Faline is a project from Charleston songwriter Jenna Ave-Lallemant. Ave-Lallemant creates tiny operas that posses spellbinding shifts in narrative and tone. “Illinois” pairs industrial powerchords, whimsical Rhodes piano lines, and lyrics injected with magical realism. Check out “Illinois” from her record FALINE here.
SC: Did you write the music or the lyrics first on “Illinois”?
JAL: With this song in particular the melody came first, and the lyrics came next.
SC: How do you feel your sense of rhythm interacts with the composition?
JAL: Rhythm is obviously one of the most crucial aspects about any song. In a way, the most efficient method of writing for me usually starts with a simple rhythm—writing to a beat instead of a chord, and allowing my voice to really take on the main role as composer and creator. I think it’s a more truthful way of bringing out the essence of what I might be aiming to get at in that particular creative moment. A lot of times, writing a melody to a pre-developed chord progression or attempting to sit in front of a piano and come up with lines to go along with it seems more difficult than simply humming something in your head to a metronome or beating on a drum until you develop a melody all on its own. It’s a very open approach, and its always been the method I favor.
idea of a song being full, not just musically, but lyrically as well. I think rhythm has everything to do with finding this balance and picking the right words to create a steady flow and create movement within a song.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Illinois”?
JAL: Usually I tend to overwrite—once a melody is in the works, I like to come up with pages and pages of potential lines for a song. Although this method can be daunting at times, it usually tends to open up the possibilities for what direction a song can take. I like to filter through a lot of what I’ve written and see what combination of lines work best, and this all happens after the melody and chord progression is born. This is how I approached writing “Illinois”.
Its interesting to contemplate the origins of songs, trying to place the exact moment the spark was created and in what realm it first came to light. I remember in particular with “Illinois” that the melody was key—a lot of times when I’m writing, I have an idea in my head of what I’d like the song to be about and I go from there. Sometimes, however, there is no real method and what seems to end up happening is a flush of ideas all at once, and it’s truly in the editing and revising where a conceptual meaning takes shape. “Illinois” was born in a voice memo to myself (I think I still have it actually) and I remember driving in my car and coming up with that first lyric out of nowhere. But the melody stuck and that lyric stuck, and from there the rest of the song developed over time. There are a lot of different versions of the song that exist, and each one I like to think improved more and more until finally I felt confident enough in the whole of the song to stick a fork in it and call it ‘done’.
SC: How often do you write? Do you keep a songwriting schedule or do you wait to be inspired?
JAL: I write almost every day, meaning anything from lyrics to journal entries to random thoughts or simple questions. A lot of times however, those documented daily entries are never really a part of my songs, but instead help to simply keep that part of my brain engaged and exercised. What tends to happen with me, and I think a lot of musicians, is the waiting on inspiration. Its safe to say that when dealing with inspiration it’s less of waiting game, and more like being struck by lightning on a sunny day. Creativity can come at random times, when you least expect it, so it’s good to keep your higher brain in line and ready for such events when they do occur. I’d like to keep a songwriting schedule, but it’s never seemed to really work for me in that way. It’s quite funny! There are certain songs that I’ve labored over, set aside time for, been intent on finishing and spent hours on that never seem to really reach their full potential. And then other songs are written in a day, an hour, 20 minutes. Boom. Out of nowhere. I like to think that these are my favorite songs of mine, because in a way I feel like they happen through me, they come to me, and I don’t really have to seek them out the way I would some others.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence your writing?
JAL: I cannot fully express how dear and important this community of amazingly talented musicians truly is to me. For years I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people with the kind of ambition and heart that is extremely hard to come by, and it has proved to play a crucial role in my own growth and development, not only as an artist, but as a person in general. From simply going to shows, to practicing with a wide range of different types of musicians, to recording with several different people via several different methods — all of it helps influence my writing and makes me a better musician. Its honestly the greatest blessing, and is quite humbling. Charleston is a beautiful hub of talent, and everyone is so willing to help each other out. Any success by any individual is a shared triumph with the whole community, because we all help each other maintain and upkeep this beautiful lifestyle centered in music. Its truly astonishing to think who I’d be now if it weren’t for the influence others around me have had on my life over the years I’ve spent in Charleston. I hope to continue getting better, and the quickest way to do that is to continue playing and living among such talented people, seeking inspiration and breathing it all in.
“If tomorrow never comes,” “if I was a carpenter,” “if I made you feel second best” “If I am a stranger.” If is a strong word for what might have been. It can convey a whole lot in one brief syllable.
Cicada Rhythm is a writing duo based out of Athens, GA. Their new self-titled debut album is available from Normaltown Records. Their song “Dirty Hound” hinges on the use of “if” throughout the song. Here’s the lyrics:
If I was a dirty hound
I'd keep my nose close to the ground
wash my coat out in the woods
and buy a meal if I could.
Every day i'm getting close
to the thing that I want most.
The only thing I ever do
is search the trails for the likes of you.
Would you like to be caught by me?
Today, I'd like to challenge you to write a song that uses “if”. You can have the whole song as question, or perhaps your verse will pose a question and your chorus will answer that question--or vice-versa. Be creative.
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
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