Do you know that Beyoncé has a sister? She does! Her name is Solange. Solange is also a singer and a songwriter. Below is part of an interview she did with Rookie magazine. She is talking about when she first started songwriting as a young teenager:
SOLANGE: Then, one day—I lived in Idaho, which is a whole other story—I started listening to the storytelling of country music. It blew me away. I grew up in Texas, but I never really had that connection with country music, sonically. For the first time, I was listening to the songwriting and lyrics, and I was blown away. Like, “You need to get it together." Even though I knew there was nothing I was going to do with the songs, I started to write country music, exclusively, for probably about four months. That was the way that I broke the rut that I was having for years. Even though I knew it had no benefit in terms of me actually putting these songs out. I tried to sell a few of them, but that world is very political, and I didn’t really try that hard. I always tell that story to young writers, because sometimes you have to literally step completely out of your comfort zone, even if it feels absolutely that it’s not gonna progress you in your journey as a writer, even if it’s just for yourself. Those songs have never heard the light of day, but they really, really, really renewed my writing. Really interesting, how that works.
ROOKIE: Who were the country artists who you were listening to?
SOLANGE: I was actually listening to a lot of Garth Brooks. That was a classic. There was this song called “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts... The words were so simple: “What hurts the most is being so close.” The way the whole song was orchestrated. There was another song called “Live Like You Were Dying” [by Tim McGraw]. You didn’t get to the hook until the very end, but it said all of these things that he wanted to do. At the very end, it’s actually really sad, you realize that he was dying and talking about all of the things that he wished he had done. It was the most pop of the genre, for sure. It really, really shook me up: Whoa. I’ve been really lazy. So, that’s that.
ROOKIE: What advice would you give to someone with writer’s block who is scared to even get started?
SOLANGE: I suffer from writer’s block, and the best thing that works for me, that I could ever do is not give up if there’s any glimmer, hope, or magic there. Even if it’s just one line, revisit it. If it doesn’t work the next day, come back, come back. Some of the best songs that I’ve written, when I started off writing them, I had no hope. I had nothing, but maybe one line that I really loved. Some people feel very differently about that. They feel that it’s a rhythm, if the momentum isn’t there, that doesn’t equate magic. I feel very differently. I feel, sometimes, magic has to be worked at and you have to work hard for it and conjure it up yourself. I would say don’t give up easily. Take some space. I wouldn’t say what I had was writer’s block, but I certainly had a writer’s rut. Going for something that was completely outside of my comfort zone—sometimes, you put the pressure on yourself: “OK, I have to write this great thing.” And the way that I approached writing those country songs was like, “I just want to see if I can write something good!” You’d be surprised when you alleviate the pressure, and you really make it about challenging yourself and going to that next level, what can happen.
[Photo by Carlota Guerrero via Rookie]