In this series, I ask other songwriters about their quest for inspiration and how they tackle the day-to-day tasks of writing quality, engaging songs. Behind every good song is a hard-worker. I want to know how songwriters work and how they fill their well so it never goes dry.


AL LEWIS is a Welsh singer-songwriter living in Tooting, South London. Writing music in both Welsh & English, Al composes modern folk songs reminiscent of classic 70s songwriters. He’s received several well-deserved accolades in Wales (ahem a nomination for the Welsh Music Prize), airplay on BBC Radio 1, 2 & 6 Music, and has just opened for Jools Holland at the Royal Albert Hall. Tomorrow night (December 5th), I am opening for Al at Music from the Market – a quarterly acoustic show series curated by Al & Theresa Heath in the historic Tooting Market. For more information, visit the Facebook event page. Read on to learn more about Al’s songwriting process.

1. What is your typical work day? 

Responding to emails, updating the website, filling out invoices (really boring stuff) and hopefully some guitar playing and songwriting squeezed in at some point!

2. What tools do you use to keep you organized and productive? 

My life is on my MacBook – I try and keep my calendar organised with things to do – in terms of writing – I have an Abbey Rd notebook where I write all my latest lyrics and song-ideas. A lot of my melodies I record onto my phone, so I don’t forget them!

3. Do you have any habits, exercises or activities that jumpstart your creativity? 

I tend to just play some guitar for a few minutes – maybe some Ryan Adams or Paul Simon songs – to get me in the mood!

4. Are there any specific (or favorite) books, films, lectures, etc. that have impacted your creative process? 

Just recently I’ve been researching Dylan Thomas’ work as I’ve written a song based on one of his short-stories. That has been a fascinating experience as I’ve always written personal lyrics in the past and so to step into someone else’s shoes was a new and exciting way for me to write. (The song Al is referring to is his Christmas single, out Dec 16th!)

5. Where do you find inspiration for songs? How do you catalog it?

In the ether! I tend to listen to music for inspiration and then play some guitar and something will just take over!
In terms of lyrical ideas, a melody is always a guideline on where a song should go thematically and I just try and follow that strand to wherever feels natural.

6. How do you combat writer’s block?

I try not to put too much stress/pressure on completing a song (though sometimes I think putting a time constraint on yourself can be useful). I think it you force the issue – the end product isn’t going to be very good!

7. Who is your songwriting hero?

I have many – Bob Dylan / James Taylor / Carole King / Bruce Springsteen / Neil Young / Nick Drake / Joni Mitchell / John Martyn / Ryan Adams / Tom Waits / Damien Rice I could go on…

8. Do you have any advice to offer a new songwriter?

Write, write and write some more. Never be satisfied with your first draft. Always strive to improve your playing on your instrument of choice – be it guitar or piano. Listen to PLENTY of music – of ALL genres. Be self-critical – don’t worry if what you’ve just written is rubbish- the next song might be amazing, you never know. That’s the beauty of songwriting!
On December 16th, Al is releasing his Christmas single “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” on December 16th. You can pre-order the single on iTunes here. Be prepared to cry your eyes out to this heartwarming video!


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