November 25, 2009

CBC Interview Saturday – songwriting

I had a chat with the inimitable Glenn Meisner, CBC producer here in Halifax. He’s one of music’s heros here, in that he still seeks out good music, does his best to draw attention to it, and, above all, seems to “get” it. And he always gets me to thinking.

It wasn’t a long talk, but a pithy one. Getting the award business out of the way quickly, we moved on to songwriting. My songwriting.  I can’t say when or how songs started bubbling up in my young head. I recall that songs were in the air around me – my Mum, my Dad, my aunt and uncle  – often singing. Songs were nebulous – they weren’t made, they just were. If there were tangible muscle and bone songwriters, I was unaware of them. When I began writing I didn’t know I was writing. It was more like thinking. Thinking stupidly – the songs were horrible.

Adolescence led me to finding the voices of self-observing generation: singer-songwriters. I spent hundreds of self-indulgent hours howling out my own small beginnings, trying hard to come off as a spooky poet, but knowing I was a goof. Loved those singer-songwriters. Loved them.

It was only when I started listening to the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and Ira Gershwin that I fell in a deeper, lasting love. Prior to that, all was an effort to “speak my heart”, as John Lennon put it. Ok, but if I was going to insist on doing that, I figured craft would help. Songwriting became akin to putting together a beloved watch. Only the important bits, put together in the absolute right way – so that the watch ran smoothly. And only the time would be noticed, not the little pieces or how they were arranged.

Elizabeth Bishop described the creative process as “perfectly useless, self-forgetting concentration”. That’s what it’s like for me.

If your reading this, and here in the Maritimes, hope you tune in Saturday, sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.

Thanks for tuning in.


3 Responses to “CBC Interview Saturday – songwriting”
  1. Jane Greening

    You’ve always been a songwriter,old friend – you’ve just honed it to a point – well – that your the best songwriter in Canada. What more can be said?

  2. Susan

    No, no….there are dozens better, but they were not in the running this year. It was my lucky day.

  3. Jane Greening

    Oh yeah, and will listen for the interview!