Songwriting over a beer in the pub: yes, it can work!

The past couple of meetings of the local songwriting club have produced some interesting new stuff. Purists might say that improvising off the cuff with a few beers and a couple of guitars in a pub is not the most efficient way to write, but I’m finding it can bring out ideas that individually no-one might have thought of.
At the March meeting, Nigel and Oli, both of them very good guitarists, came up with a very catchy riff while Katy and I improvised some words that fitted the music. Not the way to write a song, according to our fifth member, Tony (the one who says that exposure to lesser minds like mine tarnishes and blunts his own genius), but hey, who cares if it works. In the days following the meeting Katy and I added to the words we’d already got and built up a whole lyric that both rhymed, scanned and told a story.
The song, with the original working title of Perfume, is now called Not Now But Someday, and tells the story of a man who walks into a bar, sees a woman he fancies but she acts cool and he loses his nerve and goes home. Months later he goes back to the bar, she recognises him and seems quite keen. But he, fickle male, is no longer interested now he can get what he wanted.
The lyrics are currently back with the guitar guys to see if they can complete the music side.
For the April meeting, this week, I’d set a theme (‘New Beginnings’) in advance and Katy came with some notes for a lyric about the struggle to move ahead when you’re stuck in a rut. One of her lines, “make it go your way”, was similar to one of mine, “make it happen, make a move”, that I’d scribbled down and not done anything much with. So we worked my words into Katy’s lyric and got Tony to work on a basic melody and chords.
Playing and singing the song was a bit of a challenge as we were competing with the sounds coming from the other corner of the pub, where Pam and her fellow musicians were doing their thing. It must have all sounded a bit rowdy to the pub’s non-musical customers but I find it quite helpful to work in such a creative environment.
The song is basically about making yourself think positively in order to escape from the rut you’re in and find the momentum to start again. The working title is New Beginnings, though that line only appears once in the lyric and we’re still lacking a catchy chorus, so the title might change.
Another song came, quite unexpectedly out of the evening too. Katy and I were having a cigarette in the pub garden and got to talking about how a song can be about pretty much anything. Katy looked around and pointed to the waste bin as an example of something random that someone could probably write a song about if they tried. We laughed, and talked briefly about the concept of throwing away an unwanted partner, then went back inside.
The next night I thought about the waste bin idea some more and started singing the line “Recycle me” as I got ready to go out. I was surprised to find I’d come up with the first two verses very quickly – and a country-style melody. Verse 3 and 4 and the chorus followed the next morning. No chords yet but I think Recycle Me will be a fairly straightforward three- or four-chord song.
Katy said she also got an idea for a song from our conversation in the garden: something to do with a man sitting on a bench.

6 thoughts on “Songwriting over a beer in the pub: yes, it can work!

  1. thefinelineproject says:

    Love your approach to creativity – basically just go for it – this is the kind of energy that can bring about great ideas + having a laugh is so important, not just for creativity. Look forward to catching your repertoire at some stage or on some stage lol.

    1. Sue Fenton says:

      Thank you for the comment and the follow! As it happens, a couple of my songs (co-writes) are likely to be performed on Thursday night this week at the Magic Garden in Battersea, courtesy of a band called Pimlico Road (, who I’ve been doing some songwriting with. They’re on at 9pm. If you’re free do come along! Entrance is free.

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