Valentine’s Day is a big part of what we do here at Custom Serenade, so we did a little research into the holiday and were surprised to find an assortment of bizarre vintage valentine’s day cards that featured hot dogs and other kinds of meat! We’re not sure what this says about our most romantic holiday, but here for your viewing pleasure is an assortment of meat themed vintage valentines. If you like your valentines with a little less cholesterol and a lot more romance, trying ordering a custom song from us!
Being songwriters ourselves, we at Custom Serenade are interested in what some of the masters have to say! Enjoy this collection of tips and musings from some of pop music’s finest, and consider getting a custom song from us! It will make any happy occasion even happier!
Tips and Musings from top songwriters
Songwriting ability is a gift. After a while, you come to realize, “I’ve really been blessed. I can write these things and it makes me happy, and it makes millions of people happy.” It’s an obligation, it’s bigger than you. It’s the only true magic I know. It’s not pulling a rabbit out of a hat; it’s real. It’s your soul floating out to theirs. Tom Petty
For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they’re made of, and wonder if you can make one, too. Tom Waits
You work on your songs, but your songs also work on you. So you absorb and you excrete and in some way you retain, and slowly you start to become some place that songs are passing through.
I can’t write drunk, and I rarely write entirely sober. I think just a little bit of tipsiness is a great asset for turning off that super ego that tells you to Google every title you can think of, because someone might have thought of it before. Of course someone has thought of it before, who cares?
Most love songs are complaints, I think. Or about unrequited love, coming at it from some oblique angle. Only the ones that say “I love you” over and over are the cheesy, corny ones that people complain about.
”When I write a song, it starts with a feeling. I can hear something in my head or feel it in my heart. It may be that I just picked up the guitar and mindlessly started playing. That’s the way a lot of songs begin. When you do that, you are not thinking. Thinking is the worst thing for writing a song. So you just start playing and something new comes out. Where does it come from? Who cares? Now is not the time for interrogation or analysis. Now is the time to get to know the song, not change it before you even know it. It is like a wild animal, a living thing. Be careful not to scare it away. That’s my method, or one of my methods at least.”
“Poetry is a solitary process. One does not write poetry for the masses. Poetry is a self-involved, lofty pursuit. Songs are for the people. When I’m writing a song, I imagine performing it. I imagine giving it. It’s a different aspect of communication. It’s for the people.”
Once the inspiration comes, that directs where the perspiration goes, where the work goes. I don’t mean to sound like it’s some hippie philosophy of [in a high, fairy-like voice] you just sit down and it’s all flowing through you. Because there’s a lot of hard work involved in songwriting. The inspiration part is where it comes through you, but once it comes through you, the shaping of it, the craft of it, is something that I pride myself in knowing how to do”
If you are sitting down and you feel that you want to write and nothing is coming, you get up and do something else. Then you come back again and try it again. But you do it in a relaxed manner. Trust that it will be there. If it ever was once and you’ve ever done it once, it will be back. It always comes back and the only thing that is a problem is when you get in your own way worrying about it.
“I’ll just be out and I’ll get some zinger in my head and I’ll just write it down in an endless note-thing in my phone. A lot of those lines were just things that I came up with in the past year, like ‘Darling I’m a nightmare dressed as a daydream.’”
“It’s very important for the listener to have somewhere to go with their imagination. You know if you’re telling people what to think, I mean I think it’s one of the fallacies of protest music, if it’s too dogmatic, it’s not a debate, it’s not stimulating and the same is true of a love song or any spiritual song. If it’s too dogmatic then there’s no place for the listener’s imagination to exist within the music”
“Knock on every door, and write seven days a week. I know that sounds kind of harsh, but let that be your priority. Write, write and write some more. —Lamont Dozier
“Your work ethic has got to be to the bone. Writing songs should be your first love, and give it all the time it needs until you feel like you’ve accomplished or gotten the song that you think is worthy of letting the world hear.” —Lamont Dozier
I can’t say that I’m always writing in my head but I do spend a lot of time in my head writing or coming up with ideas. And what I do usually is write the music and melody and then, you know, maybe the basic idea. But when I feel that I don’t have a song or just say, God, please give me another song. And I just am quiet and it happens. Stevie Wonder
I’m not a fast writer. Never have been. I may get the whole synthesis of something, or most of it, an initial impact. But you’re not going to get something every day. But it’s important that you visit your worksite every day, even if it’s just to improvise, touch the piano, play some chords. Be in touch with your music. I equate it with being a tennis player on the circuit. You don’t take three weeks off and expect to get by the first round at Wimbledon, you know?
