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Jeff Tweedy has written countless songs prior to and since the inception of his first band, Uncle Tupelo, and through Wilco, Loose Fur, Tweedy, and his solo efforts (not to mention his recent collaborations with Mavis Staples). A struggling songwriter might think words and music have simply poured out of him for the past thirty-plus years in some sort of magical process they couldn’t possibly achieve.
But, as he describes in How to Write One Song, Tweedy has made a conscious decision to live in such a way as to encourage this musical output – from basing his schedule around writing, to challenging himself to write songs in as tight of timeframe as he can, to trying a number of different writing exercises (many of which he breaks down in the book). And, as he shows throughout the book, most anyone can do this too if they open themselves up to it.▼ Article continues below ▼
This window into Tweedy’s writing life is both illuminating and inspiring. Much like his memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Tweedy hammers home the message that everyone has the capacity for creativity and should pursue it in one way or another. With How to Write One Song, he makes this pursuit as clear as possible in the context of songwriting and offers a path to writing that song. And then another, and maybe even another after that.
While there are concrete ideas offered for how to write both lyrics and music (the “Have a Conversation” word game is a stand-out idea for reluctant writers, and the “Timer” idea is a writer’s block buster), the book reads more like an excited nudge to get writing from a true convert. Tweedy clearly believes that the fulfilment that creativity can bring to life should be experienced by all, and his passion is contagious.
How to Write One Song leaves readers with the notion of songwriting as “…the joy of disappearing long enough to find something you didn’t know you had inside you.” With an explanation like that, and the powerful tools and encouragement Tweedy provides to get started (or keep going), any level of songwriter would be wise to give it a read – then put it down and get to writing.
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