Song Ideas Workflow for Songwriters

Song ideas are like dreams: you have to write them down right away, or you will forget them.  I can’t count the number of song ideas I’ve had while driving, that were lost before I got to a place I could write them down.  For example, a few weeks ago while driving home from the farm I noticed, not for the first time, that just about every car I passed had two occupants.  A guy driving, and a girl in the passenger seat.  An idea for a light-hearted, hopefully funny song started to percolate.  The hook was something along the lines of “all these cats with all these cuties, they must be pirates with all that booty.”   [NOTE: I will use this line eventually so don’t steal it!]  I had parts of two verses, a chorus and the beginning of a melody in my head, but everything but the hook was forgotten before I got around to writing it down.

All of this got me thinking, again not for the first time, about a way to capture song ideas before they are lost.  I needed a way to capture a few lines, a hummed melody, or maybe just a concept.  Here is what I came up with.

Using the indispensable and highly recommended iOS app Workflow, I created a “Normal” workflow (this will make sense when you see the app) that does the following:

  1.  “Record[s] Audio” at “Normal” quality (because all we are doing is capturing information), beginning “On Tap” and finishing “On Tap.”
  2.  saves the recorded audio to the “Song Ideas” folder in my Dropbox.


Then I  created a Hazel rule on my Mac to monitor that Dropbox folder and move any incoming files to the “Song Ideas” subfolder in the “Music Creation” folder on my Mac.  This rule also sets a green color label on the file, so I’ll know it came via this workflow.


Finally, I added this workflow, called “Song Ideas,” to the home screen on my iPhone via the Sharing> Add to Home Screen function within the Workflow app.  Now it sits on the first page on my iPhone home screen, for easy access while driving.


This workflow allows me to quickly record and save any song ideas I have, from anywhere and in very close to real-time.  While I created it specifically for songwriting, you could use this workflow to save and manage just about any information.

Like Glass into Sand Video

So the tree one of my security cameras was on fell during a recent storm, and I had an aiming fail when I reinstalled it. So I made a music video for a song Ronnie Jeffrey and I wrote a while back.

Yes, this song is available for your next record.

Copyright Ronnie Jeffrey & Kent Newsome
All Rights Reserved

Ghosts, Friends, Home and the Writing of Songs

I’ve been writing songs for literally as long as I can remember.  The earliest one I can recall didn’t really have a name, but it was about a llama, and mostly went something like “Mama llama, brother llama, sister llama too.”  I sang it in the bathtub when I was maybe 6 or 7.  I probably heard something on the radio and subconsciously stole it.  A year or so later I thought for a while that I’d written I’m a Girl Watcher, because my sister thought it was a hoot to have me sing it for her friends.

Later, the songs got at least a little better and more original.  Some of my friends got really into music, and actually formed bands that were good.  A few of them got really good.  I hung out with them.  Played the drums really, really badly for a brief spell.  Continued to mostly write songs.  Only much later did I learn to beat out enough chords on a guitar to recreate the music that I had in my head.

So for a while, I fancied myself the John Perry Barlow (Cassidy was named after one of his songs, and he has emailed her a time or two to say hi) of my friends’ bands.  I’d write with them.  Then they’d go on the road and do all the hard work, while I sat around dreaming up my next song.  Or sleeping.

One afternoon when I was in high school, I was hanging out at the public tennis courts in my hometown.  Someone came running over to me and said “you’ve got to come over here, right now!”  I walked over to a car, and there, playing on the radio, was a song I’d co-written with my friend Joe Middleton (yes, the same Joe mentioned in my factually accurate song The Kansas Reflector Incident).

That song is called “Princess.”  I’d written the lyrics, sort of as a tribute to a friend who had been in a car accident and sort of as an aid in girl chasing (“you know I really wrote that song about you”).  You have to remember that at that moment, I was really into Dan Fogelberg and Hugh Prather (thankfully, I later got back to my country roots), so the lyrics  probably read like watered down Bread (the annoying soft-pop band, not the food, or the money).  But Joe took those words and turned them into a darn good song.  He and his band recorded it, played it live and ultimately got it on the radio.  I don’t even have a copy of the song any more.

But it was on the radio, so it must have been good, right?

Anyway, I kept writing and playing songs.  Back in 1987, I had a mental reboot and threw all my unfinished songs in a dumpster off of Chimney Rock (a day or two later I made an unsuccessful dumpster dive trying to get them back).  Other than that, I have hundreds, and maybe thousands, of songs and song parts lying around.  A lot of the finished or mostly finished ones are available and can be streamed at Err Bear Music.

