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Songwriters On Songwriting

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  440 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
This expanded fourth edition of Songwriters on Songwriting includes ten new interviews--with Alanis Morissette, Lenny Kravitz, Lou Reed, and others. In these pages, sixty-two of the greatest songwriters of our time go straight to the source of the magic of songwriting by offering their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on their art. Representing almost every genre of popula ...more
Paperback, Revised And Expanded, 752 pages
Published June 19th 2003 by Da Capo Press (first published 1991)
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Jul 04, 2012 Karlyn rated it it was amazing
Originally my review just said, "indispensable".
Zollo gets songwriters of various formats to talk about the *craft* of songwriting. The process. He asks good questions. He is obviously talented at interviews, because he gets these writers to talk about the secret nuts and bolts of their craft: rhyming, lying, key signatures, crawling on the floor in tears looking for missing lyrics, etc. He brings out what appears to be a longing in these writers to talk about the nuts and bolts to
Janice Marie Foote
Mar 11, 2014 Janice Marie Foote rated it it was amazing
This review is for others who are songwriters at any level using any instrument, I myself am an acoustic guitar singer-songwriter. I give it 5 stars for the variety of songwriters he interviewed, the knowledge he had of each songwriter interviewed, along with the questions asked each songwriter. This book is totally spot on in learning the behind-the-scenes of songwriting at the emotional and visceral level ala the meat and bones. It's definitely not a how-to-write-song book, but rather how one ...more
Michele Harvey
Nov 12, 2016 Michele Harvey rated it it was amazing
Mike Nexus
Jul 05, 2017 Mike Nexus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-this-book
I am sure many of you out there seek for ways to tap into your creativity and seek inspiration from various sources. Music and reading are two of my main sources, I have previously written extensively on the music and poetry, that I use to tap into my well of creativity. Thus far, I have not delved into the books that I read on writing styles, creative input and how to manage the day to day challenge of sitting at ones desk, and hopefully write. This book is a well thumbed and oft read/dived int ...more
Dec 25, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Unless you're a songwriter, I'm not sure reading 730 pages straight through makes sense, but as something to dip in and out of periodically it was fun. Probably read it over the course of more than a year. Very wide range of genres covered, and from the questions he asks the songwriters you can tell author knows an awful lot about music.

Some of the insights gleaned from interviewees are tedious ("that modern music isn't as great as in my day" riffs -- a little goes a long way), and many are cont
Motez Bishara
Aug 13, 2014 Motez Bishara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rock-books
Terrific book and reference guide into the minds of some of the great songwriters of modern popular music.

There are dozens of interviews with heralded songwriters, from Dylan and Neil Young to Tom Petty and Joan Baez, but I found the most compelling chapters from the less likely sources. John Fogerty, Alanis Morissette, Madonna, and Lenny Kravitz were some of the most engaging reads in this treasure trove of songwriting styles and tips.

The Yoko Ono chapter was very cool too, mainly to hear Yoko
Dec 28, 2016 Dale rated it it was amazing
Halfway through this symposium of lyrical gods I already know that I will be returning to its pages time and time again. An aspiring songwriter, I relish any insights that might clear the fog of ideas incessantly clouding my brain.

