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Nick Lowe on songwriting

  • Story Highlights
  • Nick Lowe: Songwriting like hearing radio through wall
  • "Trick ... is to really wait until you can hear the song in its entirety"
  • He's often failed himself, and knows fans would disagree with choices
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(CNN) -- Nick Lowe says writing songs -- writing songs he's pleased with -- is hard work, and you don't always get what you want.

"It's like being at a café," he says. "[The waiter says,] 'This is today's special. It happens to be liver in lager. It's not to everyone's taste, but I'm afraid it's what we're serving today.' ... It's very elusive."

He trots out a theory comparing the craft to listening -- really listening -- to a radio.

"When it's right, it sounds so easy. My latest theory is it's as if you're sitting in an apartment, and in the apartment next door the radio is tuned permanently this really cool radio station. And every so often, they play this really good track. ... You never know when it's going to come on, but it's a really good new thing. And every time it does you can hear it through the wall, and you stop what you're doing and you listen really carefully, because you think, 'Now that's a good song, now how does that go?' And you listen, and each time it comes on you learn a little bit more of it.

"And the trick, especially the older you get ... is to really wait until you can hear the song in its entirety coming through the wall so to speak. If you interfere with it -- that's a mistake that most songwriters make, they start writing it -- whereas in fact the best songwriters in my view are the ones who get it directly off the radio in the flat next door, like the Bob Dylans and people like that, where it sounds absolutely right and uninterfered with, almost if they haven't written it at all.

"And that's the way I feel about it ... this isn't actually an original theory, but it's the one I subscribe to. It's all been sort of prewritten, and all you have to do is sort of put it down. ... And the older you get, the more you're looking for that -- the simplicity so the idea is not messed up. It's a really clean, fantastic idea, and all the words count. There's no baggage or bulls*** in it, which you tend to do when you're less experienced."


He admits he's faltered many times -- and that some of his fans might not agree with his choices.

"I know they're out there," he says of songs he'd like to rework. "But I know some people would say, 'Whoa, that's my favorite song, how can you say that?' " E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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