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Reid Jamieson

How to write a love song without cliches

By:Lily C | Published:2/15/2011

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’re very excited about having such an unashamedly romantic artist as the Songwriters Association of Canada‘s latest Featured Member and are ever grateful that he took the time to share some of his thoughts on songwriting.  The Globe and Mail has described Reid Jamieson as writing, “Achingly beautiful songs…. a haunting quality not soon forgotten.” Reid is a regular member of CBC’s Vinyl Cafe Orchestra who often steals the show. He recently released his first full-length, all original, and self-funded album, “Staring Contest.”

A visit to Reid’s profile on the S.A.C. website, one is immediately mesmerized by the vulnerability in his performance and the honesty and depth of his lyrics.  Reid is able to be romantic without resorting to cliche.  As some of you attempt to write a love song for your source of inspiration this Valentine’s Day, may we suggest taking a listen to Reid’s music and reading his insights below.

1.  What is your typical songwriting process from start to finish? 90 percent of the time I pick up the guitar and play a chord progression and a melody magically appears. I may stream the whole song and let the passion be my guide. Over the past few  years, if the lyrics don’t pop out fully formed I hand the song over to my fabulous co-writer and manager (and wife), carolyn v.mill. she is a wonderful editor and lyricist who knows my mind and heart. She then adds and subtracts to make the song whole. Or in the case of Rail and By Your Side, I wrote the music and she wrote the lyrics. Two heads are better than one!

2. Your songs maintain a romanticism despite a growing cynicism in society.  How do you write songs that stay tender without resorting to cliche? I grew up very shy and without a lot of interaction with the opposite sex. This made me try harder when I did eventually reach out. One of my ways was, and continues to be, by writing songs. I am happy to say I have a very romantic relationship so that gives me a great inspiration to be saying tender things, and due to the longevity of the relationship – a reason to keep it fresh.

3.  You’ve been compared to Roy Orbison, Jeff Buckley and Damien Rice.  How much have you drawn inspiration from these artists and what other artists have influenced your sound and songs? Its so helpful to listen to, and figure out, what makes other singer/songwriters affect you. Someone like Orbison pulls you in emotionally with his voice and takes you on a journey and never lets go until the song ends. Even then you may have to go and listen again to see how he did it. He had a particular penchant for writing songs that challenged him vocally – I think I do that too. McCartney is obviously a very strong songwriter whose way with a melody is incredible. The sheer amount of beautiful and inventive songs he has created have inspired me since childhood. I am inspired by writers who were inspired by him, like Crowded House’s Neil Finn who like McCartney was not afraid to write a popular song without sacrificing his art. Ron Sexsmith too, a real troubadour.

4. How many songs did you write before choosing the songs on “Staring Contest,” and did you get outside help in the song selection process? Approximately 30 songs and honest feedback is key for sure. Reactions from playing them live to strangers especially, and for friends and the mrs.

5  Do you use any tools for songwriting such as a rhyming dictionary, recording devices, etc.,? The only tool I really use is a little digital recorder to make sure the songs are captured while in the process of creating them. Very helpful in this age of distraction.

6.  What is the best piece of songwriting advice you would give to fellow songwriters? You won’t always know when you are writing what will turn out to be a great song. Let go of your filters and judgements as much as possible. This is where the truly great stuff comes out. AND to also mean what you say! You will feel like a jerk years later when someone asks you what the song is about. I should know!

Click Here to hear his tunes.

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