“Since I was 10 I was writing shit songs. Maybe they’re still shit, I dunno, but they were really shit. It was the first EP when I stopped trying to write something that I thought people would like. I was locked in my room, not doing shows and not caring what people would think if they heard them.”
“I don’t have structured writing habits. I’ve written hundreds of songs and have enough material for three albums so I don’t see writing as a problem. I play my guitar every day and always have fragments of ideas floating around my head, but I never force a song into being. My songs aren’t autobiographical, but they usually combine a variety of things I’ve seen, heard or read about. Occasionally it will be something that happened to me, but I’ll combine that with other things.”
You can’t write a song out of thin air you have to feel and know what you are writing about. Irving Berlin
“If I write a song there has to be a catalyst. It can’t just be like ‘I had a nice day.’ It has to be like ‘I had the best day ever’ or the worst day ever. You can’t write a song from a bland experience, but you can write a song from two extremes.’”
“If you’re in a really good mood, you can write the best song, and if you’re in a really bad mood, you can write the best song, but if you’re just vanilla, you can’t.” Ed Sheeran
The Sleater-Kinney songwriting process is really unique. The kind of sparks that we get in our practice space are really special to this band. We feel pretty comfortable just letting it all fly in the basement, which is conducive to getting a lot of cool ideas. Even when we were writing “Price Tag,” I was screaming the word price tag. A lot of those ideas come for me as a songwriter when we’re working together…I just start singing or yelling things when we’re making all that noise together.
Maybe I’ll write out five or six chords, then discipline myself to write something only with those five or six chords involved. So that particular dogma will dictate how the song is going to come out, not me and my sense of emotional self. Of course, I’ll cheat as well. If I’ve got the basis of something really quite good coming out of those five or six chords, then I’ll allow myself to restructure it a bit, if I think, well, that could be so much better if it went to F-sharp [laughs], or something like that. But to define the rules, then take it as far as you can go with that little rule, then break it, I find is really a way of breaking writer’s blocks as well. David Bowie
“I can’t say when it occurred to me to write my own songs. I couldn’t have come up with anything comparable or halfway close to the folk song lyrics I was singing to define the way I felt about the world. I guess it happens to you by degrees. You just don’t wake up one day and decide that you need to write songs, especially if you’re a singer who has plenty of them and you’re learning more every day. Opportunities may come along for you to convert something—something that exists into something that didn’t yet. That might be the beginning of it. Sometimes you just want to do things your way, want to see for yourself what lies behind the misty curtain. It’s not like you see songs approaching and invite them in. It’s not that easy. You want to write songs that are bigger than life. You want to say something about strange things that have happened to you, strange things you have seen. You have to know and understand something and then go past the vernacular. The chilling precision that these old-timers used in coming up with their songs was no small thing. Sometimes you could hear a song and your mind jumps ahead. You see similar patterns in the ways that you were thinking about things. I never looked at songs as either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ only different kinds of good ones.”
There has to be a certain amount of darkness in my songs for the happiness to matter. Just ’cause I’m not singing about sex and sports doesn’t mean I’m sad. Elliot Smith
I work with my guitar and a legal pad and use about 50 pages to develop a song. I get going fairly early in the morning, because my mind is sharp, and start by dating the pad and putting down personal comments, such as how I am feeling that day, so that it becomes a diary of sorts. Slowly, a song will begin to emerge although sometimes it will stagger along, day after day, making no progress at all. The first page might have all sorts of lines that will never be used, but as I turn the pages, a little thought might come forward and suggest potential for development.
“I’m writing all the time. And as the songs begin to coalesce, I’m not doing anything else but writing. I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is.”
“If you want to be good at anything, you have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. I work every day at trying to improve my writing, and I really enjoy it. Nothing fascinates me more than putting words together, and seeing how a collection of words can produce quite a profound effect.”
