John Witherspoon joins us this week to talk about getting into the songwriting mindset, as well as the beast that is social media, and all things local gigs.
Yeah, so ‘Alive’ is a second-album song, I’m not sure when that second album will come out, but this’ll definitely be on there! All of these second album tunes were written in that first lockdown summer, which was actually a really good time for me! This single track, along with 10 or 11 others which will come out soon, were all written in that period – a time where I had lots of time to work on my music. After a spell of some more emotional, sad songs that I wrote, this was a nostalgic track written when I was really appreciating being able to be at home, surrounded by family, in the garden. It’s a song of pure gratitude for the little things. There’s specific references in the lyrics as well; ‘kicking about with strangers’ from my time in Barcelona, playing football with random strangers on the beach. I’d experienced that, and had that feeling of a rush of endorphins, and really appreciated that memory. ‘That stop along the way’ as well… I often find that when you go on holidays, the journey there is the best part! You’re full of excitement, with the whole week ahead of you. I went to Ireland every year with my dad, and we’d always stop at the same services and meet the same gang of people each time, and just having that stop along the way that feels so great.
If I don’t establish a routine in what I do, I’ve got no chance – songwriting especially. Growing up, you had school and parents telling you when to do things, now if I don’t have that same routine and motivation, I struggle to stay focussed. Everyday has to look the same, and I love that – even though I’m a freelance musician! I heard an interview that really hammered this idea home to me, a film director Shane Black, and he said to make every day the same, because you learn how to finish things, and you learn the routine. Once I got my act together in lockdown, my day was typically get up at 9am, writing session 10-12pm, coffee at 12pm with someone, second session 1-3pm, have a jog, have tea, final session 7-9pm, and then switch off. After that, you feel like you’ve accomplished something, you’ve made it through, no distractions. The worst things these days are your phones buzzing away, how does anyone write a song or get anything done whilst that’s going off? So that goes on aeroplane mode whilst I write, and I can fully immerse myself in the writing process.
‘Dublin on My Mind’ which I played for you in the live session, I love that track. It feels like a song that was written by someone else a long time ago, that traditional feeling in it. I was trying to write something vaguely Irish, and that song felt that little bit magical. It’s one of my only sort of sing-along, potentially anthemic songs, with a proper chorus… I’m such a Dylan fan, so I hardly ever do a ‘proper’ chorus, usually more of a refrain after a list of things in a verse sort of thing! I was full of confidence in my songwriting after that lockdown summer, partly down to songs like these. Another track of mine, ‘Don’t Let It Get Away’, sticks out for me, it’s one that I wrote on the piano. That track is special to me, as it happened in five minutes. That never happens to me, but honestly it was fully written in five minutes! That’s when you know you’re cooking something special.
Be sure to check out John’s live session above, and the podcast on our podcast platforms!