Songwriting is one of my absolute favourite pass times, and for me it’s definitely developed into an absolute passion, over being just a hobby. Songwriting just brings me joy and fulfilment on so many levels and as the law of attraction experts Abraham Hicks always quote “The purpose of your life is joy.”
I don’t actually play a note of music yet somehow I have written around 17 songs in the last few years. These are full songs with both lyrics and melody – there are verses, choruses, bridges, middle-eights, breakdowns, almost raps (if they can pass for that), a little spoken word – you name it. I probably can just about manage to play Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again on the keyboard but that’s as far as my ability goes. I remember the horrified look on my music teacher’s face in secondary school when she was assessing my keyboard playing skills and the creation of a melody – It was all over the place, I couldn’t grasp a single note and she graded me an F if I remember correctly. My heart sank as my friend who sat next to me had managed to play the sequence perfectly. Despite this failure, I absolutely love music and am totally connected to melody and the way lyrics carry a message and feeling through melody – melodies and songs literally move me and shift something within. I think I just found playing an instrument hard because although I’m very creative I’m a bit technically challenged! To note here, I am not a vocalist either, it is the behind the scenes part I love, and thinking about creating a song for someone else to sing is so exciting for me.
So let me take it back – way back, to the late eighties, early 90’s (giving away my age here), but it’s when my interest in popular music sparked. My parents were fans of Top of The Pops so that would often be playing on the big bulky television and I’d got massively into Kylie Minogue, unable to resist the catchy I should be so Lucky Chorus. Bless my dad he recorded the Kylie behind the scenes documentary for me when it aired on TV and I was obsessed. In particular I remember hearing Tears on my Pillow and feeling in my heart how strikingly emotional the melody was and the way it was evoking that feeling within me. Then a few summers later my cool older cousin gave me a gift. One that I will never forget! It was a tape that he had made of some songs. This Cassette tape had Prince’s The Most Beautiful Girl in the World on it, it had Take That’s Babe on it, Chaka Demus & Pliers’s Tease Me and Uptown Top Ranking by Ali & Frazier. I think these early experiences with music coming into my life can be credited for my interest in songwriting today. I was also a fan of the girl group Eternal and remember begging my mum to buy me the tape. She did so I would listen to that so much. What really created the expansion towards dreaming of being able to write songs was when the Spice Girls burst onto the scene with Wannabe in 1996. That song led me to discover more radio as I would wait for the chart run down just to hear it and record it onto my Casio tape player to play it over and over again. I was only 13 or 14 years old and there were troubling times in my life related to family. My dad was suddenly taken ill and spent a long time in hospital so music was an absolute escape from these emotional and family pressures. When the Spice Girls released Say You’ll Be There, again I was hooked. I remember that sense of sadness, teenage angst and bitter sweetness whilst watching the Say You’ll Be There Music Video for the first time in the day room of the City Infirmary. Whilst my dad was being treated in Hospital, my sister and I spent a lot of time at My Gran’s house where my aunt, uncle and cousins also lived. Learning that the Spice Girls wrote their own songs was so inspiring to me and inspired me to also want to create these upbeat emo melodies and write songs that embodied an empowering message. So with this sentiment I began experimenting and came up with a song from nothing called Red Hot Girls – every bit as cringe as the title suggests. The Spice Girls were my absolute idols and of course as many teenagers do, me, my sister and cousin decided to create our own little band and I was initiated as songwriter on the credit of Red Hot Girls which we practised performing whilst making plans about our glittering career as popstars. I also created another song for our makeshift band, called Set your Body Free with lyrics like “move to the beat, get up and dance on your feet, life can be nice, if you break the ice, push yourself to the max…” modelled on a popular Bollywood song at the time.
Shortly after this I created a ballad song called I belong To You about unrequited love and it had the most incredible heartfelt melody – The verses and the chorus had a strong emotive sound and it literally was like the song was just gifted out of the ether. When I sang it to my cousin she was overcome and asked me to repeat singing it again and again that night and we just couldn’t tire of it. Actually I’ve used that melody in one of my newer songs as I felt the lyrics needed a bit of updating so now I belong to you has become my song ‘Tears On the French Riviera.’
