Graham Reid | | 3 min read
As must be obvious to any longtime readers of Elsewhere, Mel Parsons has always been one of our favourite New Zealand songwriters.
We have written favourably about her albums, interviewed her and had her do a Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire . . . but she has never answered our more specific Famous Elsewhere Songwriters' Questionnaire.
And so, because she starts a tour with another of our Firm Favourites, Greg Johnson (see dates below) it is absolultely timely to see what she makes of our questions about songwriting . . .
The first song which really affected you was . . .
RHCP - Under the Bridge. I was 11. Everyone used to sing on my school bus, I think I learnt it from singing on the bus rather than the recording.
Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .
Paula Abdul, Tiffany, Kylie were the early ones - I think they were what my friends were listening to, so I went along with it, not knowing any better. At home it was all Cat Stevens & Dire Straits, which I still love to this day.
The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
Paul Simon, never disappoints.
As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson?
- KD lang
- Michael Jackson
- Johnny Cash
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .
Reading Me Wrong’ - Jed Parsons - (yes, related) isn’t actually out yet, but I’m very excited for people to hear it as soon as it is. It’s a really great song.
‘Not in Love’ - The Sami Sisters
‘Down So Long’ - this is a song of mine from Drylands, which I thought was quite good but didn’t get much of a look in. Maybe it’s too sad?
Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?
Often simultaneous, sometimes words first, sometimes riff or melody. In other words, totally random process.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
I’ve found that since uni (where it felt like I was analysing the bejesus out of music all the time) I tend to read books unrelated to music. I think (as a musician) reading outside of music makes for much more interesting dinner party conversations.
If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .
Gah I’m so predictable - Mark Knopfler.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .):
The Mae Trio ‘Take Care Take Cover’ - CD
Lord Huron - ‘Strange Trails’ download
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
Now that’s an idea! I quite like working, but having the option would be a bit of a luxury. If it’s going to set me up for life it might as well be one of mine - Driving Man.
One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .
I think I first started listening to Leonard Cohen when I was a teenager. “There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.” really got me. Total cliche for a reason I guess.
Songwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
If I knew that I’d never have to work again either! I’d like to say more inspiration, but realistically it’s probably about 20/80. These days it seems to be a lick of inspiration and then a bit of slog.
Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?
Yeah I have. It’s a pretty strange and exciting feeling. You have to stay in the zone until the whole thing has arrived. It’s a bit terrifying in some ways because if you move or change something you’re doing it might disappear. ‘Get Out Alive’ arrived like this.
And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)
.. .praising whomever bestowed Gold status on me.