2015 was a great year for Custom Serenade, mainly due to the interesting songs that we were lucky enough to work on, and the wonderful people that we had the pleasure of working with! Included here are some of our favorites from the past year, not in any particular order. If you enjoy listening to these custom songs, consider joining us on Facebook where we often post songs as well as music related fun, gifting advice, and also special offers!
Curtain Call is a drama society from the U.K. that provides cultural capital to their community! We feel lucky to have been commissioned to write and record their theme song! Keep up with the great work that they are doing here
Next we have a song for a great lady who has a lot of caring friends who helped create this great song for her! So, here’s wishing her many great shopping sprees and happy travels in the future!
Having a man commission a song for the love of his life is something we’ve done a lot, but this guy wasn’t content to stop there. He also created this great video to go with it! That’s what we call going above and beyond! Clearly, Barbie is a deserving partner.
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and in this case it was a gift not to one person, but to three of them. Here, a crafty gift giver treated her Mom, Sister and Aunt to this surprising present! Each year the McPhilimy women travel for the holidays, and you can hear all about it in this song!
Now we have a song from a loving husband and his son, to a wonderful wife and Mother. She’s always there whenever they need her, and so they gave a little something back! It doesn’t get any better than this.
This one was commissioned for a birthday, but it could just as easily have been for Father’s Day. Here’s to a great,interesting and FANTASTIC guy! A world traveler, piano player and more. This song features a kazoo solo!
Weddings are a big part of what we do, and this was a special wedding indeed! Reading the information submitted for this song was like reading an adventure novel, and hopefully the end result will make you feel like dancing. I had the pleasure of actually doing a live performance at a pre-ceremonial party!
Here’s a song from a gal to a guy! It is a rocking tribute to a great boyfriend, and it was lots of fun to work on. Perhaps some day we’ll all benefit from one of Ben’s great inventions. In the mean time, let’s rock out with his song!
Well, that’s it for the 2015 list. Here’s hoping that 2016 will yield just as many great tunes. If you’re interested in getting a custom song for any reason at all, let us know about it!
Music is our bread and butter here at Custom Serenade, so I thought I’d start off the new year by sharing some of my favorite music from 2015! Enjoy the list, and consider getting a custom song! It will make any happy occasion even happier!
Best Albums of 2015
10. Hot Chip-Why Make Sense?
Hot Chip are an electronic music band that posses great songwriting skills and brilliant musicianship. Check out “White Wine and Fried Chicken” for a taste of their quirky talents.
9. Dwight Yokum-Second Hand Heart
Dwight Yokum writes country songs that rock. Nothing fancy, just great music and engaging lyrics.
Reminiscent of Michael Jackson but edgier, Shamir is an amazing singer that delivers a thought provoking dance party on his debut album.
7. Avid Dancer-1st Bath
This album is full of good songs. Certainly the best indie pop album of the year, and one of the best period.
6. The Minus 5-Dungeon Golds
This album contains reworkings of songs from a vinyl box set entitled “Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of horror”, the result being a stellar collection of guitar rock. It features an all star cast including members of R.E.M. and Wilco.
5. Courtney Barnett-Sometimes I sit and think, And Sometimes I just Sit
There’s nothing I can say about Courtney Barnett that hasn’t already been said. Her surreal lyrics delivered in a thick Aussie accent over grunge guitar pretty much ruled 2015.
4. Celestogramme-Wish Vehicles
There was a lot of great neo-psych this past year, and my next three choices all fit into that category. Celestogramme’s “Wish Vehicles” is a meticulous study of psychedelia and dark 60s pop. If you are a fan of either, I’d highly recommend it!
3. Jacco Gardner-Hypnophobia
Let’s keep the incense burning with some more mysterious psych from the Netherlands! Hailed as “Dutch baroque pop” by Pitchfork, this album filled many hours for me last year.
2. Sonny and the Sunsets-Talent Night at the Ashram
On the lighter side of psychedelia we have Sonny and the Sunsets delivering some pleasant and dream like pop. Every song on this album has something to offer.
1. James McMurtry-Complicated Game
This is my favorite and most listened to album of 2015. McMurtry is a master lyricist. Lots of songs tell stories, but with McMurtry the stories have a clarity, authority and a thoroughness that few if any can match. He eloquently presents gritty scenes of America in the budding new millennium so precisely that they should be included in a time capsule.