I’ve remained friends with Joe.  Like the rest of the world, we have communicated more in the Facebook era.  A few months ago, Joe and his band, Idlewilde South, got back together.  A few weeks ago, Joe asked if I wanted to write some songs together.  The rest is history.  Or the future.  Or maybe both.


The first new song we did is called “Ghosts.”  Idlewilde South will premiere it publicly at a concert in our hometown, Cheraw, SC, tonight.  They talked about it, and played it, on WCRE, the local radio station, earlier this week.  Here’s the relevant part.

There’s also a homemade, but well done, video of the song on Youtube.

It was fortuitous that Joe wrote me when he did.  I have not been writing or playing much the past few years.  I need to get back into it, because it’s fun and it is a great outlet for whatever’s bouncing around in my head.

Since we finished Ghosts, I’ve written the words and an idea for the music to another song, that I think could turn out really, really well.  I’m going to co-write that one, because it requires musical chops better than mine.

I’ve also just about finished up an old, previously half-written, song about another Cheraw childhood friend.

All in all, things seems to be looking up, musically speaking.

A Songwriter’s Take on the RIAA

riaaIf we didn’t already have enough reasons to hate the RIAA, now it seems that priority-challenged organization is trying to get the FCC to impose copy-protection standards on digital radio. Could there be a more anti-consumer organization in the world? The most irritating thing is that this is an organization that claims to be protecting me.

As a songwriter with numerous songs on commercial records, I actually make a little money in performance royalties. Both I and Err Bear Music, my publishing company, are affiliated with BMI. BMI collects royalties (in this case royalties from radio stations, as opposed to royalties from record sales which are collected by a different agency) and distributes them to songwriters and publishing companies. Every quarter, BMI sends me a little money and a statement showing which of my songs are earning royalties. I’m all for royalties, I just don’t think pissing off the entire world is going to increase my royalties.

As people who make and sell music, we should be more consumer-friendly. Instead, the RIAA makes us look like greedy, paranoid luddites. People have been recording songs off the radio for decades. I did it when I was a kid. I didn’t turn into a song stealing music thief. What I did turn into is a music fan who has bought thousands of CDs, not to mention hundreds of LPs, 8-tracks and cassettes, many of which were bought again on CD.

Copy protection won’t stop a criminal from making copies of a CD any more than gun control will stop violence. It may be harder to copy songs with DRM restrictions, but it can, is and will be done. If someone wants to make and sell illegal copies of a CD, he or she is always going to be able to figure out how to do it- there will always be technology to defeat technology. Heck, I personally know of several album reissues that were done by “needle drop” (i.e., making a second generation master from an ordinary copy of an LP). The people who will be frustrated by these ridiculous limitations are the honest kids who would otherwise grow up to buy thousands of records, just like I did.

Fortunately the EFF is rising to the challenge of bashing the RIAA for this idiocy. The EFF’s comments make good and logical reading. Dwight Silverman reports that even Steve Jobs is calling the RIAA greedy. The more people that call out the RIAA on this sort of thing, the better chance reason has of prevailing.

The RIAA tries to act like it’s looking out for songwriters and performers, but the only group the RIAA is truly interested in is the record label cartel which thinks it can stuff the cat back in the bag and bring people back to the record stores to buy CDs for $15 that cost a dollar or less to produce. That, my friends, is the real agenda. It’s not about my rights or those of any other songwriter or performer.

Technorati Tags:

For a Friend

Kinney’s Song

“I’m tired” he said
“It’s been another lost day.
I think I’ll just go to bed”

He smiled at me
“Don’t worry I’ll be OK.
Some shut eye is all I need”

I’ve walked down that suffering road before
And there is darkness all along the route
But past the haints and the widow’s weeds
Are thorny bushes with the sweetest fruit

“It’s hard” he said
“When you outgrow all the dreams
That used to fill up your head”

I touched his hand
“It’s not as bad as it seems,
And you are such a good man”

I’ve walked down that suffering road before
And there is darkness all along the route
But past the haints and the widow’s weeds
Are thorny bushes with the sweetest fruit

So if you want to sleep
Sleep, my friend sleep
And in the morning
You will see
That it’s all right
Everything will be fine
The sun will still rise
And you’ll still be a friend of mine

I’ve walked down that suffering road before
But there’s a light at the end of the route
And past the haints and the widow’s weeds
Are thorny bushes with the sweetest fruit