Album Concept Development! The process for one song

Below is the step by step bones of my album concept development process created to go deep into the heart of a song and wonder how that song might move between different art worlds. I want my first album to be more than a collection of my favourite other people's favourite songs. Not that there's anything wrong with that but this process has shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt, my sole motivation as an artist is to go deep into the heart of an experience. Depth of meaning and metaphor is my trademark so it's important the album as a whole reflects that. I'm blessed to create without the pressure of commercial success (I mean, it would be nice don't get me wrong!) so I'm free to connect with my soul, my unique voice and what I really want to express with my work (versus what other people tell me I should be expressing). It's been a trip to arrive at this point but the process detailed here feels original, clear and personally meaningful  - what I wanted all along :)

The process for one song

The next step is to take eleven more songs through the process. I'm not sure what shape the final visual artwork will take yet (a film... a book... a one-woman theatre show...?), but I want to find a way to weave it into the shape outlined below. 

If you've got 10 minutes of uninterrupted time and would like to come on a little experimental arty journey with me, go through the steps below. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feelings at this early stage of development. First, read the lyrics like a poem. Then read the story. Then finally, listen to the song :)

  1. Sweet Rain: read the lyrics

  2. Sweet Rain: read the story

  3. Sweet Rain: listen to the song

  4. After the song, please leave me a comment below or email meHow did you find the experience of reading the lyrics like they were a poem, then the story, then listening to the song in that order? What worked or didn't work for you? Do you have any ideas or suggestions for improvement?


With gratitude:


  1. Sweet rain is a beautiful song. I enjoyed the story and found Ruby's story of her parents compelling. One thing I found myself thinking about after reading the story was what if the song story progression spelled out Ruby's story (or spelled out more explicitly) kind of like (1) how the singer is feeling then (2) Ruby's story then (3) The singer's feeling in light of hearing Ruby's story. "I haven't lost enough to earn these blues" is such an amazing line, and I think anything to draw it out more makes it a more powerful song and lyric.

    And after writing all that... I may have misunderstood the assignment haha. I do think that the Sweet Rain lyric and song is beautiful as it is too. Now that I've thought about the order of things ((1) read the lyrics (2)read the story (3) listen to the song) I think that for me the optimal way to take this in is to read the story first, then listen to the song/read the lyrics. I think this order boils down the story to the focused song experience--to enjoy the song even more.


  2. Mary Ann09:15

    Wow, wow, wow!

    Such fantastic work all around, and I look forward to the visual interpretation!

    The back story to the song lyric was fascinating and I quickly found myself stopping and pausing at the frequent gorgeous metaphors and original turn of phrases, so I went back and wrote down some that really captivated me:

    -Thunder opened its mouth
    -Soft places between my toes
    -Pretence of protection
    -Drowning in solid land
    -Pulsing excitement in my belly
    -A blessed wind
    -Bamboo leaves whispering
    -Hamburger raw
    -Unscalable dam walls

    Flashes of brilliance, every one, amazingly done. You really transformed me to the rain forest, both externally and internally with what you were feeling.

    I do think you managed to distill the longer text into the song lyric beautifully, and the prosody between the music and the words was spot on.

  3. Thanks Moira for reaching out.

    For me having the story, - perhaps with a visual to give a bit of a setting, then the lyrics/poem, then the song would probably work better as being a more logical unfolding of your ideas. I enjoyed reading the words before hearing the song as the music somehow brings it all together.

    Good luck with your project.

    Joyce Newell

  4. Charles10:44

    Very challenging to read as a poem as the melody is so firmly cemented in my head, it was an interesting exercise though as I learnt one of those things about the difference between poems and songs and how melody and cadence interact - the pauses in reading out aloud as a spoken word is quite different to how you sing it and as a written piece I would remove some of the repetition - I found the story image invoking and helped me to get to know you a little better - it's not what I imagined for the song as it brings images of a more personal story of heartbreak but the story serves to deepen the meaning of the song from surface-level heartache to something more profound. - the song - I love the sound - it's very clean and the reverb on higher notes is very catching - the picking pattern is very rain like - the sound of cicadas is prosodic with the story and song - lot's of prosody from the lyrics, story, song and excellent engineering.

