It’s an understatement to call Ryan Adams a prolific songwriter. With over 15 albums of material, in addition to serving as a producer and founder his record label Pax-Am, it’s hard to imagine how he keeps the songwriting fresh. Luckily in a recent interview Ryan Adams shared one of his tricks—he called it “Stacks”—that he uses to jumpstart his inspiration.
1) Place one book on the left and the other book on the right of your preferred writing area (pad of paper, screen, typewriter).
2) Without looking, flip to a random page in the reference book. You can either write down the line verbatim or play with it until it makes sense
3) Repeat step 2 with the fiction book.
4) write a unique line relating to your lines from steps 2 and 3
4) Alternate between steps 2, 3, 4
5) Once you have your lyrics written out, pick up a musical instrument and turn your words into a song.
One common worry is that this work isn’t really written by you because of how this is all by chance it is. Ryan Adams explains The reason that “Stacks” works, I believe, if you can teach yourself to write this way—is like Mad Libs—the ego will always come out to play if you can get the id to tell it to. [. . .] it will force me to fill in the blanks. Meaning that even though these might not seem about you, your brain wants to put you at the center of its experiences. Even though his song starts out as nonsense he concedes “[this song] instantly reminds me of somebody I know”. “Stacks” is a great way to start a song and test the limits of your imagination.
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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