Music & Literature: Write, Read, & Roll
Hey gang, it’s Lynette Mae. The release of Rebound prompted a few discussions about the links between music, lyrics and the longer written word. So, I thought it would be cool to have rocker Cole Armocida tell us about how she’s inspired to create her incredible music. For me, this project opened up creative spaces in my soul and the power has been nothing short of amazing. Now here’s Cole to start us off with her musical inspirations, and I’ll chime in later with some additional thoughts.
No, that’s not what I mean. Not all musicians create under the influence. Lit, as in literature. Yes, I’ve been inspired by some books to write lyrics. Inspiration can come from a storyline of a novel, a character, or even just one sentence. Movies, television shows, news programs, and magazine articles can inspire song ideas. Recently, a commercial set something off in my head with one sentence. It can also happen with a combination of media. You never know what will charge your creative brain.
I’ll give you an example of how a book partially inspired a song I wrote and recorded a number of years ago. It came from a combination of factors. Imagine a cafe. Two women are waiting in line for coffee and discussing a workplace situation. I’m within earshot, trying to read a story about an office romance. Another regular patron is sitting at a table nearby, legs crossed and facing outward to give me the full side view, and her index finger is gliding along the rim of her cup. Yeah, I’m not getting much reading done. I’ve been on the same paragraph since she walked in and sat down.
She was an attractive woman who frequented the cafe. Think Julianne Moore mixed with Amy Adams. Yes, a red head. One conversation, which she initiated, became many over a few months. From word one, her light flirtation accelerated to the first stages of seduction. Now, at this point, I was on guard because every auburn haired woman I meet emanates trouble. Trouble, which can feel good, but trouble nonetheless. I won’t use names so we’ll just call her “Red”. Well, Red worked in a nearby corporate office and what started as a late morning visit to the cafe, became late-morning and late afternoon visits. The exact times I would take my breaks from work.
I’m reading and enjoying my coffee, I have Red sitting nearby intermittently throwing lines at me, and I overhear the one woman on line say to the other, “Oh, I think she’s just testing my waters.” – The other woman touches her colleagues arm and says, “Yeah, well, be careful.” – Bingo! I stood up, bid Red adieu, left the cafe, and took all three factors to write the song titled, “Testing My Waters”. For this song I wrote down some lines that popped into my head right away. Once I was home, I plugged in my guitar, tuned up, and began playing random notes and chords. It is something I tend to do without much thought. I allow my hands to do whatever happens and it has resulted in the creation of quite a few songs. This would be one of those songs. Four notes on two strings and how my hands just happened to play them became part of the intro to the song. Within one hour, “Testing My Waters” was complete. The combination of the overheard discussion of the cafe patrons, corporate office-seductive-red head, and the book I was reading, resulted in one of my all time favorite songs I have composed to this day. Though I chose not to re-record the song for my CD, Lifeline, I may release the original recording one day.
A song on my CD, Lifeline, is another example. I wrote a song based on a story I’ve completed. The song is called “To Die For”. It’s more of a hard rock tune than the other songs on the CD, but I absolutely love playing that song. It’s also a great tune to workout to when you need to pick up the pace. The manuscript it goes with? My WIP (work in progress). It’s complete and ready for edits, but I would call it more of a WSILBMATTFS (work sitting in limbo because music always takes the front seat).
Speaking of music taking the front seat, I received a phone call one day from my good buddy, Lynette Mae. She wanted to send me what she had written so far for her WIP, Rebound. We discussed the storyline and she wanted to know if any of my songs would fit with the storyline. I told her I would read what she sent over and let her know. Well, LM has this way of hooking you and reeling you in as a reader. I always find that her writing style immediately pulls me in and I feel like I am there in the scenes. I sent her a message and asked her to send me more. It didn’t take long for me to go into my studio, pick up the guitar, tune it, and yes, let my hands move around the fretboard at random. Again, bingo. A few chords, and the lines just flowed on the paper. I shared the lyrics with LM to see what she thought and was thrilled with her response. What I realized, after I composed the music and lyrics, not only was the song for the main character, Conner Maguire, but also for myself.
