Tabula Rasa—meaning “Blank Slate”—is a new series in which we dive into the planning stages of a creative project by showing the early sketches and outlines from creators, comparing those to the finished product, and hearing from the creators themselves on how the project came to life. Read past installments here.
M. Maggie Singer, Songwriter, Lyricist “Ride” by Black Coast, Featuring M. Maggie
“There’s a different scenario for every song I write, but typically the first thing I do (when a producer sends me a song) is listen to the song. I see how it makes me feel, what colors I see, what images pop into my head while listening. This all helps me get the kind of mood and vibe of the song.”
“Then I start humming a bit and letting the natural melody come out (without getting into writing something specific, just getting the overall vibe). This song in particular makes me feel like I’m missing someone—it’s kind of slow and dark and mysterious. A long distance relationship comes to mind, or wanting to see someone, or traveling to see someone that you don’t get to see that often.
“Once I have the initial idea, I’ll go through the dictionary and thesaurus and look up words associated with the song (either based on what the producer told me about it or what came to mind while listening). I like to see the exact definition of these words, write down the ones I like, then look up the words used in that definition. This gives me a kind of web of words, which I end up using as a database of words that sound good, rhyme, or fit the vibe of the song.”
“With that research done, I listen to the track over again. Now when I’m listening to it, I have words to plug in that are already in the metaphor of what I’m thinking about, which makes things much easier.
“My notebook can get a little chaotic sometimes. I try to write down all my ideas but sometimes they don’t come out the way I had hoped—something will sound stupid or cheesy—and I don’t want anyone to see it so I scratch it out. But I will go back and take pieces from here and there to use later.”