Kev Walford is a singer/songwriter originally from Liverpool who now hails from Suffolk, England. With seven CDs to his credit, Kev is currrently part of the Suffolk Songwriters team of writers and singers. He has spent the last two years recording and collaborating with many of these great local musicians, including Andy Heasman of “Caution Horses”, Reb Capper and Kelly Pritchard of “Chasing Storms.”
Kev recently returned from a recording gig in Devon with Katie Whitehouse, John Clarke and Paul Hussell on cello. He is currently focused on promoting his songs worldwide to other artistes and trying to secure a major publishing deal with songs already signed in Austin and Nashville.
What inspires you to write original music?
Nowadays I write about my life, what’s going on for me and the people I meet and that I’m involved with. Some people can inspire you that way. I try to make it sound a little more interesting than it really is though!
Your songs have been covered by bands like Silk, South Cheyenne and Palomino. As a songwriter, is it helpful to write with a specific performer (or band) in mind, or does that make much difference in how you develop your original songs?
Years ago, I used to be able to “write a song to order” for specific artistes, and it’s an interesting way to work. These days I’m writing with a view to recording and performing the songs myself. So, for example if I’m working with my 3-part harmony group, I’ll try and write a piece that will work best in that environment and with that line-up.
It’s a great idea for any aspiring writer to try and write a song for another performer. In the first instance, you need to look at your own writing and strengths and the kind of songs you write best. Then find an artist in this field, specifically one who doesn’t generally write their own songs. Then, study this artist… look at his songs that have been the most successful… try not to listen to any other music in this period, and let this artist’s music get into your subconscious.
Then, without copying, try for a song that will work for them. Once you have the song, record it to the best possible standard within your budget. Then you need to be able to get this song presented to the artist in question — normally through their publisher or management.
Bearing this in mind, your song needs to have something that will draw a third party in. So you need hooks, great lyrics, a good quality recording. All of this is a great way to try and get your own songwriting noticed and moving.
In addition to your solo works, you’ve also collaborated with other songwriters (Daren Brown, Andy Heasman and Stuart Brindle of Caution Horses, and Reb Capper and the Macon Wailers among others). What do you get out of co-writing with others compared with going it alone?
Personally I work better alone, but then it’s nice sometimes in the early stages of a song’s development to bring in another writer/singer to work out arrangement, harmonies, etc. You can totally transform the song this way. I’m doing this more and more lately. For example, I wrote a song last month and recorded it at a friend’s studio. Very basic — just vox and guitar — and asked him to do something with it.
I got back the most beautiful piece with cello and string section and lovely harmony arrangement on it. That felt like a real collaboration for me. In all the years I’ve been writing though, I’ve never had someone come to me with a set of lyrics that have ever moved me to write a song (like Bernie Taupin did with Elton John — that must have been a brilliant way to work!). I’d love for that to happen one day.
Kev Walford @ iTunes:
Your song “Harvest Home” has a rather mesmerizing chord structure… which came first, the music or the lyrics? Is this typical of how you write original songs?
Thank you. I wanted to write a song in the style of James Taylor, using his playing and vocal style, that might suit his son Ben. I guess that’s where the chordwork came from. It’s lovely to play. So, the chord structure came first in that particular instance, but I think I had the chorus line “follow the sailors dancing” already part written too. So it all knitted together very quickly and naturally.
What’s typically the easiest part of writing a song for you? What’s the hardest part?
Currently I play live all the time, three or four times a week and wherever I can. I’m very aware that doing original material I have to play something that an audience is going to be able to relate to, possibly join in with, and go away remembering (with a little luck!!).
So I wait for a hook, or an idea for a hook. Once I have that, I let it sit for a few days and let ideas build up around it ’til it starts to take shape. Once I have a hook the rest’s easy. Then I play the song to an audience, and you can then tell if the song stands up or not. Sometimes parts have to be changed, shortened, repeated… whatever. But an audience response to a new song quickly lets me know what works and what doesn’t.
Do you have any specific go-to songwriting techniques?
Well I’m lucky, I’m constantly writing, and scribbling ideas down, and listening to other writers and their hooks, and what makes their songs work. Piano’s a great one to promote a song idea… just playing around with chords… a lot of scope with a piano.
My current guitar trick is using standard tuning, but dropping the bass string from E to D and playing in the key of D There’s something very full sounding and inspiring about playing this way.
What have you learned so far about the process of marketing original music that might be helpful to others?
I think everyone’s aware now that the music industry has changed drastically in the last 10 years and is continuing to do so. Technology has made it so much easier for all of us to be able to put our music out worldwide via the Internet and YouTube. That’s brilliant in many ways, but you also become aware of the competition and how strong it is too!
This can be daunting. I still do the old-fashioned thing and send songs off to publishers and record companies to try and get interest and feedback. This can still be successful to some extent, but you have to know the Company and what they are looking for. Market your material to suit that — otherwise everyone’s time gets wasted.
Another alternative is music for film and documentaries/commercials. This is another great way to try and get your songs signed/aired — finding companies that specialise in syncing.
What are the top 2-3 tips you would have for aspiring songwriters?
1. If you are a performing songwriter, always be aware of your audience — think, if you were in the audience, would you enjoy listening to what you’re playing?
2. I’m a great believer in the 3-minute song. Don’t make your songs too long, even if you’ve got a story to tell. Get to the point and don’t drag it out. (There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking…)
3: If you think you have a great song and are ready to record it, try and get the best possible people around you to record it. If someone can sing it better than you, then let them. Try and make the best possible recording of your song that’s within your budget.
Tools of the Trade
What instrument do you use when developing a new song?
Kev: I play a Taylor 312… and it’s beautiful and inspiring to play. Then I use keyboard (Yamaha PSRS900) sometimes to try and embellish an idea, see if the song works with bass, drums, piano, strings etc.
What devices do you use to record your songwriting ideas?
Kev: In the first instance I use a BOSS BR900CD and AKG Mic to do a demo. Then I have to decide if I can do a strong enough recording at home or if I need to pay out for studio time.
Do you use any software or apps in your songwriting process?
Are there any other items you consider essential for your songwriting toolkit?
Kev: Generally, when writing I use a scrap of paper to scribble the lyrics, then write the corresponding notes above them and the relative chord. This is normally good enough for me to remember them, and if I can’t remember them from this, they probably weren’t strong enough ideas in the first place!
Kev Walford’s Links:
Music by Kev Walford: