Photo by Jenelle Ball | Unsplash
Many songwriters cite “finishing” as the most difficult aspect of writing a song.
When do you stop tracking? When do you stop mixing? How do you differentiate smart revisions from over-thinking?
In other words, when do you take it out of the oven? No one likes undercooked chicken, least of all me. And for me, the hardest part of finishing a song is seeing it “leave the nest.” I’ve always struggled with the idea that once a song is recorded and released, it’s out of your hands and forever etched into some kind of official stone. There’s an inevitable leap of faith involved, and letting go can be unexpectedly difficult.
With this common struggle in mind, we asked some masterful songwriters to share their thoughts on how to finish songs.
Will Sheff (Okkervil River)
"The best way to start and finish a song is to do it all within one sustained burst of energy very shortly after you've had the idea. That way, the whole thing comes out as one piece.
If you can't do that, the best way to finish a song you started at an earlier date is to dig deep into the original feeling that made you start writing the song and hope you can get inspired to come up with some epic pile-driver of a closing line/couplet/verse that just takes the song all the way home with great force.
If you've tried that approach and you can't manage it, the last best thing is to come up with some left-field element at the end that nobody would expect, that twists the whole thing in a different direction and allows you to leap off of it gracefully while everybody's looking the other way."