Mr. Zollo makes no attempt to disguise the fact that his is a fan. His enthusiasm is contagious and his questions both well-informed and probative. Often to the surprise of his subjects. I was also delighted to discover insights provided by songwriters from the jazz e
Jul 06, 2016 Ed rated it it was amazing
If this topic interests you ---- or even if you are a fan of any of the artists featured in this book, this is mandatory for your library! Zollo does an incredible job of drawing out sensitive and technicals aspects on songwriting and art from his interviewees which can add some great perspectives to your next listen. Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Webb, Paul Simon and so many more provide a real smorgasbord to enjoy and better understand this art.
Jan 13, 2015 Luke rated it really liked it
Great book. Gave me a new found respect for Lenny Kravitz (who I always thought was a bland pastiche artiste). He comes across as a true musician in this book, and expresses his dismay about the fact that interviews with him always focus on his current girlfriend, rather than his music. His stories about being in the California Boys Choir (second only to the Vienna Boys Choir apparently) are really fascinating. Lots of other great interviews here too. Bob Dylan one is also very funny.
Dec 29, 2014 Mina rated it it was amazing
A reference, an encyclopedia, a place at the interview table, and a catheter into the very soul of all the writers surveyed. The people you think are celebrities gave drab answers, the ones most lauded were self-deprecating, and ones I had never heard of were honored by copious dog-earing. An exquisite anthology of the craft of songwriting.
Harry Mccoy
Jun 24, 2014 Harry Mccoy rated it really liked it
A treasure trove of insight into the songwriting process. I really liked that he asked the same questions of most of the subjects, to get a litmus test on each personality. Face it, they're all kind of saying the same thing, but Zollo has a knack for asking the right questions. And surprises from the most unlikely subjects. If you're a songwriter, this should be in your library.
Andy Newton
Feb 06, 2015 Andy Newton rated it it was amazing
An embarrassment of riches, Zollo records classic folk/pop/R&B/country songwriting heavyweights whose peaked between the 1950's through '80s. The kind of book that works in small chunks, as a desk resource and bathroom accoutrement. So many of the interviews sparkle; many take considerable time to digest the gold. Love the Leonard Cohen one, especially.
Jul 25, 2011 Luke rated it really liked it
Most of the interviews in this book are fascinating. There are a few duds - why would I want to know where Alanis Morrisette gets her ideas? But Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, etc. - so many great writers try to unpack their methods and you wind up with a good collection of advice and instruction. Highly recommend this to anyone who writes or wants to write songs.
Jul 02, 2010 Kiof rated it it was amazing
The best book on songwriting that I've read. It's hard to imagine another book that would better cover the subject. The interviews are inspiring, but you won't really "learn" anything (like scales or chord theory). The whole point of the book is its in-depth description of the mysterious nature of songwriting. The Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen interviews are the highlights of the book to me.
Aug 30, 2007 Paul rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone creative.
i know the title makes the target audience seem pretty specific.

but the way these writers talk about music, music-making, and songwriting is a very cool and interesting look into the creative process.
Nov 03, 2011 Karin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book you have interview stories with a bunch of great singer-songwriters. It is so much fun to read how great songwriters like Bob Dylan think about songwriting and how they started their life in music. A must read for people who love music!
Dusty Henry
Sep 08, 2010 Dusty Henry rated it it was amazing
The definitive collection of music journalism. I am so jealous of Paul Zollo being able to talk to these artists. His questions are thought provoking and specific. You really get to know the artists. Great journalistic work.
Feb 02, 2008 The rated it really liked it
Interviews with various songwriters (mostly 60s and 70s people) about their process, specific songs, etc. It actually focuses pretty well on the songwriting and the mechanics of the songs, as opposed to being about personalities in the music biz.
Feb 11, 2008 Matt rated it liked it
For every great interview, there are two mundane ones. Read them all, there is a lot of conventional wisdom for working writers. And by working, I mean you write regardless of whether you can help it or not sense, not in the monetary compensation sense.
Jul 17, 2008 Thomas rated it it was amazing
I have read this book a few times over the past 12 years. I love it because it gives insight into each artist's personal method of creation. Even reading the interviews of writers that I'm unfamiliar with (or am not a fan of) is entertaining and educational as a fellow songwriter.
Aug 07, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Enjoy writing songs? Read this book.
Enjoy listening to songs? Read this book.
Apr 10, 2014 Jay rated it it was amazing
Great collection of interviews. Very insightful.
Mar 06, 2012 Barbara rated it it was amazing
The Bible of the genre. A MUST read for any musician or music lover
Jun 21, 2012 Beatles1964 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Good concept and interesting reading although too much emphasis upon American songwriters (some obscure?).
Feb 10, 2008 javier is currently reading it
so far, so good. i'll write more about it when i'm finished
Peter Holst
Dec 10, 2009 Peter Holst rated it liked it
Geeked out review of pretty much a range of 70's "songwriters", in the classic rock sense. A little esoterical and occasionally inspiring.
Tom Elliott
Dec 29, 2014 Tom Elliott rated it liked it
Some great snapshots of lots of influential American songwriters - overall, a mixed bag, depending on how compelling the interviewee may be...
Dec 18, 2009 Brandon rated it it was amazing
I've yet to write a tune worthy of being interviewed by Paul Zollo, but this book will help you understand the creative process for some of the greatest songwriters on the planet
May 12, 2015 Rafael rated it really liked it
A bible for songwriting. Incredible book!
Oct 24, 2007 Frank rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: tortured souls
Great variety; a page-turner. Too bad Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits aren't included. Quit reading after approximately 3/4 complete because I lost the book!
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Paul Zollo is a singer-songwriter, author, and music journalist. Since 1987, he's dedicated himself to interviewing the world's greatest songwriters. From 1987 to 1997, he was the editor of SongTalk, the journal of the National Academy of Songwriters. He's currently the senior editor for American Songwriter. Born in Chicago, he studied English and Music at Boston University and is the author of Th ...more
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