songwriting

Slow and Steady | The Songwriting Secrets of BOY

The following interview with BOY took place during SXSW in 2013. I was on assignment for the magazine (with Janelle Sorenson) but due to editorial constraints, the lion’s share of the material we captured (many great bands) was not used in the final article.  

At that time, Steiner and Glass had already begun writing the songs that would appear on We Are Here and discussed the process in detail. We also had the opportunity to hear “Into the Wild” live at Peckerheads on 6th Street as part of the Baeble Music Showcase and fell in love with the song.

Slow and Steady | The Songwriting Secrets of BOY

Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass of the Hamburg-based duo BOY first met in 2007 at a musical workshop where the two hit it off professionally. They soon began writing together and their debut album Mutual Friends with its international hit “Little Numbers” arrived four years later.

“Since nobody was waiting for the [first] album, we took as much time as we needed to find out how we want to write, or how it works to write,” says Glass. “We had enough time to form a vision in our heads about what we would do musically so it was two and a half years of writing, playing live, and going to the studio to record.”

Doing What Works

With the second album, We Were Here, set to drop in September of 2015, it is clear that the two sought to repeat the winning formula.

“When we write, it is like a back and forth,” Steiner says. “Sonja does instrumentals at her home studio and sends them to me. I record a melody with lyrics that fit and then I send it back. So it goes back and forth via email for quite a long time until we really put a song together and then we go to the studio and record it properly.”

Writing music takes time, and in some cases the right space to really bring out the creativity.

“I need to have a very quiet place, actually,” Glass says. “No music, nothing at all, to start a new idea.”

BOY_Sonja_Glass

When asked about what inspires them, the two cast a wide net.

“For me, for the lyrics, I think it’s very much taken from my life or the things I observe with my friends, or just people around me,” says Steiner. “It can also be books or movies or artists that I like. I think inspiration can be everywhere, so you just have to catch it.”

“I’m inspired by my whole life and by the music I listen to, and the sounds I like,” agrees Glass.

What’s Next

The new album, We Were Here will be available to American audiences September 18, over two years in the making – a point not lost on the band.

“We started writing new songs in January or February [2013],” says Glass. “We are very slow writers, really slow. It’s too early to tell what it’s about or where it’s going to be.”

About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is a writer, musician, and award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival 2011, and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival 2012.

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Story Behind the Song – Love Shine

The original idea for the song Love Shine came about while I was in the midst of a home brewing project. For anyone who has attempted to brew beer at home, you understand what a long process it is. There is a lot of boiling, and timing, and waiting. The mind tends to wander.

I had just stirred in the first batch of hops (Cascade) and started singing about the steps involved.

The parallels between being drunk and being in the early stages of love abound. Feelings of warmth, excitement, and the awareness that you’re probably a bit out of your mind are all similar between the two. Since I was no stranger to either states of being, I had a lot of material.

I recorded lyrics and melody as a voice memo on my phone and promised myself that I would come back to it as soon as I had pitched the yeast and the beer was safely in the fermenter.

Get the free single – Love Shine

Love Shine Album Cover Single

Advice from a Hit Writer

After playing the first version of the song numerous times with my band, Delavan, I signed up for the Barbara Cloyd Songwriting Workshop at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Barbara penned the 1993 hit “I Guess You Had to Be There,” by Lorrie Morgan and I asked her for some advice on how to improve the track.

The gist of her comments were that the current lyrics were too abstract, and it was hard to understand what was going on. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t worked out what was going on myself, other than loosely relating being drunk to being in love. Then there was the title, Love Shine (instead of Moonshine). I thought that was a fun twist on the whole “drunk on you” concept.

As a result of the initial feedback from Barbara, I worked harder on crafting a story and submitted the rewrite for publishers.

Some of the changes were as follows:

Original lyric –

I met you, we were growing wild

Playing breezy like a child

Come together and falling fast

Down in the pot with a boiling mash

Rewritten lyric –

I met you, we were going wild

Waking all the neighbors in a country mile

Lately all they hear is fighting

Time to bring out a jar of mama’s white lightning

Spit and Polish

As a writer, I spent a lot of time focusing on creative turns of phrase and apt titles. I didn’t try to have a cohesive, trackable story. Sometimes that works, and it can be fun to analyze abstract lyrics. I have an appreciation for that kind of music, but my goal is to challenge myself to write in a variety of genres so that I can choose the direction that’s right for the song – and for me.

The Delavan release of Love Shine was recorded at Real Phonic Studio in Minneapolis by Erik Koskinen. Vero played bass, and Mark Larson played drums. There were a few guitars. One’s me playing acoustic. James Gould plays throughout, and Erik laid another track or two on top.

David Feeny at the Tempermill in Detroit did the mastering. I always like to throw that out there because he played on Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose record with Jack White. That was a big record for me personally, and I’ve always been a fan of Lynn’s – and White’s for that matter. Being able to work with people whom you admire is a very satisfying personal and professional experience.

One of the publishers at the workshop likened the finished version of Love Shine to country artist Ashley Monroe. He also said that traditional country songs like this one are a tougher sell in the current commercial country market (Summer of ’14). Tastes change, and only time will tell if traditional country will make it back on the radio. I hope so, not just for my own work, but because I really enjoy it.

Oh, PS – The beer turned out good too.

Hear It Now

I’ll keep writing. In the meantime, you can get the free single for Love Shine.

Full Lyrics

I met you, we were going wild

Waking all the neighbors in a country mile

Lately all they hear is fighting

Time to bring out a jar of mama’s white lightning

<chorus>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Pour me a cup of that love shine

<verse2>

I like it strong, ’bout a hundred proof

Feel the warm rush seeping through

Tell me baby what I got to do

So we get drunk off of me and you

<chorus2>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Can’t get enough of your love shine

<bridge>

Lock the windows and steam the pane

Drive the fire like a union train

Getting tipsy when you hold me tight

It’s the kind of buzz that’s gonna last all night

<chorus>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Can’t get enough of your love shine

<instrumental>

Stir it up, baby just listen

Won’t be long ’til we get to kissin’

Little bit dizzy but I’m feeling fine

Can’t get enough of your love shine

Need a little more of your love shine

You got to give me that love shine