    I like this process of engaging with lyrics story song this way and with songs I like would love an opportunity to do this more it creates an intimacy with the creator - don't do anything differently just keep doing more :)

  5. Kirra09:03

    I loved this process on a rainy autumn morning in Brisbane. It was so nice to let myself receive a multitude of aspects of your gifts of expression. I love the way you feel so deeply and long to gently and truly share your heart. I think this format achieves and grounds that lofty loving goal somewhat! With added visual art as well it would be even more complete.
    Without having any musical education I don't know how to sum up what is good about the song expert that it feels very full, layered and raw and I noticed things about your voice I had not noticed before.... A increased range maybe?
    Lastly I want to thank you for your clear instructions and step by step facilitation that allowed me to sit down and really receive and go on a journey with your creation. What a gift we so rarely get these days.
    I love you!

  6. I love your prose. You are effective at describing anguishing details. But I am missing the why of it. Why are you in the Philippines? You say you are working with a volunteer and living in a tent but I want to know how/why you got there and why so sad? Did you run away from a relationship?? Did you volunteer for the Peace Corps (or such)? What pain brought you there? What were you hoping for? And what happened with Ruby? Hers is a compelling story that takes up a mere paragraph and doesn’t explain much about YOUR situation or what prompted you to change. What did she look like? What age? Did she hold you? Did she offer you love or compassion gleaned from the death of her mother? Did she change you in some way that you can describe with actual physical details? I wonder if you could weave your whole story around her?

    I hope this isn’t too brutal. I wouldn’t say anything because overall the work is lovely, but for the fact that we have had honest exchanges via our songwriting groups and also that I think you are very talented. I am in the throes of taking a memoir writing class and examining how writers write effectively by using detailed descriptions, metaphor, simile, etc. You have that kind of talent so I am just pushing you a bit to go there. If you haven’t read it, read Mary Karr’s “The Liar’s Club.”

    With love,

  7. This was an interesting way to approach the song and feedback, and I followed your guidance explicitly.

    Often, if I hear a song that I find memorable, I listen to the song first, sometimes a few times. Then, if captivated by what I think the songwriter is trying to say, I will search out the lyrics. Sometimes if it is a physical medium, I will find the lyrics in the record sleeve or liner notes, more often I will do a web search to check them out. Many older songs have lyrics posted to the web, some newer ones also, it does vary.

    Then, if I'm still intrigued, I will try to learn more about the songwriter, from his or her website, sometimes specifically looking for interviews in which the songwriter might talk about the inspiration behind the song I'm now pretty fond of.

    All of which is to say, usually I listen first, find lyrics second, dig deeper third.

    In your case, I read the lyrics; read the story; listened to the song -- as you suggested.

    What a wonderful way to go into it.

    The lyrics alone were intriguing, offering me several questions. Why is the writer tearful? What is the connection to the natural world (i.e. the pending rain)? Has the writer "earned" her sadness? Etc. Etc. At this point I'm tempted toward judgment, something I have to fight.

    Then, the story. My, what a great story! It was powerfully descriptive of tropical heat and storms, some of which I have experienced (but not in the intense way you did on that island in the Philippines). The story provided an IMMENSE amount of context for the lyrics, and immediately removed my prejudgments, and even went so far as to put me in the narrator's space, in that process relating my own moments (many) of suffocation relative to feeling the need to let the tears come, but waiting for something to deliver them for me.

    Finally I listened to the song, and "got it" right out of the gate -- but only because of the sequencing of the experience. (Lyrics read, story read, then a listen to the song).

    Regarding your questions below, I have nothing to recommend relative to changes/suggestions for improvement. But again, I want you to know that I appreciated this exercise, and in this case reading the lyrics first, the story second, and finally listening to the song, was absolutely the best way for me to experience what I believe you are communicating here.

    Lovely work again.

  8. Hi Mira, I think your plan is a good one.
    Reading just the lyrics at first left me with some questions which were answered by the story.
    The song is right for this story.
    I think the song can be produced as big or small as you want and will work either way.

  9. Hi Mira,

    I enjoyed the short story, if that’s what it is. Or, is it an excerpt from a longer story? Every sentence is dense with meaning and allusion. I don’t know why you are in the Philippines. Are you an archaeologist? Are you a volunteer to help poor villagers? Perhaps this is explained in the longer story but I would like to know what you were doing there. It would give me more context.

    The lyrics could stand as poetry on their own and are evocative and effective.

    Finally, I enjoyed the song, as well as your voice and playing. The finger style guitar is effective and the sadness is palpable. Cheer up Mira! ( I say this ironically because, as you pointed out in the song, we are told to ignore our emotions and I would guess you were brought up with a stiff upper lip).

