This month I thought I’d introduce a second track planned for my forthcoming pop-flavored album (working title In and Out of Love Again) and tell the story of how this particular song came into being. The song’s title is "Just a Little Kiss", and I’ll let you have a listen before getting to the story:
"Just a Little Kiss" literally came into being because of a dream. As far as I can recall, that was a first for me. In this case, I dreamed I was in a songwriting class, and the assignment was to write a song for The Temptations, one of the most successful classic Motown groups. When I woke up in the morning, I was intrigued by the dream — it was way more sane than most of my dreams — and thought, “why not?” At the very least, the notion of trying to write in a classic Motown style was interesting, and having any seed of inspiration is helpful for overcoming what I like to call “blank page syndrome” (i.e. starting out to try and write something, but not having the faintest clue what to write about).
Okay, so the notion of writing a song in a classic Motown style didn’t exactly overcome blank page syndrome. I most frequently tend to take my songwriting inspiration from lyrical ideas, and this “assignment”, if you will, was just about trying to approach a musical style. How to start?
The whole songwriting class notion from the dream led to one initial idea. One of the songwriting books I read years back suggested a technique designed to help teach song structure. The idea was to initially start with a popular song, replacing all the lyrics from that song by trying to match the melody and rhythms of the model song. Once you had a new lyric, the next task was to replace the melody and chords from the model song with your own music. The idea was that starting out with the structure of a successful song would at least get something in the ballpark on feel. I took this a step further by looking at what, at a conceptual level, each section of the model song was trying to accomplish in terms of the singer’s making a case with the singee as to what the song was “trying to get.” Of course, details matter, but anything that gets some wheels rolling is a start at getting past blank page syndrome.
All that is very technical, but, ultimately, the song has to be about something, and, at least in this case, that is where “inspiration” and “imagination” came in. The big question in my mind was what might the singer want from the singee? How about a kiss? That’s a pretty typical love song desire. Start the wheels rolling… Let’s not swing for the fence, let’s just go for a bit of a start, perhaps, “just a little kiss?” Bingo!
I won’t go so far as to say the song wrote itself from there, but the earliest draft lyrics really aren’t that far off from the final lyrics. Getting past inertia by having a “point”, and having some general idea of the flow of concepts, really can be a big help toward generating concrete ideas.
I suppose this may be as close to “song factory” writing as I’ve ever done, but I have to say I’ve really enjoyed the results. And this song, written back in 2010, is one of the main songs that got me thinking about putting together a pop album in the first place.