On being stranded at sea and inspiration and fun writing challenges

I had no idea but apparently I am Robinson Crusoe, I’ve been stranded at sea for about 48 hours now, what an adventure. I’m not even sure how I’m going to upload this or if it will even work. Windows are broken, we’re running out of food/fuel, the boat is moving and listing like a mother, my television flew across the room when we hit one of our many rogue waves, it’s been an experience. Experiences like this always inspire me to write, but so does everyday life. What happens when you can’t write any more? Most of the time, inspiration for lyrics comes directly from the life of the artist. There’s really nothing more desirable than a clever song that every listener can relate to, and usually the best way to come about that is to write about something common and mundane like relationship problems. This usually works really well for me, however, when you’re playing out all the time and sharing your music, it’s hard to stand out. Also, it’s hard to continuously write about personal affects and put your emotional mind on display, especially if you like to lead a more private personal life.

The biggest drawback to taking inspiration from your own experience is usually what I always call “Writing yourself in a box” which is where all of your songs echo the same general theme. AKA, Taylor Swift. (God love her though) If you have ever dated/broken up with a songwriter (or witnessed this usually dramatic public event) you have probably rolled your eyes for the next few months, wondering why you’ve heard the same self-righteous love and loss song a million different ways. One thing I admire about some of my favorite songwriters is their ability to write such provocatively diverse songs.

When I notice I have written a lot of similarly themed lyrics, I turn to literature and take inspiration from the stories that other people have lived. If you’re bored, this can be really fun. Find a Faulkner (or whatever) read a little, and write something from the perspective of any character you choose, based on their journey in the narrative. This strategy can help you if you’re suffering from writer’s block, or if you just need a new point of view. It’s so useful to see the world from a different perspective while writing. It’s one of my favorite ways to write, actually.

Pro tip: this exercise is really great for if some dude emails you and is all ‘why are you writing a song about me blah blah blah etc.’ you can be like ‘I wasn’t, this song is about alexander from the mortal instruments series stop being so vain” not that this has ever happened recently.

Pro tip 2: This writing strategy can result in people thinking you’re a hipster like if you write a song from the perspective of Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnicov or something similar. People might think you’re smart. That would be a scandal. On a wholly unrelated note, here’s a song I wrote from the perspective of Lauren from The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho) picked up this book at a street market in Melbourne. Do recommend.

This song is really different for me because I wrote it in segments. I really admire the way that some of my favorite songwriters seem to change up the progressions and formatted structures of their original material, so I really tried to think outside the box with my format and use some jazz progressions with minor root/ Dim 4ths to keep it interesting. I have also been experimenting with using my voice more percussively, so here is Arsenick.

ignore my thirties dress and hair, i was on my way to the jazz big band set onboard!

Im going to write more about something next week. It may be chord progressions to avoid, or the way I change reality in my mind sometimes to make for better lyrics. I haven’t decided yet. I know you’re on the edge of your seat. Tune in two weeks from now and you will have missed next week’s blog post.

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A bit on my daily schedule and setting impossible goals

If you’ve never done it before, getting used to living on a cruise ship is really difficult. Being stuck on the boat for a few sea days on end (days that you are in the middle of the ocean and literally cant leave) can be frustrating if you’re used to being super independent and free and able to go to the drugstore or the bar whenever you want, like I am. You need to anticipate your needs (buy the wine before the boat leaves) and you need to be dedicated and diligent about setting a schedule to achieve your goals. before I left, friend told me to set “impossible” goals for myself for the contract, so in order to keep myself somewhat accountable, these are my 10 “Impossible” goals:

1. Write one song every day. Write one a cruise that I love and am ready to perform and record on an EP perhaps in November/December. Post on blog. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
2. Practice piano every day. This is a given. (no, this is a gibbon) Gibbon

3. Practice guitar well enough to accompany myself and not be ridiculous

4. Listen to 100% more classical music and incorporate these progressions into my writing.
5. Be 100% more of sex pistol rockabilly whiskey princess than I am currently. This is just fun for me. I like vintage, classic things, red lips and dark eyes and pencil skirts and bandanas. Oh and go get those 2 tattoos you want. It’s a goal. Do it.
6. Put together rhythm and horn charts for Savannah&ThePlaineJaines, the swing band I want to start when I get back to NY. Want to play in a swing band? Me too.
7. get new pictures done in Isle of Pines and Vanuatu, post one new song a week online, keep up songwriting and random thoughts blog (BAM!)
8. Do theory and ear training with David twice a week so you’re not stupid, musically
9. Don’t give a fuck about anything or anyone. Don’t do things you don’t want to do. Say no. Demand respect from people in your life and be kind.
10. do that dumb insanity thing most days and don’t binge eat the bleu cheese pizza on lido.

So far, these goals have been helping me create music I’m proud of. Since I only work about 3-4 hours a night, I need to keep busy. This is about what my daily schedule looks like:

10-11am Insanity
11-12 Lunch
12-2 Theory
2-3 play the lonely guitar
3-5 work on writing on piano.

5:30 get ready for work
6: Dinner
7: work.

The downside of travelling a lot and having a somewhat “gypsy” soul is always leaving people and things you love behind. I meet so many wonderful people and can’t hang out with all of them nearly as much as I want to, and sometimes I’m just getting in the groove of a new friendship and I’m gone again. It’s really hard to be homesick for everywhere you’ve ever been. I live for long emails from friends about the most mundane aspects of their lives…it keeps me sane, and will for the next 4 months.

Since most of the things I’ve been writing are about leaving, I decided to write something from the perspective of someone who watched a friend go. Sometimes I think it’s harder to be left behind, so that’s what inspired this diddy. I found this lonely and sad guitar abandoned in the musician’s locker, and this is something we came up with together. Sorry the guitar is so quiet/goes slightly out of tune towards the middle of 3 minutes. It’s about 16 years past ‘new string day’ for this tired little guy.

Dusty rose(Let it Show)