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Stealing from your favorite musicians (1 Viewer)

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JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Alternately, musical influences on your writing.

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Years ago, before I laid hands on my first word processing software, I'd listen to music almost all the time. Road trips were a favorite - long stretches of nothing but watching the world go by, not having to interact with people, the hum of the tires, and the idea of going places, even if those places weren't new or especially exciting.

It's tough to have music going and clear head without seeing things in story. Either you visualize what the lyrics are saying of you make up something of your own. I suspect this is where the eventual writing habit found its origin; I'd have my Discman and my case of CDs (cassettes, if you count from the beginning) and I'd put myself in neutral, switch on the other half of my brain, and make up adventures to with the songs.

As I got older I got to the point of appreciating the musician on par with the work. With the writing thing established, I started noticing aspects of a particular artist's style that stood out across their catalog as a whole. Later on you come around to enjoying the big picture - the words, the instrumentation, the way the story ebbs and flows in its three-minute window.

To that end, certain artists seem to have a certain deftness that sets them apart. I always figured if I could do half as well as any of them in the written form, I'd be doing alright.


- Marty Robbins. Not too many could sell a western ballad like him. Admittedly his career went beyond trail dust and gunfights, though he's probably most known for stories that come across as Louis L'Amour with strings and melody. You can enjoy his music just about anywhere, but you can't get the full effect of his western canon without a night in the open, a crackling fire, and maybe a good dog.

- Gordon Lightfoot. Yeah, the guy who's famous for singing about the death of a Great Lakes ore carrier. South of the Canadian border Lightfoot's career can safely be summed up by the handful of songs that charted down here. Delve into the AM side of his career though, and you find a man unparalleled in his depictions of love, regret, and the sometimes-uneasy feeling that comes with being free.

- Stan Rogers. Two Canadians in a row probably means I'm at risk of losing a corner off my Texan card. Be that as it may, you'd be hardpressed to find a singer who can paint the blue collar world with such sympathy and humor - or who can infuse so much energy and urgency into the commonplace from the first note.

- Jim Croce. Contemporary of the above, Croce excelled at singing about life on the small scale...good, bad, funny, heartbreaking, and everything in between. Possibly the Bob Ross of classic American folk music.

- Tom Russell. This man can sing anything. I first encountered him in a concept album chronicling his family's century-odd history about coming to American and their struggles and victories since. Russell works a lot of the same territory as Marty Robbins with a somewhat jaded modern sensibility; the frontiers of New America has its share of secrets and darkness, and he doesn't shy from pointing lights at the less comfortable aspects.

- James McMurtry. You know the guy who wrote Lonesome Dove? This is his kid. He's in a class with Tom Russell. His stomping ground is usually small-time/small-town America. There's a lot of echoes of the American Dream here - what was promised, what came about, what we're left holding when the music stops.

- The Turnpike Troubadors. A later addition to the music library, Turnpike holds a special place for me because I'm personally familiar with most of their subject matter. I got my degree from a school in southern Oklahoma and have lived in small-ish towns most of my life, and very seldom have I encountered a band in the Red Dirt category who capture the culture, the mindset, and the general feeling of life in the hinterlands in so sharp a focus.

So if you could borrow from your favorite's...who would it be? And why?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I relate a lot to this but not the lyrics aspect of it. I would listen to ambient music or thumbing techno and 'feel' completely different emotions when writing. It effects my sentence structure, sentence length, even word choice. Lighter touches have me writing more poetically, whilst hardcore German techno has me getting down and dirty with language. Music is a huge part of my life. It's like a film score for me.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Heh. I used to tell people mine was a killer soundtrack for a much better movie.

I remember a bike ride I went on through town once. I'd had a couple of spliffs and I was floating. Suddenly a beat entered my head. Just a simple techno beat. And before I knew it, the traffic, pedestrians, distant sirens where part of the mix. I'll always remember that. It was fantastic ... until I nearly fell of my bike.
 

druid12000

Senior Member
Funny this thread should appear this morning. I was working overnight and had a scene in my head from my current WIP and had my headphones blaring away. I have an eclectic mix of music that I put on shuffle and just let it go. At any given time I could hear Vivaldi followed by White Zombie, then Sarah McLachlan and Pink Floyd. The scene is a large, festival style crowd and a sniper is watching his prey thinking, 'So ya, thought ya, might like to go to the show', from Pink Floyd's 'In The Flesh'. I so wish I could put it in the story because it fit so perfectly.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
In terms of music in writing, I have done the following:

1) Used lyrics from a song to set the tone of the story.
2) Used lyrics from a song in between scenes of a story which was influenced by the song, and relates to it.
3) Used a song as inspiration and the basis of a story.

Music influences us (especially writers) a lot, and to not use it would be to deny an integral facet or writing.

-JJB
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
In terms of music in writing, I have done the following:

1) Used lyrics from a song to set the tone of the story.
2) Used lyrics from a song in between scenes of a story which was influenced by the song, and relates to it.
3) Used a song as inspiration and the basis of a story.

Music influences us (especially writers) a lot, and to not use it would be to deny an integral facet or writing.

-JJB


I've used words from a song in my signature! LOL I keep thinking I will change it, but it says exactly how I feel.
 
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