Billy Joel Recalls Tricking Himself Into Finishing Songs
Friday, May 30, 2014
Billy Joel Recalls Tricking Himself Into Finishing Songs
Although it’s been over two decades side he’s issued a new rock album, Billy Joel is still writing music, albeit classical pieces, which may or may not ever get released. During a long chat with American Songwriter, he spoke candidly about how his legendary 1970’s and ‘80s songs came to be, explaining, "Let’s put it this way: I love having written. I hate writing. Once you’ve got it done, it’s shiny and new. But then I go through a post-partum depression after that. ‘Oh, I have to do this again.’ I go through this kind of Cro-Magnon state in my cave, and I would mutter and kick things and probably drank more than I should have, just to get the Dutch courage to do it. I didn’t enjoy the process, but I enjoyed the finished product."
He admitted that, ultimately it was the fans he encountered away from the piano, that helped him finish the songs: "Sometimes when I would have writer’s block. . . I’d get stuck, and I’d walk out into the street and bring my spiral notebook with me. I’d go into a restaurant for lunch, put the notebook down, sit at the table. . . ‘OK, I’m going to write something.’ And the other people in the restaurant would look over and go, ‘That’s Billy Joel, he’s writing something, he’s working on a song.’ The waiters would look out of the kitchen, ‘Oh, he’s writing a song.’ And I would kind of pick up on their confidence in my songwriting capacities, ‘Yes, that’s right, I’m writing a song!’ It was sort of like fooling myself and being in the mood to be receptive to ideas. And I would actually get stuff written like that. ‘That’s right, that’s who I am. I’m a songwriter. I can do this.’"
A while back, Billy Joel explained that he took his lyrical cues for his songs from the music itself: "I actually start most songs with music. I write the lyrics after the music has been written -- the melody, the chord pattern, and a rhythm. And then I try to decode what is in the music -- what is the music saying, what was the motivation for writing that music? What’s the emotion?" 
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