Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Songwriters: Tyler Ellis

What’s the token way to write a song? Listening to a full range of bands, I’ve realized that the construction aspect is different for everybody. What do you think?

Tyler: If you look at it from an artistic standpoint, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. You’re just trying to define yourself though music I guess. Everybody has their own way to do it, ‘cause everybody learns to do the same things in their own way. I never really thought about it.

It’s apparent that some musicians are writing with the audience member in mind, while others are focused more on self-expression. Either way, how do you keep the music about “the vessel?”

Especially if you’re going for some altruistic way to do it too, it’s like, you’re still only doing for other people. You’re doing too much. In itself, it’s going to be an altruistic thing, and it’s gonna be for other people anyway.

I feel like it’s easy to see through musicians like that, and it’s not as captivating. But people that perform from the soul, that’s a different experience that is inspiring.

Like souls creeping from soundwaves…

Exactly. So before those sounds reach the stage, there has to be the writing stage. How do you try to organize yourself to write?

Sometimes the plans get in the way of actually doing it. It seems to happen to people a lot. I’ve always found that. With the different people I’ve worked with, when they have plans to make albums and music, nothing meets their expectations of the plans. It’s different with everybody, and I’ve only worked with a select few, but with (Dolphin City), our albums being made worked out better when we just created as we went. But then you always want to come back and fix little things too. You’re always gonna want to do that.

So when do you say when on a project?

As far as practicing things, then getting to record them? Or actually songwriting, like starting a song?

On both those levels.

I don’t know, it’s different. I mean, I have some things that I’ve worked on for years, and never wanted to record. Sometimes I don’t even want to record them. But I also think they’re the best thing I’ve written too. But the thing is that, over time, they have changed so much, that I feel like they’re still not ready. With recording for me, if I’m just doing it alone, I just start with a bassline, and just do something simple, and then I just work on it.

So do the vocals stem from that bassline generally?

I don’t make any music with lyrics anymore. For a long time I thought, when I was writing music, that melodies were a backdrop for what I wanted to say, ‘cause I thought what I wanted to say was important. But after some time, I realized I didn’t really believe in any of the stuff I was saying. I think the music has so much more meaning than what I have to say. So I just abandoned ship on the lyrical process. But writing is still a huge part of my creative process. My concept for writing music now is based on themes for short stories that I write. It’s about the only way I write music now. I have these stories, and then try to score them, like a film.

A lot of lyricists tend to think of a story or a moment, try to capture themselves inside of it, and then try to portray the emotions felt within that moment.

When it comes down to it, that’s the rudiment of it. Not to say that I don’t like music with lyrics. There’s some of it I love, and some of it is so potent. I just think, for the most part, I don’t want to write it if it’s not going to be good. Sure, I feel like I have a lot of important things to say in song, but with me, personally, I would much rather make music that can create a mood for anybody, rather than people listening to lyrics that only relate to some people. An emotion of tone can relate to more people.

So what you’re saying is you would really like to score music for movies?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve done it a few times for my friends’ student film projects, and I’ve had so much fun doing it.

So how do you feel when it comes to jamming, versus technical composition writing?

Wingin’ it is where it’s at. I think when you prepare yourself too much, well I don’t even know how to finish that thought. But when you’re not prepared, you go straight for what you feel is right.

When you’re prepared, that’s when it gets too technical, and you start thinking too much about structure, what you want to say, what verse is going here, and how long it’s going to be in a way?

Just go with it. It’s a much better way. A lot of times, bands I would play with, we would just jam and record it for hours. That would then yield three or four really great things that we would work on from there. That was a fun way to do it, because it gets everyone involved, instead of just one person directing and dictating everything. Like playing with Dolphin City, I would just go in and play what the song is. It’s already formulated. They know their vision and they want it to be a particular way, and I can help produce that. As far as me writing songs, I like to do my thing and I will always write. I’m not trying to pursue it professionally or anything, but it is something I’ll always do.

I’d like to talk you about your looping pedals, and what you like about the process of piecing together the looping samples to make full compositions.

I like the looping pedals because it keeps it simple, and that’s what you kind of have to do with loops. It also helps generate legit songs too; whether it’s going to be commercial-type songs, or choruses with harmonies, or stuff like that. But I’m more of a “crescendo-type.” I just keep building off one particular idea, and it’s resolved eventually.

So you either drop out all the loops, and finish off with one note you play, or it’s a resounding crescendo of all the loops compiled together, fading til the end?

Yeah, just flood everything out. That’s how I like ending my loops. The loops I generate are psychedelic, so you gotta flood everything out (laughs).

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