Chris Difford’s Songwriting Survival Kit
The double Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter and founding member of Squeeze provides a fascinating tour around his trusty writing desk
Frequently compared with Lennon and McCartney, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have been lauded as a songwriting duo since their new wave band Squeeze’s first release in 1978. With hits such as Up The Junction, Goodbye Girl, Pulling Mussels From The Shell, Tempted, and so many more, the group established themselves as a vital part of quintessentially British music.
Although Squeeze disbanded and re-emerged in several incarnations over the subsequent 40 years, Chris continued to write with Glenn and other artists, and has enjoyed a fruitful solo career. He also finds time to share his award-winning expertise with budding writers through a regular series of retreats and online workshops – for example, readers can enjoy 20% off Chris Difford’s Songwriters Garden until the end of September 2020 by quoting SWM20.
We asked the acclaimed wordsmith to give us a tour around the trusty writing desk and paraphernalia that have become the essential tools of his trade…
1. MY WRITERS DESK
I have had my writing desk since 1989 it was hand-built by a carpenter in Kent. I took him drawings of a desk I had seen in an antique shop in London, the ’30s style appealed to me and the fact the desk looked like a stack of books. Originally the design was used for furniture on the Queen Mary. Each drawer is deep with my personal history and smells. My survival as a writer depends on returning here to write between tours, but in these strange days of lockdown, this is my resting place almost every day.
2. POTS FILLED WITH PENCILS
Collecting pencils as long I have has meant that I need lots of pots to hold them in, so my study is busy with pencil pots. I once created a collection of framed artwork of my pencils and gave them away to a charity auction, and now wish I had kept them. Some date back to hotels and motels on the first tour of America with Squeeze. Its good to have lead in your pencil and my study is full of pencils from my travels.
3. NOTEBOOKS DOWN THE YEARS
Being around notebooks is essential for me, there are my words from my first poem to the most recent songs. Although I hardly ever use a pen or pencil, notepads give me the security I need in case all else fails. I feel safe surrounded by my notepads, I feel in the arms of my own place as a writer. I have reams of notes in many books in a bookcase above my desk, they see me and I see them and notice the passing of time.
Smell is important while writing and a good candle can create all sorts of creative moods, Rose being one of my favourite candles. I also like the surrounding smell of Santa Maria Novella Pot Pourri. My study has a smell all of its own, I plug into the ‘me’ in the room a fragrance of age, I think. I like to bathe my imagination in the pleasure of a nice smell, sometimes from out of nowhere.
5. USB MICROPHONE
Although I do not record from home, I let more important people do that, I do use a USB microphone to speak to my fellow writers on the screen when I’m teaching. It’s a new piece of the jigsaw, a must-have if people are to hear you clearly and with clarity. Today I use a Podcaster, a mono microphone through a Focusrite thingy. I used to have all sorts of mics when I had a studio but they all went in the mists of time.
6 & 7. LAPTOP AND IPAD
I have used Apple laptops since they first came out, I think my first one was the Apple Ice. It weighed a ton and came on tour with me but was fairly useless apart from looking cool and being able to capture my writing when handwriting became too difficult to read.