How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
More times than not, I’ll start with a chord progression – a melody will come from singing over that progression which then (often times accidentally) leads to a lyrical idea or line that will help me find some traction when putting together lyrics for a song. Some times the lyrics come fast and other times they come out piece by piece over long stretches of time. I fight like hell for the songs and I don’t put a time limit on anything when it comes to completing lyrics. Some times I’ll have to repeatedly go back at songs a couple times a week over a six month period to get it right. Touring can also elongate that process as I don’t like to write on the road….too little privacy and too few hours in the day to get creative. However, on tour, I’ll still get ideas here and there for lyrics which I keep in a notes section on my iPhone. A lot of times those ideas will find there way into songs sometimes years later even.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing in songwriting?
Be willing to stay in the moment with an idea as long as it takes to flesh it out. A lot of times when I’m inspired to write or get an idea it will be at a very inconvenient time – for instance, when you get an idea that starts flowing at the end of an exhausting day and you know you have wake up early the next day but you make a decision to stay up late (writing) and be totally wrecked for the sake of following the inspiration. Whenever I’ve let myself stay in the moment with a tune (despite its timing) is when the best stuff usually happens. It’s funny, its like some sort of cosmic fee you have to pay to get access to the creativity.
Are you ever scared of revealing aspects of your personal life/experience to strangers through your music?
Sometimes. It happened more when I was younger and just discovering songwriting. It was a confusing time for me because I knew I had strong material but I was also afraid that maybe somehow if I wrote a song inspired by someone or a situation that the listener would know exactly what I was referring to – and I didn’t want to hurt anyone or anything. In most cases people don’t know or care to know what specific thing inspired the song – they just wanna feel something and have a message resonate with them.
What is the best lyric that you ever wrote (the most meaningful for you)?
So far It’s either ‘Yours Till I Die’ or ‘All the Time’. After the last Apache Relay record something really clicked for me on the lyrical side of things….a lot of that was due to getting write songs with the brilliant Johnathan Rice during the making of that record. But also, a huge factor in getting a lot better is receiving honesty/feedback/
recommendations on my lyrics from my brother (and bandmate) Ben Ford — it’s helped me hone my craft in a huge way and get to a point where I could write songs like the one’s mentioned above.
What inspired “Devotion”, part of your upcoming album that, if we are not wrong, will be released early January, correct?
Yep. That’s right. ‘Devotion’ is the first single off of our forthcoming EP Songs of Airpark (Produced by Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore of Tennis) — due out February 22nd. I’m obsessed with writing lyrics that lets the listener fill in the gaps….I don’t like when things are perfectly laid out and linear, negative space in lyric writing is my fave – I want to create a feeling by making some things abstract and others literal. That’s was the approach to this tune. In my mind I kept picturing myself at a party where I become infatuated with someone who didn’t notice my presence (all the while trying to break through to them).
And “Yours Till I Die”?
This song is about a past relationship of mine that I feel ended too soon. Going into writing it, my thought was if I could I write something good enough maybe I could bring the relationship back to life or that I would just find a way to let it go and move on. Which seems sad on paper but it was actually really healthy for me to boldly put how I was feeling out into the world – I gained some closure from it.
Do you remember the day you wrote “Plenty To Pine For”?
I do, at the time I was living off of Music Row in nashville. Ben gave me the song title – which we both immediately loved. He said I think you should try and write a song around this title….I never tried starting with the title first before writing lyrics but I loved having a framework to create a world from. I’ve done it several times since (‘Le Tigre’ started with the title). Due to having a framework to work from – the song came out really fast. The song is all about reconnecting with an ex on NYE…I just loved the idea of it.
What are your plans for the last months of 2018?
We wrap up touring on November 17th. Its been an incredibly busy year for us, so we’re planning to take a second to hang with our family and relax for a second. We’ll have a good bit of time to write in December which I cant wait for…..I find when I’m writing is when I’m most at peace and when I’m not writing is usually when I’m most anxious in life. I’m so grateful to have writing as an outlet. That and running keep me from going off the deep end.
To conclude the interview a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes to your mind:
- Define in one word your new song “Devotion: Infatuation.
- The best show you ever played: Supporting St. Lucia at their sold out Pier 17 rooftop show in NYC. Huge crowd, amazing venue and the most beautiful scenery you could ask for. Just google the place.
- The one thing that you must have in your backstage: WATER. Ice Cold even better.
- The soundtrack of your childhood: The Smashing Pumpkins ’1979’.
- Your favorite song lyrically speaking, but not written by you: Cornerstone (Arctic Monkeys). And really basically everything Alex Turner writes. One of the greatest lyricist of all time as far as I’m concerned. While a lot of folks recognize that, he’s still absurdly underrated in my opinion.
- Last question is “unusual”, we want to know your best relationship advice: The best advice I can give is the same advice I have to give myself all the time. Direct communication. Addressing problems as they arise and not letting them fester into a passive aggressive mess or to a place where it grows so big there’s no way to unpack all the complexities of the issue. Easier said than done but worth it.