In Conversation: Geoffrey Williams

In Conversation: Geoffrey Williams

The joy of songwriting.

Geoffrey Williams
Melbourne, Australia

In Conversation: Geoffrey Williams

The joy of songwriting.

What about songwriting as a method of storytelling interests you? What can song do that the written word cannot?

It's music that interests me. And that's an understatement! I seem to have an affinity with music. Music without words speaks to me, conveys emotion. It's the interplay of melody, harmony, the timbre of instruments that just does it for me. I remember as a kid, the songs I heard on the radio (yes, I'm that old!) created colours within me that words on their own didn't. The words then seemed incidental, a vehicle for the melody and harmony. But now I write, I realise that all elements of the song need to tell the same story - melody, harmony, and words. Having the extra element of words in the soup makes for a better flavour!

Do you find songwriting helps you express the things you can’t say, and how do you approach writing about personal experiences?

Not only songwriting but singing other people's songs helps me express things I can't say. Writing songs based on personal experience, which is the bulk of what I write, is an interesting and tricky process. Trying to be objective is very hard and I'm lucky that my partner is a musician and songwriter. She acts as a creative springboard, an extra pair of eyes and ears. I try to capture the feeling of what I want to express and add details that are true.

What is your songwriting process? How do you get started, and what comes first - music or lyrics?

There isn't enough space on your magazine to have the full answer to this question! Lol! It's so varied. I have created a 'Tap your Creativity - Lyric writing' course soon to be available on Udemy, which helps people to generate their own lyrics using tools and techniques that I have gathered through trial and error in my years in the music industry! So what comes first, music or lyrics for me? Either can come first, it depends what sets me off. Because I feel a natural affinity for creating melody I tend to spend more time crafting lyrics. I use a looper to work up ideas, improvising from an initial stimulus into a fuller arrangement and testing ideas on the fly. I love it!!

You’ve written about your understanding of failure for Roland – why is it important that artists fail, and how do you harness this experience in a positive way?

Trial and error is one of the most important factors that dictate any kind of growth or progression in our world. It's impossible to learn something without first making a hash of it, that's where you get an idea of the parameters and find what adjustments you need to make. Risk is one of the mothers of innovation. Seeing life and creativity as long sequences of experiments leaves you open for some wonderful 'mistakes' to happen!

In your recent performance with Boite - Windrush – a huge amount of people joined together to sing traditional and contemporary songs, and share in your story. What is it about singing that brings people together and helps build communities?

There's something special about singing together; finding where your voice fits in the communal harmony is very powerful. It's proven to be good for you. It's also lots of fun. The choirs that I run are 60% filled with laughter. Find and try out a local choir that has a similar age group, that sings material you like!

Can you bust a myth for us - do you have to be a “good” singer to join a choir? And if you’re not a confident singer, what else do you get out of joining a choir, and singing in a group?

Being a good singer is very useful for being in a choir. It often depends on what sort of choir you join. I run 2 community choirs and there are strong singers and not so strong singers. I've found that after a while of singing in a choir, the voices start to meld together. It's a great place for the not so confident singer to build more confidence. It can also broaden your social network.

You’re sharing your expertise in songwriting classes in the upcoming Boite Singers Festival. How do you encourage new songwriters to start their writing journey?

Well, as I see it, the only difference between me and a songwriter starting their writing journey is time. I've just been doing it longer. Persistence is important. Trial and error is important. Enjoyment is important. And if you want to write great songs, listen to great songs and let your yourself travel away to some distant land where your imagination can create.

Photo by Jorge de Araujo (Artificial Studios)