Paul Smith’s Songwriting Survival Kit

Paul Smith’s Songwriting Survival Kit
Paul Smith's Songwriting Survival Kit

Paul Smith’s Songwriting Survival Kit in our Autumn 2018 edition

The singer from British indie rock group Maxïmo Park talks us through the items that he can’t possibly live without

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 singer for the British indie rock group Maxïmo Park, Paul Smith, talks us through the items that helped him write his new solo album, Diagrams

My latest album was mostly recorded on my computer – I sent my guitar parts and vocals (plus some of the bass tracks) to my friend Andrew Hodson, who plays drums and co-produces both my records and his other band, Warm Digits. He’s a real whizz on Ableton production software, whereas I’m a real Luddite, so I just record on GarageBand. It’s a great tool for songwriters, as it’s inbuilt into a Mac, so once you get some sort of recording interface, you’re away. I use it for quick ideas, as well, since you can always build on those initial musical sketches if you want.

It sounds pretty simplistic, but it helps to have your guitars on stands, plugged in and ready to go. I find it makes me want to pick them up and get on with the job in hand rather than waste time. My friend Claire Adams, who plays bass on my records, was too busy to finish the record so I ended up playing bass myself, even though it has spent a number of years lying around, rarely used. I picked up the early 60s Musicmaster in the US – it was meant to be a guitar for kids and beginners (before morphing into the Mustang), which suits my basic noodling!

Nice guitars provide their own inspiration, but I also like having objects around me that I’ve picked up on my travels. For example, I have a little figurine of a cartoon character called Sof’ Boy who was drawn by Archer Prewitt from the excellent band, The Sea And Cake. I found that in Japan. I also have postcards from visiting local art galleries when I’m on tour, and some are presents, including one of Björk’s, Vespertine, an album I love. I studied at art college and did art history at university, so all of that somehow feeds into my lyrics, even on a subconscious level. When I look at these inspirational objects, it reminds me to keep on top of my own skills and try to develop them; to always keep searching and evolving like my favourite artists…

Read more Songwriting Survival Kits here

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