Jamie Lawson’s Songwriting Survival Kit
The Ed Sheeran-endorsed, Ivor award-winning singer-songwriter has several reasons why he can’t live without his laptop – and tea breaks
Sharing is caring, which is why we’ve been encouraging you all to share your #songwritingsurvivalkit with us on social media. Whether it’s the tatty notebook that’s attached to you, or your trusty old guitar and amp, we want to see those pieces of kit that are essential to your songwriting life and will be re-posting all of the images that you hashtag.
For this issue, the Ed Sheeran-approved, Ivor Novello Award-winning singer-songwriter talks us through the items that he can’t live without…
1. A4 NOTEBOOK
For some reason, I prefer an A4 notebook – there’s more space to write for a start. The good thing about using pen and paper over writing directly on to a laptop is that I can see my previous thoughts. Often an idea discarded for a second verse will actually work for the middle eight, or a bridge, because the reason you discarded it is because you got ahead of yourself. Had I written it on the laptop it would have been deleted and then it’s gone for good.
At some point I start to tidy up and write the lyrics up on to the laptop, this is good for organisation. Once I’ve copied and pasted the chorus and maybe the pre-chorus, it’s good to see there are only a few lines left to fill in, which takes us to…
3. TEA BREAK
Genuinely though, take breaks. Leaving the room, coming back to listen to the ideas anew is good for me. Space is very useful to let the head clear a little, to come back with a fresh set of thoughts and ideas… or to hear that it’s crap and you need to work harder, but even bad ideas should be finished, you really never know where some weird keyboard part is going to lead you.
4. THE LAPTOP AGAIN
This time for its recording programs. I use Logic, badly, but enough to set me up with sounds and moods that I can’t get from playing acoustically. Sometimes a certain groove, a moody organ or a string part is a great way of starting off, jumping to a different headspace. It’s easy to get stuck in the same thought patterns.
5. UKULELE AND PIANO
Different instruments are very useful, especially if, like me, you can’t play them very well! Seriously, there’s something about naive playing that will open up a lot of space in the music. Slow changes force you to slow down and play simply, often using chord structures you might feel have been done too often, but, there’s something about those simple chords that still pulls us in and takes hold.
Songwriters have all been through the same struggles and they’ll all tell you there’s no one way to write a song, but there’s a lot you can learn from reading and listening to other writers. Podcasts are good too. The Sodajerker podcast, in particular, is a great one – they’ve interviewed some greats.
7. MY GUITAR
Lately, this Martin SM-21 has been the main guitar I’ve been using to write on – it has a great tone and never gets in the way sonically of what I’m trying to do, whether it’s picking gently or strumming it out. A great song will sound good on just an acoustic or a piano; to me that’s the real test for a song – one that doesn’t rely on beats or production