From Sam in Seatte, WA:
Dear Nan, I am an amateur songwriter and just listened to the tragic but amazingly beautiful
lyric for "When I Look at You". Thank you for the gift you've given us in these tender, artful
words. Do you have any advice or recommended resources you can offer to people interested in
Thursday, 26 January 2006
Thank you for your kind words about "When I Look at You." You asked me if I have any advice
for beginning lyricists. I know I have said this before to other people, but I think that
reading poetry can be a great inspiration for lyricists. You should know there are many other
lyricists who would disagree with that, but it has certainly been influential in my development.
When I talk about poetry I mean everyone from Walt Whitman to Billy Collins - the whole gamut.
Also, obviously, a love of and feel for music is necessary, a good sense of rhythm. If you can
look upon rhyming as being a fun sort of game, this also helps. For me, rhyming is as intriguing
and challenging as any crossword puzzle or word game - I just love to do it and anyone who loves
it has a real head start with lyrics. Sitting down and listening to Broadway shows you admire
will also be very helpful. There is no better lyricist you could study than Stephen Sondheim,
and he has given many interviews and written a book in which he talks about his craft. As for
myself, I never studied lyric writing with anyone. It was just something that I very naturally
started to do and loved. Sometimes I think these things are simply instinctive. Lastly, there
are workshops such as the B.M.I. Musical Theatre Workshop in which composers and lyricists are
matched up to write, study and learn with professionals in the business. I see you live in
Seattle, but perhaps there might be such programs at local Universities.
I wish you lots of luck and thanks again for writing.