“If you want to think of yourself as a songwriter, write songs.” – Jeff Tweedy
For a long time I would read about the band Wilco (and it’s predecessor, Uncle Tupalo) but never really listened to them. That changed when one of the guitarists of the band I was in at the time suggested we do the song Jesus, Etc. from the Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Yeah, color me impressed.
So I found out recently that Jeff Tweedy, the songwriting force behind Wilco, wrote a book called How To Write One Song (order it direct from the Wilco website here: https://wilcostore.com/products/jeff-tweedy-how-to-write-one-song-book). In it, Tweedy tries to demystify the creative process from one in which only the certain few can tap into to the realty that it’s more a matter of developing your craft and being persistent in that pursuit. Tweedy provides several different exercises to help the budding songwriter develop ideas. The first two videos below go into two such exercises, the Word Ladder and the time honored tradition of taking a phrase from a book (the line “Mediocre artists borrow, great ones steal” comes to mind).
The third video below come from an interesting YouTube called The Songwriter’s Workshop in which the YouTuber (is that a word?) tries to write a song using the techniques and process of other songwriters, in this case, Jeff Tweedy. Watching someone go through the process and then hearing the results is a interesting watch, especially if, like me, you find the creative process itself to be fascinating.
Jeff Tweedy Songwriting Exercise #1 – Word Ladder (from his book How To Write One Song)
Jeff Tweedy Songwriting Exercise #2 – Stealing from a Book (from his book How To Write One Song)
How to write one song (according to Jeff Tweedy)