I didn’t really create much beyond that, a few other songs here and there but I actually fell out of belief with the ability to do this, thinking that you needed some amazing musical credentials or a stage school background to own this dream, so it was all totally on the back burner and I focused more on my other writing goals of a novel and poetry. The music industry anyway didn’t have that direct line to real life as we do these days through Social Media so it all seemed quite elusive. In my late teens I became a fan of a Norwegian Singer called Lene Marlin, developing an absolute obsession with her album and the fact her parents had bought her a guitar for her 15th birthday which she taught herself how to play. In her songs, you could hear the sweetest folk-pop melodies and melancholy lyrics. How I wished my parents would do this for me. My dad bought me a couple of old keyboards from car boot sales but they didn’t think I was serious about a music career. I think I ruined my chances when I claimed to be able to emanate Martine Mccutcheon’s Perfect Moment for Stars in their Eyes. Besides my parents thought this kind of career ambition was laughable, and studying was about getting a ‘good real job.’ I think Songwriting actually runs in my blood though, because my mum and her brother write poetry in our bilingual language of Gujrati and my Grandad (my mum’s dad) writes cultural spiritual folk songs in India.
I just do have such an innate passion for songwriting. It’s the thing I’ve always done in some form or another in my spare time, whether it was writing poetry, making up songs, imagining myself as a songwriter, or recording my versions of my favourite songs on the old Cassio. It literally lights me up despite not being a professional. I’ve always had a natural appetite for discovering new music and am often met with blank expressions when I passionately talk about ‘that bit in that song’ that sets my soul on fire. What I absolutely love about songwriting is you can tell a story, be a character, create a scenario, make words your spells, and the best thing is the rules do not apply. Especially with pop songs which are the kind of songs I like to create, there is so much potential for being innovative, out of the box and unstructured. A good song is just a good song no matter how it comes about. I love that because I also had ambitions to write a novel, or be a short story writer and actually took a creative writing course but I found there were too many literary rules and ways of writing to adhere to in order to be seen as successful and I found that a little overwhelming not able to give myself permission to just go for it, but with writing songs there’s such a freedom of expression.
So moving this story forward one day I was sitting on my husband’s MAC and decided to play around with some sounds on Garageband the music production software. I have no idea how but I ended up creating half an instrumental with some synths and beats and I began singing a top line melody over it “You say you’ve had enough of chasing TV dreams, these paper walls can be so tough and now you’re breaking free.” This song is so significant to me because it’s the song I revisited when I was experiencing depression and anxiety back in 2017, and the one that helped me reignite my passion for songwriting, which then led me to create so many more original songs and restore a belief in my ability to create songs. After months of getting no joy out of life, I found a purpose and something I was excited for. This is why I believe our passions and creative fulfilment is our lifeline and is so central to sustaining us. I recall washing up in the kitchen, the kids were in bed, my husband had to work away so a little bored I just began singing and riffing and before I knew it I had a couple of songs to work with, and this became a little thing for me in 2016 and 2017 as my husband had to work late at times with a new business venture so any nights I was spending alone would be songwriting nights. Even just singing the songs I had created felt good and fun, and one day this feeling just hit me mid song that this is what it feels like to be at one with the Universe. I ended up entering a few songs in the UK Songwriting Contest but how that came about is a whole other story that needs a blog post of its own as it came about in quite a serendipitous way so I will save that for a future blog post.
Just to end, I do a mini Songwriting series on Instagram where I share some of my songs, different clips, lyrics and parts of the songs, and it’s where I talk about the process behind creating them. I dive a little deeper into the songs over there so do go and follow me @ditsyhalo if you’re interested in watching the episodes which are all saved in my story highlights to give you a sense of what my songs sound like and there is plenty more to come. Do feel free to comment below to share the creative passion that lights you up the way songwriting lights me up, as I would love to hear from you if you resonate with creativity being integral to your life force.