How to tap into the unknown by Jason Gould

Jason Gould
Jason Gould

Jason Gould: “When you’re writing songs with somebody, you have to be willing to look foolish.” Photo: Gene Reed

The New York singer-songwriter on the power of collaboration, and how to combine craft and mysticism to make memorable music

Sacred Days, the new EP from Jason Gould finds the New York singer-songwriter expanding his palette with modern production flourishes. Take the opening track, Laws Of Desire, a shape-shifting exploration with a dance beat that ebbs and flows like the tides of passion. Having previously had success as an actor on stage and screen, as well as directing and producing the short comedy Inside Out in 1997, Gould subsequently found his true calling in music. As well as his own work, including the 2017 album Dangerous Man, he’s also performed with his mother Barbra Streisand on the 2014 song How Deep Is The Ocean.

Here, Gould dissects his creative process…

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Where does it come from? I can’t say. It’s not intellectual for me. I have to feel it. I always start with melody first. Sometimes the melody comes with some words. If it feels right and sings right I consider it right, and then go about the work of fleshing out and crafting the lyrics.

I tend to let the unrealized song show me what it is and what it still needs. This depends a great deal on following instinct, knowing yourself, and trusting even the smallest glimmer of an idea.

Jason Gould

Jason Gould: “When I show up to write a song, I don’t know if anything’s going to come out of me.” Photo: Gene Reed


I prefer to do this with another lyricist. Bouncing ideas (and sometimes terrible ones) off each other. I’ve heard it said that writing a song with another person is like showing up naked for a first date. You have to have courage, because you may look like a fool in front of another person. But I think it requires that. When you’re writing songs with somebody, you have to be willing to look foolish. You have to be vulnerable enough to throw out ideas that may be terrible.

It requires a vulnerability and trust between the two parties to share thoughts, stories, and associations with each other, not knowing what may trigger a great lyric. It is sort of a sacred dance.


I’ve been blessed to collaborate with some very talented people. Liz Vidal and I first wrote Morning Prayer together with Marsha Malamet for my first EP, and now we have four songs together on my new EP Sacred Days. Stephan Oberhoff and I wrote Dark Grey Skies together as well as Damage, and I Go Crazy for my last EP. Allan Rich has written for Rod Stewart and co-wrote Natalie Cole’s 1987 hit I Live For Your Love and Whitney Houston’s Run To You. He and I have written several songs together over the years. We wrote Run for this new one.

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Jason Gould

Jason Gould: “It’s almost like trying to carve a statue out of stone.” Photo: Gene Reed


Don’t get me wrong, I’ve started many songs that were never finished. The right words never came, we never cracked the chorus, or the melody was somehow unfulfilling, but this is all part of the process I believe.

When I show up to write a song, I don’t know if anything’s going to come out of me. I don’t show up with ideas. I don’t show up with preconceptions. I don’t show up with an underpinning of a chord progression. I like to show up as an empty vessel. I find that the most pleasurable way to create.


You don’t know where it comes from. Call it God. Spirit. Call it ‘source’. Call it ‘unconscious’ – I don’t know. For me, I show up in the most humble way, not knowing if anything’s gonna come through, and so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised when these melodies and some of these words come through. It’s almost like trying to carve a statue out of stone. You’re honouring that song that wants to be born through you. I’m just the carver.

I think it’s important to be humble in the creative process. It is sort of a magical experience to co-create something from nothing.

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