  10. Listening to the track as I write.

    So beautiful. You take some tried and true progressions (bVII- V- I which I love more than air) and some new and surprising ones and turn them into a beautiful collage. Really awesome.

    The story was so interesting! I’m so happy I learned this about you. Wow, I want to know everything. Why were you there? What was the deal? Show me on a map…and I bet you have some pictures…

    The lyric as poem was nice but I prefer the song 100x.

    You know it might be true! If the lyric had some more context it might connect better.
    After all, it’s not an acid trip you’re describing. It's something you actually lived. And a very unusual experience… I mean. A fucking TENT

    So. Yes write verse 0….


  11. Thank you for inviting me to read as a poem, then as a story and a song. I couldn't connect with the poem at all, but I fully connected with the story and the song. I loved how the story fleshed out more info than I would have gotten if I had just heard the song.

    I love the feeling, and ambiguity I get from songs on their own as then the feeling etc can more easily be related to my own world. Ani Difranco said something like that- use my lyrics for your own life...

    And, this time I loved how I had context when I got to the song. I glanced at the page of artists who are also famous songwriters. Loved it. Joni Mitchel one of my all time fave's is also most definitely a storyteller. (As are Dylan and Cohen and the rest)

    I love your song, and hearing your voice.

  12. I've listened to the song 3 times now. I think the story first, then the song, then the lyrics. For me, the story paints the picture... the song on soundcloud stirs the emotions a little more... and then I organically found myself resonating with the lyrics, which I then looked at more closely, picking up on the lyrics that resonated...

  13. Anonymous06:47

    How I love these
    Opportunities from you Mira..

    Let me count the ways
    The honouring of grief and blues.
    (I make the screen smaller, lest someone can read this over my shoulder as I sit in the bright lit office, full of caring folk..they actually are)
    But this environment reminds me of how much we keep it together… for all the socialised reasons.
    I type while I listen to your beautiful voice and the gentle sound of nature.

    I feel the rain as rough dumping ocean waves
    Pulling me into their wildness
    The rip where I lose my footing
    Over and over and over and

    I have to force myself to keep myself steady
    From being sucked and taken in whatever direction
    And all these heavy tears I’m holding back
    Come to me as I lay on the sand
    Curled in a ball, in utero
    The sobbing is more than cathartic
    I have ‘survived’ another day


    Thank you for opening the door to all that I keep close to my own too sensitive heart.

  14. Stephanie07:54

    I listened to your song and backstory, Sweet Rain, on Friday night. I love getting the story about the inspiration…that really does it for me…I’m the constant googler when we are watching a movie together, as I want to know the backstory….probably a bad habit, but I cant resist.

    That’s a pretty moving account you write about your time in Panay Island. I’d love to know more about what took you there.

    I enjoyed the song, but have to say that for me the most interesting part exercise of the exercise was the backstory. Obviously the song is not in this case a medium to tell the story, so somehow it doesn't do justice to the big story, but they are very different formats and each works on its own. It probably doesn't matter that the audience for the song may not have any inkling about the background….

  15. Francine08:09

    Hiya Mira,

    As a personal organic process with songs, generally if a song catches my attention, I might google its lyrics ( eliminates misheard lyrics), if it further has my attention I will also google to see if it has a backstory/what the writer meant by it.

    Obviously with reading the lyrics first, I had the opportunity to feel what it meant to me personally without the imposition of the backstory going before it......Without instruction on what order to experience....I'd probably tend to then go to the song to enjoy it in the same way........then the backstory.......then the lyrics/song or reframed by the backstory.

    The order you have laid out, allows the listener to absorb the song words more fully by reading at their own pace, then the backstory fleshes out with your personal experience then when they listen to the song, the possibility exists to go with the feel of the song rather than attention to listening to lyrics......they've already read lyrics and a story......Now they are hearing the feel of that story through sound...primarily the expressive sound.

    Multiple components making up a singular satisfying deep richness.
    Multiple components seemingly complex……but with space, time, attention…a slowing down……..the dots are joined and a singularly simple thing suddenly emerges. This goes far beyond single component intense experiences …….beyond amplification of the superficial being thought of as deep………the dots are joined, but not by lifeless connectors like binding chain……the dots are connected by living connection… that the singular outcome is in itself a living organism……….or the experience of art is experience of a living organism… art….not merely brush strokes on a canvas (in the case of visual art).


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