Over a decade ago I wrote about my then-confusing songwriting process. I’m afraid to say, little has changed since then.
Many years before I was born, my mom, a child herself at the time, had started learning how to play the guitar so her parents had given her one as a present.
As a result, I grew up with a guitar that was always around.
Its neck was so bent that the strings couldn’t keep a tune anymore.
But now and then my siblings and I would take it out, pretend we could play on it by making terrible sounds, get bored just as quickly and leave it somewhere.
Perhaps the reality of our talents wasn’t matched with our fantasy.
As kids, my siblings and I would loudly sing along to popular songs from MTV, such as No Doubt’s Don’t Speak, fighting over who got to be the drummer.
I used to take piano lessons as a child but I got demotivated by the uninspiring songs and scales we played, so I stopped.
It wasn’t until three years later, when I turned 16, that Past Carlos had the opportunity to take guitar lessons and thought, “Ooh, this will be a good way to get girls.”
But my dysregulated drinking had also started so I only attended about half of the lessons, much to the disdain of my Bulgarian music teacher.
“Look at my chunky sausage fingers,” he would say, waving his hands in front of me, “if only I had your long fingers.”
A year later, I was done at the Evangelical Folkschool—I’m pretty sure they were done with me and my erratic behaviour as well, having expelled me from the dorm six months earlier—and my unattended lessons ended.
But the guitar playing had piqued my interest enough that I asked my mom to buy me a guitar for my 17th birthday.
One of the cheapest full-sized classical guitars on the market, a Yamaha C40, became mine on 16th June 2001—or maybe I even got it before the day?
A year after I was already writing songs.
We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. Anaïs Nin
Songs and their lyrics have always held a special place and for me, they’re like anchors in time. A way for me to travel to past moments and feel them stronger with the music than I would without it.
Whether that’s other people’s songs or my own.
Never-before-seen footage of Carlos playing and singing at 18.
Looking back, whilst I cringe at many of the lyrics that I’ve written, there is an earnestness that I appreciate.
Past Carlos just didn’t know that his suffering wasn’t that special or unique.
Over the years I’ve started more songs than I’ve finished.
My writing process—if you can call it a process—usually comes in two parts.
Part one, I sit down to consciously try to finish a specific song.
Part two, I instead bleed two new songs.
Twelve years ago, I asked if perhaps it was the music that wrote me and not the other way around.
I think that’s probably more true than I’d like it to be.
Songwriting, for me, is often an act of revealing truths I’m too scared to speak out loud.
Sometimes they’re just small snippets of lyrics or melodies, things which won’t necessarily become songs of their own but are different enough to not qualify as, “finishing the song.”
During the first UK government coronavirus lockdown I started playing guitar and singing every day to help me cope.
I began writing this entry during the third national lockdown (6th Jan 2021).
At first, I was quite content playing covers.
But it didn’t take long before my subconscious started reminding me that it too had stories it needed to tell.
Or, I suppose, stories it needs to finish telling.
Every song I’ve ever written has been on this, now beat up, piece-of-shit Yamaha C40, with its cracked and taped-over back and grime that will never clean away—not that I try to clean it, to be honest—and I love it.
Back in 2002, I wanted to record an album one day.
I think I’d like to still do that.
But to do that, I think I’ll need to finish some songs.
Wish me luck.