monday song #82: why do you write sad songs?


i started this one last week, but walked away from it. i was tired and i didn’t think the song worked. came back a few days later and was surprised to find a pretty promising tune that just needed to be slowed down a bit. you need energy to hang in there with a sad song.

the drums come from reason’s octo rex, run through an lfo tied to the filter. two separate patches, one in each ear. gave it an extra darkness right off the bat. i listened to sparklehorse quite a bit this week, and i was going for that smothered spooky sound: the beat keeping you off balance, while offering the mood a solid foundation.

the most fun for me were the harmonies, especially in the choruses, which are fairly addictive. they’ve been driving me crazy all weekend. there’s something ’80s about them, especially the “heaven will right all wrongs” harmony. there’s tears for fears in there somewhere, which is fitting considering the subject matter.
the lyrics are loosely structured, but they really communicated the mood i was going for: a kind of depressive cynicism, like being isolated by seeing reality clearly, not buying into the popcorn, not being mollified by the flashing lights that invite consumption.

i’ve been asked on a number of occasions by a number of people, ‘why do you have to write sad songs?’ always strikes me as an odd question. like there is a choice involved. it’s simply the music i make. i’m not trying to be depressing, i’m just good at it.

are people only supposed to write happy songs? most of my favorite artists focus on the dark side: the guys mentioned in the song, pink floyd, randy newman, black sabbath. sad songs by dumpy guys used to sell a lot of albums. i could call the site sunday songs, and only have inspirational uplifting music, but i fear i would only post a song a year.

so i guess i really don’t have a reason, just a bunch of facts: i try to write honest songs, and the view of the world i have is most often a dark one; happiness doesn’t make me want to write a song, it makes me want to have fun; sadness stirs my creativity, like i’m simultaneously working out a problem and experiencing it.

these aren’t really choices. i don’t so much choose good words, as remove bad ones. this editorial component always leaves me feeling oddly objective about the songs when they’re done, no matter how much of myself i put in there.

with monday songs i built a concept to frame my melancholy songwriting. i write sad songs because that’s what comes out, and that’s what i’m comfortable sharing. i’m just sharing my thoughts and entertaining myself by the process.

in the end, i like to feel uncomfortable with the final product. i don’t feel the song is done unless there is something revealed that puts me on edge. happy songs don’t do that. i want the song to be the beginning of the experience, rather than a throwaway distraction. in my book, the best music opens the door to introspection. that’s part of what i find satisfying in art: a catalyst for depth and wonder.

hopefully these songs have that effect on a few people.