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Nick Cave offers songwriting advice: “You have the entire world to save and very little time to do it”

By | Published on Wednesday 12 June 2019

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave’s fan Q&A blog The Red Hand Files continues to be a wealth of fun times. In his latest post, he’s offered some songwriting advice to David from Baltimore, who writes: “I’m a songwriter. I’m seriously blocked. Do you have any spare lyrics I can have?”

Oh yeah, nice try, you’re probably thinking. “Sure, here are some lyrics for you”, replies Cave, confounding your expectations. He goes on to provide two verses of a song called ‘Incinerator Man’. Although he adds that they are “a little on the dark side and pretty obscure”, relying heavily on the influence of poet Frederick Seidel.

He goes on: “There is not a hell of lot of structure to it, plus the last verse may need a bit of work – but all that aside, there is some nice symbolism in there and if you chuck on a simple chorus, like “Wo! I’m the Incinerator Man!”, and throw it on a lean circular chord formation, with lots of space and air, so that you can really creep the vocal and tell the story, then brother, you may be able to make something worthwhile out of it. I couldn’t”.

So, there you go, that was easy. Although, he goes on to add that this will not help with the “block” that prompted David to write to Cave in the first place.

“My advice to you is to change your basic relationship to songwriting”, Cave goes on. “You are not the ‘Great Creator’ of your songs, you are simply their servant, and the songs will come to you when you have adequately prepared yourself to receive them. They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in. Songs, in my experience, are attracted to an open, playful and motivated mind”.

“Throw my song away”, he commands. “It isn’t that good anyway. Sit down, prepare yourself and write your own damn song. You are a songwriter. You have the entire world to save and very little time to do it. The song will find its way to you. If you don’t write it, someone else will. Is that what you want? If not, get to it”.

Fucking hell, let’s all write songs now. I fear what will happen if we don’t.