1. This song was inspired by you/ex-girlfriend/national tragedy. Ok, so there are lone exceptions (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young writing “Ohio” right after the Kent State Massacre). But I wager ol’ Neil had the lick in his back pocket before hand. Why? Because how songs are “inspired” is rarely literal, rarely direct. I mean Toto’s “Rosanna,” which everyone knows is supposed to be about Rosanna Arquette, is actually a coincidence. The creative connection between “said event” and song is, at best, a loose, frequently interrupted connection based on countless other variables (including what kind of vowels–Os or As–are in your name). So keep your panties on, ladies.
2. I don’t think about “ex girlfriend”when I sing about her. LIE. He does. He will. Always. This doesn’t mean he’s still in love with her. But it does mean (if he’s like my emerging buzzband and 2-3 times a month willfully chooses to go on stage and embarrass himself in new and creative ways using musical instruments/microphones), you occupy at best a single room in his multiple-dweller, mental love shack.
3. I slaved over that song. Songwriting—like any creative endeavor—is not easy. But, it’s also not rocket science. Lady Gaga said it took her 25 minutes to write “Born This Way” (probably her best sonic masterpiece, forget what they say about the Madonna plagiarism), and I believe her. When inspiration does strike, it’s lightning-quick, a rush, and virtually painless. Anyone who says they spent 8 hours locked inside a dumbwaiter in an apartment complex on Franklin Avenue finishing the final two stanzas is either a) lying or b) a hack.
4. This song is actually about “insert random theory of the universe.” I’ve heard this more bizarre lie a lot. Don’t get me wrong, musicians are closer to astrophysicists than, like, hot dog vendors. But, trying to explain how your lyrics about getting road-head are actually codes to some revamping of the Big Bang Theory is just ex-post-facto ego mongering. It’s worth noting #4 actually doesn’t count if you’re talking to Queen guitarist Brian May.
5. I’m going to write a song about us right now after having sex. According to bio-pics that are trapped by cinematic limitations, songwriters usually just sit on the edge of the bed, strum a few guitar chords, lick the lead-end of the pencil, and write down their song for the melty-eyed girl. Basically, songwriting is presented as making a bomb-ass crepe. Listen: if your songwriter wanna-be lover insists he/she will write a song about you, they’ve likely prepared it ahead of time. Again, songwriting is always more erratic, mysterious, and accidental than he (or Crazy Heart) wants you to believe. This doesn’t mean he/she won’t write a song about you. But, he may not pull it off while you’re still in post-coitus cigarette mode.
~Dunstan McGill never told any of these lies.
Photo courtesy P.E. Tripp