A Thread About Threads

The great Polish film director Kieslowski was famous for including certain scenes in multiple films. Perhaps this is because he used the same characters, or borrowed footage of certain scenes shot from multiple angles for different films and narratives. Whatever the artistic impetus, and whatever the process techniques that made this sort of magic trick doable, the effect for the attentive film-goer, especially watching multiple films over a period of time, was a kind of Cubist re-arrangement of time’s flow, causality and teleology, fate, destiny and recurrence.

You can use this technique in your songwriting work.

You can reference your other works. Not in ways requiring the auditor to go off in search of the reference to complete their experience, but as a way of weaving your work into a larger texture, tapestry. Create sequels, circles, rings, cycles. This can be approached as a learning and skill development technique, an artistic practice, and also as a kind of marketing strategy—a way of creating a narrative around the body of your work for your audience. Give someone a great first experience, then some threads to follow.

I like to say you can steal from yourself with impunity—as long as you agree in advance not to take yourself to court.

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Brothers and Sisters of the Shoulder of the Road

Just heard Irl Hees’ amazing upcoming cover recording of a song of mine, “Time Has Humbled Me,” from my 2003 album Crazy Faith. More on that truly head-turning recording later, when I can share it. Before I heard it, I asked Irl if he was happy with the recording. He told me a story that I count as about the highest compliment a songwriter can get. He said the husband of one of the musicians on the track was listening to a rough mix of the song in the car, and had to pull over onto the shoulder of the road to finish listening.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. As songwriters, our mission in life is to disrupt traffic any way we can.

We songwriters are part of a secret society I like to call Brothers and Sisters of the Shoulder of the Road (or maybe, for that old-time feel, Brethren and Sistren—always thought that should be a word!). The rites of passage into this tribe are three moments in your life involving cars and roads, moments that can tell you something about whether you’re meant to be, or are becoming, a songwriter.

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