Where do I receive the creative energy? I have no idea. What I do know is that the ability to create anything is quite possibly the most powerful force we’ll ever know.

The energy does not come from me, it comes through me. I call my songwriting process “Nebulocity.” As with everything in life, songs initially come from nothing. Nebulocity is the combination of an urge, inspiration, ideas, images, thoughts, experiences and emotions all culminating together, swirling around and around. Once put into action they ultimately form something tangible, in this case, a song.

Rick: I get it, the concept of opening yourself to the muse. There’s a song on your new CD project called Artist Soul. What was going on for you when you wrote that piece?

Rob: Over 90% of my songs are written within an hour or two max. I wrote Artist Soul as a tribute to Heath Ledger the night I found out he suddenly passed away. I was very moved by his passing and could relate to his inner turmoil as an artist. I respected him as one of the best actors of his generation. Heath is my James Dean. I didn’t sit down to write a tribute song per se. I just needed somewhere to put my sadness and shock. I naturally went to my guitar… and out it came. See Slide Tribute on YouTube.

Rick: That really comes through in the song. So, what would you say is the most gratifying aspect of songwriting, now that you’ve written over 100 originals?

Rob: The most gratifying aspect of songwriting is channeling the creative energy and bearing witness to what flows out of me. First, I try to capture, or translate, that energy musically through playing chords or picking strings. Sometimes there’s a melody going through my head first and then I try to match it on guitar. As I do this, primal lyrics take shape and I begin to feel, hear and see a theme develop.

I have to admit… using a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus at online speeds is a huge blast too! They have enabled me to really capture the exact essence of the theme I’m trying to convey. There are, literally, a fireworks of words, meanings and rhymes exploding in my head.

Rick: And on the Web apparently. I never thought of looking for a rhyming dictionary online, but here are links to a couple: Rhyme Zone, Rhymer.

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