Dogs in Music: A Dialogue on Songwriting, Part I: Interview with Pinky & Clementine
Steven offers an in-depth look at the mind of an active songwriter while discussing the wide-ranging use of canines acting as catalysts for finished songs
Yes! Gucci handbags, celebrity gossip and money itself all rule the whole world but - this is a planet of animals. Always has been, won't always will be (unlike Thanos - the end of life is actually inevitable).
I think we should appreciate all life we come across. The bird that wakes you up at 5 AM every morning belting outside of your window? Gorgeous! The exotic lion hunting down impalas in the grasslands? Riveting. The cockroach scrambling like morning eggs - forever and always alerting of their presence throughout all of world history? Sketch, but... impressive, no?
something everything so beautifully pure and natural and admirable about not carrying the weight and anguish that comes with being as societally-impacted as humans. Want to bite a stick? Do it. Feel like charging at a random bird? Hellz. YES.
I think we could learn so much about how to live from the ones whose lives are spent doing only that.
Dogs are some of the most popular and beloved animals worldwide (especially here in the States) and as a result it's a no-brainer that they have served as the subject of many songs throughout music history. Next week, I aim to highlight and discuss some of the best, most interesting songs about our four-legged best friends - as well as acknowledge the songwriting process and the journey within it - because in reality, what we initially started with rarely ends up as what the finished product truly is. Kinda like - oh I don't know - the process of LIFE, right? (Or are you still slurping gogurts and slamming lunchables?)
We WILL go deeper - don't you philosophy lovers worry. However - with the help of some little universal sparks making themselves known - I realized that there is no better way to discuss songwriting than by interviewing a fellow songwriter!
By absolute and total coincidence, as I began to formulate this piece, fellow artist and family friend, Pinky of Pinky and Clementine - who has been apart of a wonderful online songwriting community throughout the pandemic - just received an insanely relevant, two-word prompt for her latest writing venture:
I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to inquire into the mind of an artist and hear her personal process as she progresses her prompt-provided topic into a breathing, living creation:
(Note: For those who are unfamiliar - I want to highlight that this duo is made up of Pinky and her guitar, Clementine, forming a unique and special concept that would make Willie & Trigger proud!)
SS: Truthfully, everytime I hear this question it annoys me for whatever reason. Maybe now I understand why it's asked: What do you typically start with - lyrics or music? Is it consistent for you? Is that how this song went?
Pinky: I usually start with a lyric, normally one good phrase that will kick start a melody in my mind, then the song takes on a life of its own. It's a very integrated process once I get the song going. It is pretty consistent, though I'll run into the occasional chord or riff from noodling and get a different type of song entirely. This song was very much lyrically driven.
SS: Can you take us through what happened in your mind from the moment you received 'Stray Dog' as a prompt until you began to write the first word of the song? Did you have multiple ideas? What made you commit to the final topic choice? What is the song about now that you've written it? Why?
Pinky: So for prompts, I tend to rebel against an on-the-nose response. So rather than making the whole song about a (presumably sad) dog, I took the stray dog to be an image or metaphor. "Nonbeliever, no one wants to feed the stray dog" is the lyric and it informs the rest of the lyrics. Not belonging anywhere is the core meaning of the song, and it's been an elusive topic to write about, so I'm glad it's found a home in this song.
SS: How was the creative process - from starting the first line to finishing the last rhyme? Do you mind sharing some of the lyrics? What's the song called?
Pinky: So the process started with how to work in the prompt without making an inauthentic song, so tossing around some ideas about what are the associations with the stray dog, belonging popping out to me most, from there I wrote the first 2 lines and fit in the stray dog line. After coming up with the first verse I fiddled with some chord progressions to see what would fit under the verse, and that led into the chorus musically. From there, I continued writing lyrics by improvising words over until they really fit, meaning having some reason behind the rhyme and if the rhyme was nonsense I would omit the rhyme. The song will need some cleaning up, but the chorus is essentially: "Oooh, then the light breaks through just for a moment. Oooh, say it loudly through the silence broken: Nowhere, no air." The song is called "No Air"
SS: I really appreciate you sharing the unseen details of your songwriting process and letting us in! Where can we keep up with you? What ya got hap-nin?!
Pinky: Thank you for having me! It's been really interesting to dissect my own writing process, and it's demystifying when sometimes writing can seem really fleeting and magical. Instagram is my primary social media and I can be found on Spotify here.
My many thanks to Pinky for providing us with such a personal, in-depth account of her own experience and for giving us the opportunity to talk about the more minute details of songwriting that often become an afterthought when presenting the finished product - even by artists themselves!
Be sure to follow up next week to complete the journey with Dogs in Music: A Dialogue on Songwriting, Part II - where we'll discuss multiple artists, genres and songs centered around the concept of canines!
With April finally upon us, there are so many exciting happenings on the way, I want to thank those of you already here for this beautiful journey!
As always, stay Strong!