I knew very little about songwriting with or for other artists. The truth is perhaps even more blunt; I knew very little about songwriting. Writing for oneself there are no rules, and perhaps that’s something songwriters shouldn’t try to change. Ignorance is bliss. I’m guessing that many of the songs we adore were written by people unaware of any structural rules of stylings set by others. The charm of songs on debut albums is often the lack of adherence to form. The shock of the new is what draws us in.
It occurred to my publishers however that some collaboration would be helpful and before long I was invited down to co write with an established song writer. That first trip resulted in a life long friendship and with one of the UK’s best. Charlie Dore is that and more. An accomplished and successful artist, prolific catalogue writer, actor and impro artist…there’s probably a few things I’ve forgotten.
She impressed me early on by being funny and being able to deal with all my fears and concerns about the business of allowing artists to trample all over our ideas when we are bringing in our best shot. She simply smiled gracefully, and with the tact of a royal retainer would offer … ‘yes….but we could also say this’ so deftly the artist in question barely noticed. I, on the other hand, would woefully wail post-session that this surely was not how songs should be written. However I had a lesson coming. We also had a writing session which involved the two of us working on a song. Inspired by our day I went back to my hotel that night and wrote out a complete lyric. ‘That’s good,’ Charlie said next morning over coffee at her kitchen table, ‘But let me photocopy it and we can both go over it a little.’ Half an hour later, whatever song I thought it was had been corrected, edited and vastly improved by Charlie. There was, I realised, much to learn.
Since those days I’ve watched Charlie return to her artist roots as well as continue to write for others. Over the last few years she’s made a series of beautiful folk/altcountry/americana records which showcase her unique ability to tell stories that will gently break your heart. On her new album, Like Animals, Charlie again takes you on journeys of human frailty and joyous inquisition.
This Tuesday night you can hear a conversation I recorded with her last week where we talk animals, humans, anxiety and memories of a songwriting life going back to the late seventies. It was a conversation I really didn’t want to conclude. Fortunately for you we’ve edited some of that and included some beautiful cuts from the new album.
Elsewhere we’ll hear from Lori McKenna, Brian Fallon and Teddy Thompson. We’ll introduce you to The Son(s) and remind you of some of the music made by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. It is their songs I’ll be exploring this Wednesday in the last ‘Ricky Meets’ of this series. It’s a very special hour in the company of their son Del Bryant from his house outside Nashville which we visited a couple of years ago to gather the stories of one of the greatest pop/country songwriting teams of all time.
Join me this Tuesday when you can get a taste of all of that, a chat with Charlie Dore and enjoy two hours of country music…our way from 8 p.m. on BBC Radio Scotland.