For those of you who know me, (and at this point I’m guessing 100% of my readers are my friends) it is no secret that my mother passed away last May. Don’t worry… this is not a “let’s all feel sorry for Shan because she’s in the Dead Mother’s Club” post. On the contrary, hopefully my readers might find my post (somewhat) uplifting, considering I have a slight cynical view of the world already.
Shannon Allen’s guide to writing good songs: Love and Other (Prescription) Drugs
First let me preface this portion by saying that I am not at all ashamed that I take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills on a daily basis. If you aren’t medicated by some sort of drug, you probably should be. (Just saying…) My pills give me a safety net that I would not have otherwise, considering I am going through a grieving process. It always amuses me to see how uncomfortable people get when I talk about the fact that I’m on anti-depressants, like I’m all the sudden going to try to stab them in their sleep because I’m “unstable.” Get over it… chances are most of your friends are on some sort of prescription drug, but they hide it from you because they are too embarrassed. Also… the people who actively disagree with anti-depressants and other forms of social behavior drugs, are probably those who need them the most…
Anyway… enough tangents. Back to songwriting.
I’m not really sure how this is going to come across to all of you… but I wrote all my best songs during the period of time when my mother was terminally ill as well as the period after her passing. NOT to say that I think everyone must go through some tragedy for them to be a successful songwriter, but my experience put me in a position of such vulnerability, that songs were literally bleeding out of me. Not all of these songs were about my mother, some of them were about heartache, love, and other extreme emotions we as the human race are doomed to experience at one point or another.
This brings me to my next point: The two best songwriting tools are DEPRESSION and LOVE.
Back to my previous soap box about prescription drugs; depression is probably one of the most taboo words in the English language. People who are diagnosed with “depression” in American are plagued with a stigma that A) they walk around like a human Eeyore, or B) they should be on constant suicide watch. Aren’t the masses of our country full of smart, informed human beings??? (If you didn’t pick up that I was being facetious, you are probably one of the idiot individuals I’m talking about…)
ANYWAY: Think about all the great songs we know and love. What are some common themes??? Love, lost love, unrequited love, heartbreak, heartache, longing, sadness, spite, envy, just to name a few. If we could define loosely the state-of-mind these songwriters were in when they wrote these songs, it is either some form of love or some form of mild depression. Unless of course you are a hip hop artist, then your songs can be about boozing, tits and ass, and making it rain in clubs.
I’ve written a lot of song about love. I’ve written a lot of songs in times of deep sadness. These two mindsets are where 99% of my song ideas come from. I don’t necessarily believe that these are the only two ways I can write songs, but I’ve noticed that I am always most genuine in my songwriting when I let myself go into a state of complete and utter vulnerability. I (unfortunately) wear my heart on my sleeve, which some people may say is a good thing, but I promise you it is quite the burden most of the time. You can read my face like a book: I am not good at hiding any sort of emotion. However, this burden helps me love completely and fully, although it also makes times of sadness 10 times more extreme.
So, I suppose this post is to let you all know that it’s okay to bleed. It’s okay to be who you are… even if it is a little quirky. I don’t want to become someone who simply blends into the background of my peers. I guarantee if you talk to any one of my close friends, they will tell you that they know more about me than they probably care to know. (I am a frequent offender of the TMI rule.)
I am an open book. My lady business always hangs out.