5 Questions

Alan McClure

13 March 2021
Alan McClure

Alan McClure joins us to answer five questions ahead of his Hooked event this Sunday. Join us at 12:00 on Sunday 14 March for a lunchtime jam with Alan.

1) How did you get into music in the first place?

I had a couple of aborted attempts at learning instruments as a lad - first piano, then clarinet - but I didn't really click with music until Britpop hit in the early 90s and it felt like a gang I wanted to be in. I got my first guitar at 16 and started writing songs straight away - not very good ones, but it still felt like a superpower! I was definitely a music fan first, before I was a musician.

2) When you're writing a song, do you find it easier to start with lyrics or the music?

They come in all sorts of different ways. I've recently been making soundtrack music for podcasts and audiobooks, and it has been nice developing melodies without feeling any need to put lyrics to them. But for songs, when all's going well, the words suggest the music and the music suggests the words, and if I'm lucky they'll appear together. It's a common misconception that a song is just a poem set to a tune, or a tune with words tacked on - I'd argue that a good song is a symbiosis between the two.

3) Have you found it challenging to be creative during quarantine?

I've found it challenging to channel creativity into finished work. The ideas have come as thick and fast as ever, but the focus has been shattered - I know a lot of folk feel the same way. Not having any prospect of sharing work with a live audience has been surprisingly debilitating - so much of songwriting depends on the buzz of getting to share it, for me.

4) As someone who is creative in lots of different ways, what are your best tips for getting past writer's block?

Well, I've tried to focus on some of the mechanics of the job - for example, I've been practising scales and arpeggios on the guitar, for the first time in twenty years of playing! I've also been honing my recording skills, picking up tips from other musicians and tutorials online. Try to make sure that your displacement activities will inform your creative output somehow - if you're going for a walk instead of writing, for example, do it mindfully and recognize that you're gathering experiences which might become songs or poems in the future.

5) Can you give us a taste of what to expect from your event on Sunday?

I'm planning to look at two or three different approaches to songwriting which have been useful to me over the years, and to play a couple of examples. Chiefly I want everyone who attends to feel it's something they could go and do and that their lives will be enriched if they give it a try! Sadly it can't be as interactive as an in-person workshop, but there'll be time for a few questions and a bit of troubleshooting at the end, I hope.