The words and music became this soul-warming inspiration to fight and move forward no matter what happens in life. Hey, this isn’t just a song for Conner and me, it’s a song for every person out there going through life’s unexpected changes and challenges. Challenges. It hit me. I can’t spend money on this recording. I’m still paying down costs incurred with the first CD and start up of the label. I thought about doing a live video performance but with all the music in my head, just me with my guitar wasn’t going to cut it as a release. I would not be satisfied with that stripped down performance. I turned in my chair, and the first thing I saw was a stack of CDs I usually listen to while I’m working out. The CD on top was Black and White America by Lenny Kravitz. Lenny Kravitz often plays all instruments on his recordings, as does Prince. As the song, Rebound, says, “The real test upon you, give one cleansing breath”. That’s what I did. I started by programming the drum line, using drum software. I didn’t have all the microphones needed to properly record my drum set. I continued, recording all the guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals. I mixed each track, recruiting my wife as a second set of ears to assist me in the long, hours-consuming, sometimes frustrating process. When I felt I had the final mix, I mastered the song for distribution through CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.
I was so inspired, I took on another new project. Using the experience of doing my own music videos, and some fabulous film footage by Lynette’s nephew, Chris, I put together the book trailer for LM as well. The entire experience was extremely fun.
Well, now that I’ve shared how literature inspires my songwriting, let’s hear from Lynette Mae on how music inspires her story writing…
“Rebound and reload…” music fades. That’s my cue.
Get music, create lit.
I love using musical references in my work to give the reader a time reference and it helps give a sense of the character or set the mood. Cole forgot that when I sent her the intro to “Rebound” I included a little line where Conner is listening to indie rocker, Cole Armocida, while working out. I did originally want to use a song from her Lifeline CD, but then Cole blew me out of the water by actually writing a whole song. That was incredible, but then something even more amazing happened to my creativity.
While I love including musical references, I always thought I preferred to write in silence. Radio and TV are too distracting, I told myself. I need to focus with no distractions. That’s what I thought. Rebound was like no other story I’d ever written and it challenged me in ways I never anticipated. Some days I feared it would never be published. Truth. Then an army buddy of mine suggested a soundtrack for Rebound. We’d discussed the secondary character, Coach Shawn Tyler, a disabled Iraqi War vet. I was struggling with exactly how to portray Shawn. AJ didn’t stop at the suggestion; she sent me a list of songs the next day, with a note that I should add others I felt would connect with the characters or story.
Her choices were spot on and when I added a few of my own, I suddenly felt Shawn coming alive. Inspired, I added a couple for Conner. From then on, I listened to the Rebound soundtrack every minute I was writing. I realized that the right songs would capture the mood, and rather than distracting, they inspired me beyond anything I’d ever experienced. When Cole finished the song “Rebound” and played it for me the first time I nearly cried. It captured the spirit of Conner and Shawn, and the message of humanity and hope for us all. That, folks, is what it’s all about.
Readers: Do you ever relate songs to your favorite books? How so?
Authors: Do you have a playlist for your WIP’s? Does music charge your creative brain? Tell us about it.
About Cole Armocida:
Cole Armocida hails from Pittsburgh, PA and currently lives in New York City. At an early age, Cole’s music education was enhanced by her parents’ jazz and standards albums and her siblings’ classic rock albums. Her mother is a trained vocalist who performed as part of a trio for radio shows and met Cole’s father while performing in a theater production.
Singing since the age of four, Cole began playing in bands as early as thirteen, performed many live shows, and opened for some national acts with her band in Pittsburgh.
Cole’s CD, Lifeline, and her new single, “Rebound” is available through CD Baby, iTunes, and the Amazon Music Store. The New York City based company, WACBIZ, run by industry veteran, Suzanne Hilleary, licenses Cole’s music for film and television.