Interview with a Songwriter: William Darling

I first heard William Darling's music years ago as part of a boozy variety show at a bar on the Upper West Side of New York, and I still have one of his hooks stuck in my head today. In the time between then and now, Will moved to Seattle and started to create some SERIOUS vibes through his electronic musical stylings. Today at the B-Rock blog, we talk music with a genuine Renaissance Man.

1. Do you have a songwriting method, or is it different every time?

The initial spark of a song comes when you least expect it, so always carry a notepad.  I’ll be speaking with someone, reading something, or performing some monotonous task when my mind will begin to wander and something will appear in my head.  Some line, melody or a thought that needs to be whittled down and carved into something beautiful.  Then when I get home I’ll begin a free writing exercise where I let my mind flow out with a story or narrative or total nonsense.  It’s important that free writing is done on paper  and not a computer because you’re far less likely to do any editing on paper. The more I have on my mind, the longer this takes.  Then I’ll comb through the pages and search for things that I feel are honest and resonant.  When you’re not censoring yourself your brain comes out with some really great stuff! Then I’ll start coming up with a rhythm and melody on the acoustic guitar and I’ll just sing random phrases (mostly nonsense) over the melody that I like best.  I heard ‘Yesterday’ was originally ‘Scrambled Eggs’ when Paul McCartney was writing it.  Then I’ll start trying to fit some of the story that I came up with earlier into the melody I’ve come up with.  Many times I’ll take a break at this point and the song will naturally stay in my mind throughout the next day,  it’s during this period of gestation in which some of my favorite lyrics have come up.  Large parts of the writing will occur during production.  Make sure that you’ve got time in the studio to explore. Be open to new ideas, even till the very end.

2. Any advice for aspiring songwriters?

The best way to become a great song writer is to do it every day.  Don’t worry about whether or not this is the greatest song in the world, just write songs, finish everything you start and don’t look back too much.  I read once that Woody Allen never watches any of his movies after the premier; always be moving forward, your best work is yet to come. To reach the oasis of genius you have to cross a long desert of mediocrity (and even if you do cross it you’re never really out of it).  

3. What are your feelings on collaborations?

I love to collaborate on songs or just jam with other people.  Many people don’t have the luxury of paying large sums of money for private music teachers so a jam session is a place to learn and explore who you are as a musician. I learned how to play the guitar because all my friends played instruments and I wanted to hang out with them. Music can bring people together. Collaborating, or just jamming can be a powerfully unifying experience.    We can always push each other forward, learn new things and most likely have a lot more fun than if we were doing it alone.  Many of the songs I’m most proud of were co-writes and I have very fond memories when I listen to them.

4. What’s your favorite song? Favorite Album? Why?

Obviously this changes from day to day, but my go to answer for song is Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.  It has several verses, no chorus, and keeps building the whole time.   The lyrics paint a very specific picture in my mind.   If you have the opportunity watch the video of Springsteen Live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975 playing that song.  I think I cried the first time I watched it.  

I love an album that tells a story and one that I’ve been listening to almost non-stop for years is Flight of The Knife by Bryan Scary and The Shredding Tears.  A little bit Queen and a little bit Bowie, it tells the story of a young man named Airship Valentine (the station master’s son) who dreams of one day flying ‘The Knife’, the fastest vessel in the fleet, meeting many kooky characters and learning many things along the way. The songwriting is seriously genius.

5. What’s your latest project/wanna shill anything?

First, it’d be amazing to have people go and “like” my Facebook page.  I feel kind of lame doing it because it seems so arbitrary but it’s becoming a really important thing for all artists.  The first thing a venue will look at when you’re trying to book a show is how many “likes” you’ve got on your page.  After liking my page I’d ask everyone to check out my SoundCloud account.  I put new music up on a weekly basis and it ranges from electro house to soft acoustic rock.  For now, everything I put on SoundCloud can be downloaded for free.