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Working on a song, “Not Afraid” | Jeff Schram

Working on a song, “Not Afraid”

The first new song sketch since starting this site. I thought I’d share it in its rough state and talk a bit about my songwriting process.

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Working Title: “Not Afraid”

If you see me walking in New York, or sit next to me on a train (I ride a lot of trains) chances are I’ll be listening to something like this. A couple nights ago, late at night when I probably should’ve been sleeping, I sat my iPhone on the coffee table and recorded a sketch of a new song.

I’d been playing the basic chord progression all night, just enjoying the feel and singing my jibberish. I often rough out a melody and basic lyrical concept by singing under my breath making sounds that are sometimes words and sometimes just a way to carve out a space until I find the right words.

Most of the time, I’ll be inspired to write a new song by a sound, or a chord progression I find on the guitar. If I think there’s something there, I’ll remember it (hopefully), and it’ll keep popping up the next time I pick up the guitar. I guess I sort of audition these ideas, playing little bits of possible songs one after the other to see how they play out.

I recorded this right after I realized that two of my recent ideas should be combined into one. That sort of thing happens all the time, a lot of my songs started out as separate ideas until I finally notice that they’re just different components of the same idea. Often they’re somewhat contradictory, but I like a lot of contrast between different parts of a song. You can tell in this recording, the first time I play the “B” part I play it in a drastically different rhythm and the 2nd time it’s more similar to the rhythm of the “A” part. I’m not sure which I like better.

Writing music, playing a guitar and singing is a meditation. I’m present, and I find it almost impossible to bullshit or lie to myself. I respect it, it’s more of a sense of connecting with something and discovering it, and less a sense of inventing.

So I end up listening to the jibberish closely, and I spend a lot of time figuring out what it’s saying, and what I meant when I was singing. I listen to recordings like this while walking around the city and the things I see give it a new context – and sometimes I find different perspectives or different ideas.

I’ve shared these kinds of recordings with only a few people in my life. They’re not very good, but that’s not the point. This new site’s going to be about the unglamourous process – and I guess that has it’s own way of being beautiful.