Songwriting is so weird. My last two completed songs (Cold and Clown) were basically one-nighters. And I suppose it's possible my next song might be a one-nighter too, since they tend to come out of nowhere. But right now I'm working on one that has just been so slow in coming.

I don't know what other songwriters are like, but I definitely do have some favorite sounds and voicings. The trick is to dress them up so they are just tools, part of a larger original sound. One of my favorite sounds is one that is in Del Amitri's "Driving With The Brakes On", my piano improv Before A Kiss, a few sections of my favorite jazz standards... you get the picture, these things are all over the place.

I was playing with it and came up with something that sound poppy and fresh to my ears. A good indication for me is if I don't get sick of playing something over and over again. It pretty quickly expanded into a four bar phrase that I felt would be perfect for a chorus, and I could play it over and over again.

The problem with coming up with the chorus first is that you never want to get out of it. And this one just had such a strong root feeling that I just felt worried I wouldn't be able to do it justice in the rest of the song. Having the verse in the root would make the chorus more boring than it is. And did I really want to just take it down to the vi and start the verse there? I'd play the chorus pattern and feel happy and then I'd start exploring other material and would just get grumpy.

I was stuck there for months. I brought the material into my Triage rehearsals (my fusion trio with Steve and Steve) just to hear what it sounded like with bass and drums - I love the sound - but I didn't want to make it part of our collective material.

So finally I decided, screw it, even though I liked this being conventional and poppy, I clearly don't have patience with those conventions. So I started fiddling around with weirder chord progressions. I like that quite a lot - the way the chorus moves in the clown song is part of what I love so much about the song. And sometimes it's like painting yourself in a corner just to see if it's possible to gracefully get out.

That opened up possibilities a bit, finally. About two weeks ago I started playing with the idea of the verse being a whole step below the chorus. It's wild - in order for the melody to sound natural and singable, it really has to slam the lydian mode. I finally came up with the complete song form - while it's a conventional song form, it doesn't make functional diatonic sense in one key, the melody and chorus really have to modulate back and forth.

I'm loving it so far and I have the whole form put together, complete with melody. The problem is that unlike some of my other songs, the entire musical idea came together before the lyrics did. Even down to how the syllables are stressed in the lyrics - uh-oh. I guess that answers a common songwriter question, whether we write music or lyrics first. For me it's entirely driven by the song in question. I have a couple of others where the lyrics are all written, but with only a rough idea of the music (been really hard to move forward on those).

So all I know at this point is that the chorus starts with "a bom bom bom, be-yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay". So right now, the damn thing is titled "The Aaaaaaay Song" in my iTunes. I regularly play it on my stereo while driving my truck, and scat along trying to find a lyric concept. I thought I had found a couple of concepts but it's difficult so far. All I really know at this point is that it'll be following a reality-hope-destination (verse-prechorus-chorus) pattern. But the lyric concepts I've had so far are dumb and don't do the music justice. Still working.