23 Feb Angie Who on Writing Song Lyrics
I’ve always admired picture book authors and song lyricists. Crafting a meaningful story or message with so few words is not an easy thing to do. So, I decided to ask my talented friend, Angie Who, all about it.
Littlefolk is one of the freshest sounding children’s albums going around. What was your inspiration for making the album?
That’s very kind of you to say! Thank you. I never imagined myself getting into kid’s or family music… but motherhood can really change a gal’s direction! When we had our little girl I began to think a lot about my own childhood, and the songs my mum used to sing to me. I thought about recording a lot of those old songs and discovered Elizabeth Mitchell had already beaten me to it… So, what was going to be an album of old folk songs, became more originals – inspired by everyday mum life really – just singing myself through the sleep deprivation. 😉
Music or lyrics? What comes first? Can you tell us a bit about your process when song-writing?
I have no formula really. Sometimes the words and the lyrics come together, sometimes it takes a bit more work. A lot of these songs were just at the dinner table trying to convince a small person to eat their dinner, or reminding myself that even though the days are long, the years are short and not to wish them away. Usually, when I have an idea, I sing it into my phone, which is often when I’m walking down the street or in an overly public and busy place. I try and be all covert about it so not to look too crazy! Then at some point, when there’s a quiet moment, I try and turn the fragments into whole pieces with my notebook, my mandolin and three chords.
Do you ever feel restricted (when writing lyrics) by the time restraints of a song?
Interesting question. I haven’t thought about it that way. I guess I rather enjoy the challenge of fitting words together with rhythms and rhymes. It makes you feel a bit clever when you put something together that sits just right.
What is your favourite lyric on the album? Why?
“Someday you’ll be too big to hold, someday my baby I’ll be pretty old.”
I wrote that song at such a raw time. Our boy was so little and I was so tired, trying to figure out how the role of a mother fit in with the person I had to be and the person I wanted to be, juggling a part time admin job, wanting to be creative, wishing for sleep, but because he was our second child, I knew this time would pass quickly (you have hindsight the second time around) and I wanted to remind myself to treasure those tiny fingers and toes and that squidgy baby phase.
You’ve written a wonderfully quirky story, The Wimben Lumben and the Sausage, for Kinderling radio. What inspired this story and what was your approach to writing it?
Oh gosh…The Wimben Lumben was actually a character our daughter came up with in the pre school playground when she was four.
She told me about him, and his best friend ‘The Sausage’. I thought it was a pretty whacky idea and suggested we write a story together.
I took her lead really, and just fleshed it out. There is a little bit of real life in there too, especially the real estate issues – we were looking for an affordable rental (in Sydney – ha!) at the time, so things like that were woven into the story – part of my therapy!
A few years back there was a Sydney Writers Festival talk on ‘The Anatomy of a Kids Song’. I remember someone there said they often looked to their kids for inspiration/ideas. I think that was some good advice and I am always listening! I have a couple of other ideas on the hob thanks to my little people.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to write songs for children?
Get your kids to help you!
You can find out more about Angie Who and Littlefolk at www.angiewho.com.au