You say the three-minute pop song isn't really enough
of a challenge for you. Do you mean that those types of songs come
to you quickly and easily?
I steer away from that as much as possible. As soon as I hear myself
going anywhere near a basic pop song idea, I tend to push myself
away and find the most awkward chord to go to, rather than the most
obvious. It's probably just a personal thing, but I just get so
bored with the same-old same-old. I realize there's "I Don't
Wanna Know," and maybe one or two other songs on the album
that go around with three to five chords, or whatever, but in general
I like to stretch further than that, and find other areas to go
and play in.
I love the Stones, and much of what
they've done, but they've stayed with what worked for them. What
I like about the Beatles is that they didn't stick to the same old
formula. They ventured off into territories unknown, and that's
very much where my head is.
percentage of the songs on Photograph Smile were composed on
The majority, really. It was only the
slightly more uptempo songs that were composed on guitar.
Have you always tended to work that way?
Absolutely. The piano is, for me, far
more entertaining. I play by ear, which means that generally after
I've actually written and recorded a song, I tend to forget it.
That's just the way it is. Coming back to the key- boards to write
another song is like coming back to unknown territory, time and
time again. And that, for me, keeps things fresh. I think if I knew
what was going on all the time, I would stagnate. But because it's
just by ear, and because I don't practice [the piano] at all, I
have to re-learn, and re-teach myself to play, every single time
I try to compose.
How much of the keyboard work on Photograph Smile
was done by you?
Most of the piano work was done by
What he did, in essence, was to take my original performances and
make them slightly more flamboyant. Greg is an old friend of mine,
and he very much went through the whole formal training thing -
jazz and classical, and so forth - but he has a great heart, and
a great ear, for music. So what he did was become my hands, or become
what I would probably sound like if I had had formal training, and
had that understanding of theory and so forth. What I do is more
about the straightforward emotion, and getting the idea down, than
it is about finesse and frill. That's always been the case. I wish
I could do those things, but I'm too lazy. Thankfully there are
great players, like Greg, who can expand on the basics of what I've
© 1999 Performing Songwriter