Monthly Archives: March 2014

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told Me About the Creative Life : Austin Kleon

The one negative thing to say about this book is that you don’t get a lot of words for your money. It is quite short and costs around £6.00 as an ebook. If you really want to save the money then I will tell you the 10 things. ‘Steal like an artist; Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things; Write the book you want to read; Use your hands; Side projects are important; Do good work and put it where people can see it; Geography is no longer our master; Be nice (the world is a small town.); Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done.); and, Creativity is subtraction.’

It may be brief but I think the book is well worth reading because my biggest problem with song writing is not so much the words or the tunes but the attitude and the feeling. When I am in the zone a song just seems to flow, the really hard part is getting in that zone. This book has some great pointers about moving towards that state.

Best Bit: Don’t just write what you know, write what you like, or even better write what you love.
It would have 4 stars if a little cheaper or longer.

The Mayor of MacDougal Street: Dave Van Ronk

The Coen Brothers’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis was inspired by this book. Only a few incidents from the book are represented in the film and even those that are are greatly changed. I like the 1960s New York in the film but I found it very bleak. This book is very different, whilst Dave didn’t have the financial success of his contemporaries like Dylan and Joni Mitchell he was a successful musician in his own terms. A good jazz/folk/blue guitarist and songwriter, able to make a living playing his songs. The descriptions of late 50s early 60s Greenwich village are interesting, as is the description of the life of a musician at that time, how he earned a living and the people he learned from. The stuff about the reverend Gary Davies are fascinating.I listened to the audio book version as I don’t have a lot of book time at the moment.It was well worth the listen.

You might be wondering why I have added this to a song writing blog. The main reason is that it gives a feel of the mind space that produced some amazing songs. How the people were living and making a living. How they worked as musicians, the coffee house scene and how it changed their writing.  There are also a few more specific things that are interesting. Apparently if Dylan had a great line he wouldn’t worry too much if some of the rest of the song wasn’t as strong. He didn’t rework much, he just wrote another song.

Tom Paxton wrote a song a day for over a year in order to get really good at writing songs.
The singers at the time worked very long hours to make a living so a lot of what may seem moments of inspiration are more the result of spending a long time singing and playing. There is a parallel to the Beatles early years. Just keep at it till you get good.

Best Bit: Realising how much the 60s singers “borrowed” from what had gone before.  Blues songs, folk songs anything that would serve as a source of inspiration.



This started as a song about wild wolves in Germany, then I realised they lurk everywhere in human form.  I recorded the song in one take as I wanted to keep a raw feeling.