Music to Write By

I listen to different music depending on whether I’m brainstorming or really trying to lock in on the fine details. For dreaming up stuff, I lean toward bright and up-tempo – power pop ear candy. Of course, I can just dig out my Jellyfish (in the pic) or Rockpile or Material Issue, but I often turn to the streaming station Great Big Radio.

Great Big Radio is free, created and programmed by Howard Hoffman, currently the Creative Services/Production Director of 710 WOR radio in New York. You’ll also hear Howard’s voice on commercials and radio liners around the country.

Great Big Radio promotes its format as “The Hits. And the Songs that Should’ve Been.” As Howard puts it on the GBR blog – “ …perfectly pop, well produced, performed with passion and still couldn’t find their way back to the airwaves until we came along.” As I’ve been writing this, I’ve heard Janet Jackson, The Byrds, Rick Astley, Stevie Wonder, and early Chicago.  The Beatles play at half-past every hour. Howard also voices the sarcastic liners between the music.

When I need to concentrate on what I’m writing, lyrics are bad. I start paying attention to the song instead of my own thinking. I could switch to instrumentals, but I like the human voice. So, I listen to music in a language I don’t speak. Amadou & Miriam are a married couple from Mali who sing in French and several African languages.

If I need a burst of energy, I might play a particular EP from Me First and the Gimme Gimmes  – “Sing in Japanese” – a language they don’t speak either. The band includes members of NOFX and Lagwagon, but exclusively plays covers. Just to make it really confusing, here they are playing live to a German crowd, covering “Hero,” a 1970s’ hit for The Kai Band and Yoshihiro Kai.