Name: Colin Blunstone / The Zombies
Occupation: Singer-songwriter. keyboardist
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Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc. play?
I will use any inspirational thought to start a song but usually my songs are stories based on personal experiences.
There will usually be a specific idea to start with which I then try to expand by opening up my mind to all lyrical or musical possibilities.To be honest it can sometimes feel a bit like some kind of trance.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do “research” or create early “visions”?
I’m not a very sophisticated writer. I just play until an idea comes.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I think it helps to listen to fine music before you write. Music that effects you emotionally can help to put you into a creative mood. I also find exercise can trigger inspirational moments - especially freeing up your mind when you’re stuck on an idea.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
The beginning of a song can sometimes come quite quickly. I find expanding the original idea is the challenging thing.
When do lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics can often be triggered by a melody but they can come quite separately in moments of inspiration as well.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I like lyrics that tell a story. It does have to be literal. The story might be interpreted differently by different people but good lyrics should create an emotional response in the listener.
Lyrics should also "sing well”. I don’t enjoy a lyric however beautiful that doesn’t work rhythmically.
Personally I try to write from the heart and not worry too much about rhyming couplets.
Once you’ve started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Occasionally I have written a song in a few minutes but usually it is a gradual process not unlike finishing a crossword. But hopefully a “crossword with soul”.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of their narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I will definitely follow things where they lead me. There is sometimes a feeling of wonder at what is happening and also a feeling that at any moment the idea might disappear making writing quite an intense affair.
Often while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pullinfg and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
If a new idea opens up I will try to incorporate it into what I’m writing. If that's not possible I try to make sure I write it down as ideas can often disappear over time.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I would probably have a specific idea to start with and then try to open my mind to every possibility hoping that something will connect and make sense. There can certainly be a feeling of “other worldliness” in writing as lyrics and melodies can sometime seem to arrive "out of thin air”.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
I’m afraid the digital age has not effected my writing at all.
I think there are two different endings to writing a song. Common sense should probably tell you when a song is finished though you may want to return at a later date to tidy things up. This is the first way a song can be finished.
The second and most exciting way a song can be finished is by hearing your song developed in the studio and finally performed in public.
Once a song is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you allow until you’re satisfied with a piece?What does this process look like in practice?
I would probably live with a song for a few days and then if I felt it was quite strong I would play it to a few trusted friends. Not only for their opinion but you will get a clearer idea of what you’ve achieved when you play it to someone else.
Over time I will continually refine a song if I think it needs it always remembering that your emphasis should be on writing news songs.
What’s your take on the importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get?
I have different ways of looking at this. I believe a good song will sound good even when played in it’s simplest form, for instance piano and voice. But there is no denying that an inspired arrangement, sensitive production and sophisticated mastering can make a great track out of a not so great song.
After finishing a pice or an album and releasing something into the world, can there be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this - and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Most people will want a break after finishing an album. Slowly but surely you will know when the time is right to return to the creative process.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn’t or wouldn’t in more “mundane tasks?
Personally I think there is something magical and mysterious in writing a song. It’s like exposing your inner most feelings to the world which can make you feel very vulnerable. And yet at the same time completing a song is incredibly exciting and fulfilling and very different from making a "great cup of tea’.
If you can’t see something inherently different between writing a song and making a great cup of coffee maybe you should open a cafe??