What Music Do You Listen To When You Write

David Trammel's picture

I'm a big fan of soundtracks when I write, what are your favorites?

Currently listening to the Cranberries - Zombie


Alacrates's picture

I love the Cranberries! Their song Dreams, especially the ending where Dolores O'Riordon's voice intertwines with a Native American voice for some reason reliably makes my scalp tingle through it's power! Sad that she passed awhile ago, she had a beautiful style.

Living in an apartment, a good set of earphones are essential to writing in the evening after work, I can kind of block out ambient street noise and sounds from other apartments to focus on what I'm writing. On weekend mornings I usually work without any music.

My habit is to collect up a number of songs to make a playlist, and listen through this a lot for a few months, collecting up new songs for the next playlist. The emotional tones of the playlist definitely work their way into what I'm writing, I kind of like the connections I make between the songs & the content as it's produced.

My main source of new songs is either from tv shows, or from listening to college and CBC radio stations as I'm driving around in my work van during the day - I try to memorize a few of the original lyrics from something I find striking, and look them up when I have the chance.

A few songs that were on my last playlist:

Blue Sky Drugs, by In the Valley Below: I found the lovers' argument between the two female singers very evocative, and the chorus feels like emotional catharsis to me. I'm posting the "safe for work" version here, the official video has tons of nudity in it. I think this whole album was incorporated into some sort of film project, and has a french art house style film associated with it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO9ZDwNn3t0

If I Could Only Fly, by Blaze Foley: Really liked the simplicity of the lyrics & instrumentation, and the over-deep voice of the singer. I was surprised to find that it was fairly recent, I thought it would be from the 70s or something. I was writing a de-industrial love story, this simple song about a separated couple definitely fit the bill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gqj1N_VWmlY

Yellow Brick Road (cover), Sara Bareilles: I really like Bareilles' voice, and this cover of Elton John really gives her chance to belt it out! My girlfriend is really interested in the musical biopics that are popular in the theater these days, so I've been to the ones on Queen and Elton John, so his life-story replays in my head when I listen to this song as well. The parts where she is basically just vibrating various vowels feel very good in my ears (which are plagued by various infections!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozd2ja7mAgM

Changes (cover), Charles Bradley: it is a cover of an Ozzy Osbourne song, by the late blues singer Charles Bradley. I heard about his life on a radio program, he didn't find any success until late in life, and worked a lot of casinos, etc. He died of cancer. He was really close with his mother, who died when he was an older man, and I heard that he recorded this song after she passed, which makes it very poignant to listen to for me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi49yirJiEA

Stay (cover), Cat Power: Cat Power is another favorite singer, amazing what she does with a song, I think this is a cover of a Rhianna song. She kind of exemplifies the bohemian spirit to me.Also very good for writing a love story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-Tsk-cPXxI

Break Thru, by the Dirty Projectors: I liked the strange rhythms in this and bizarre guitar sounds. I think these guys have collaborated with David Byrne of the Talking Heads, another artist I really like. Also these lyrics, making references to Fellini and Archimedes:

She is so dreamy,
like she got features on Fellini.
Deadpan, unimpressed,
Archimedes palimpsest....


Jokerman, Bob Dylan: A lot of people appreciate Bob Dylan's folk music and his electric music from the late 60's, but I've found pretty much every period he's had since then, from his country phases, gospel, 80s and 90s and beyond have all had great music on them, with subtle lyrics. Jokerman happened to have a lot of connections to the ancient history reading I've been reading through recently. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XSvsFgvWr0

Also, just heard this song, To Fall in Love with You, a song from the 80s that was never released on an album, I think from a session he was working on with Eric Clapton and others. The incoherent lyrics, the simplicity and the repetitiveness of it, remind me a lot of William Blake's informal poetry, for whatever reason. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr10xoxUj1w

Ken's picture

I find lyrics (in English) distracting when I'm writing, so mostly I listen to Gregorian chant / Plain chant and the related music that Pandora offers up in that genre. 'The Office of Compline' by the Cistercian monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz in particular seems to go well with my typing. Most of Hildegard von Bingen's compositions seem to suit too.