On Songwriting | Musings On How To Write a Song

Valerie Jay On Songwriting

Valerie Jay On Songwriting

Valerie Jay was born and raised in Hull, county of Yorkshire, England. The youngest of five children, she picked up the guitar at age 15 and founded her first band, Skyline, performing her own material. Valerie relocated to San Francisco in 2001 where she formed Valerie Jay & the Americanos, a country-based roots-rock band that continues to perform many of her original songs.

Former Rolling Stone editor and music journalist Ben Fong-Torres writes: “Valerie Jay is a country belter out of England – Emmylou, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt—Jay’s right in there, mixing country and soul, her voice full of heartbreak and passion.”

Rick: Growing up in England how did you originally become interested in listening to country performers like Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris? How did their music influence your personal songwriting interests?

Valerie: During my late teens/early twenties, my musician circle of friends traded CDs to listen to, and these were heavily populated with country singers. Around this time I was fortunate enough to meet and become good friends with Albert Lee, the very gifted guitarist who made his big break playing with Emmylou.

I also listened to a lot of popular/contemporary music in between all of this and was exposed to artists like Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley early on from my parent’s record collection. Having listened to quite a variety of music, I honed in on the artists that I most enjoyed. It’s true that every good country song tells a story, and that’s what I try to do with my own songwriting.

Rick: When you’re putting together set lists for shows with your band, do you try to strike a balance between covers and your own original songs? Is there a “sweet spot” for a balance between the two?

Valerie: It depends on the venue. If it’s a sit-down listening audience, we play more original tunes. If it’s more of a dance crowd, then we probably play a few more covers. Most of the time it’s a 60/40 split, in favor of a few more covers. There are one or two venues that only allow you to play only original music, which is a lot of fun—though I wish I were a more prolific writer!


Rick: What’s your favorite type of venue for presenting your original music?

Valerie: The more intimate venues that hold 20-50 people. It’s fantastic when it’s more of a two-way conversation between the audience and yourself, the songs being the perfect platform for what you want to express.

Rick: The San Francisco Chronicle once said that you could “offer a seminar on what it takes to create an act, promote it, get gigs and expand its audience base.” Your reply was that it requires “persistence, perseverance and not giving up with every little setback.” What else would you tell a group of fellow songwriters if you were to create such a seminar?

Valerie: I believe it’s true that what sets successful artists apart from others, talent aside, is one’s ability to persevere through good and bad times with a clear goal in mind. If you really enjoy what you do, then why give up on it? Having a professional looking and sounding press kit and website is also key.

Rick: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned over the years about songwriting that might be helpful to others following the songwriter’s path?

Valerie: Write about something or some feeling that you’re passionate about. Write songs that take the listener along with you so that they want to hear how it ends.

Above all, believe in yourself.

Rick: Words to live by. Thanks Valerie.


[easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”B000CADA14″ locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51FTB3ahp8L.jpg” width=”500″]

[easyazon-link asin=”B000CADA14″ locale=”us”]Pacific Time[/easyazon-link]


Preview samples or purchase individual MP3 tracks at Amazon:

[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FQ59K” locale=”us”]Pacific Time[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FQ5AE” locale=”us”]Care to Remember[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FON80″ locale=”us”]Just for One Moment[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FMZYE” locale=”us”]Believe Me Baby (I Lied)[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FQ5DG” locale=”us”]Believe[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FS0AW” locale=”us”]Baby Blue[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FL9UK” locale=”us”]I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FONBW” locale=”us”]Sweetheart[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FN00W” locale=”us”]She’s Got You[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FQ5HC” locale=”us”]Hangin’ In[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FQ5IQ” locale=”us”]Jennifer[/easyazon-link]
[easyazon-link asin=”B0014FQ5K4″ locale=”us”]The First One[/easyazon-link]