Writing Lyrics With Billy Sheehan
“I think sometimes it’s easier to build a ten-story brick building without scaffolding than to write lyrics,” says bass master Billy Sheehan. “I really work hard to try to do something that has some real worth: that isn’t stupid, dumb or meaningless. It’s a real labor of love and it is labor.”
Sheehan has been flexing his writing chops recently and just released his new solo disc, ‘Holy Cow!’ This go ’round, Billy chose a more high-tech method of writing over the more traditional pen and paper. “I took a couple weeks, and I had my computer – with a built in camera – and I’d open it up in the evening at my little dinette with a glass of wine and my guitar. When something cool came up, I’d hit record on the video program. I’d make sure my hands were in clear view of the camera and I’d make a little movie explaining the part,” says Sheehan.
It took Sheehan a handful of weeks to develop the lyrics for songs on ‘Holy Cow!” While Sheehan says he can explain a bass lick to just about anyone, the writing process is another story. “The hard part is writing the first draft. When I’d get done, I’d throw it out and rewrite the whole thing and that would fall together as easy as pie. It was an odd phenomenon, but it would work and work and work and it was just sort of laboring and frustrating, get it all, finish it, throw it out, rewrite it in a couple of minutes. That became the process. When it comes to teaching something like that, my best advice is to just do the hard labor. Sit there with a blank piece of paper and you’ve got to write lyrics and melody and if you don’t, it’s not going to be on the record.”