The Art Of Songwriting With Arnold Lanni

Equal parts art and practice, writing a song can be a challenging task for even the most talented musician. The songwriter’s job is to engage the listener’s emotions and capture their imagination using all the tools of the musical arsenal; melody, harmony, instrumentation and, of course, lyrics. Not easily done. Arnold Lanni is a veteran of the music industry. He’s worked as a producer, engineer, musician and songwriter. His work on Our Lady Peace’s mega-selling Clumsy was rewarded with a Diamond certification (1,000,000 copies of the album sold in Canada alone), and he also wrote Sheriff’s #1 Billboard Single ‘When I’m With You’. Not only that, he’s also one of our New Songwriters’ Workshop instructors!  Arnold was kind enough to sit down with CMW and offer his thoughts on songwriting, the music industry, and the creative process. What qualities does a great songwriter need? As a writer, I try to tap into the feelings I had as a young kid listening to a song for the first time and how I fell in love with it. If I can give that experience to someone listening to my song, then I’ve done something right. I remember being fascinated with the records that my older brother and sister would always play and I remember the excitement of watching TV shows like the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ when different bands and singers would perform. There was an innocence involved  in being a fan. I didn’t analyze or overthink the songs I fell in love with. It was a very quick visceral response. I always remember that the listener doesn’t necessarily know why he or she loves or hates a song. A song either connects and resonates with them on some level or it doesn’t. It’s never one thing. The song needs to engage the listener every time. What are some qualities that make a great song? I believe a great song has to resonate and connect with a listener and in some way make the listener feel ‘something’. The listener has to be ‘affected’ in some way. Again, it’s too obvious to say that a great song needs a strong memorable melody, a great groove, a catchy lyric etc. If the song doesn’t make the listener ‘react’ in some way then it’s just background music? Describe your songwriting career. What can aspiring songwriters learn from your story? I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a decent career. I became a professional musician in the late 70?s and had my first song published in 1981 and I’ve been working ever since. I’ve had the benefit of working with some very creative and talented people that have influenced my life in a very positive way. My career however almost died before it got started. When I was in grade 6 I was tested by the junior high school I was scheduled to attend the following year. The test, I was told, was to determine what program I was going to be enrolled in at the grade 7 ‘junior high level’. I had chosen the arts program because I wanted to study music. Within a short time of writing the test however, I was told by the schools guidance councillor that the test revealed that I had no musical aptitude and for my own good, I was going to be enrolled into the ‘wood shop’ program where I could learn carpentry skills. Needless to say I was disappointed, but believing that ‘grown ups’ knew best,  I dropped my dream of wanting to be a musician. It wasn’t until many years after that, that I taught myself how to play the piano. Eventually I quit school and joined a cover band and went on the road for a while. It was during this time that I learned a lot about what made a song great.  I had to learn hundreds of hit songs and performed them every night. That process taught me what a great song felt like and I saw first-hand how a great song affected an audience. I recommend that every person who wants to be a writer, listen to all the great songs that have been written from the beginning of time. Everyone of those songs is special! Songs become classics for a reason: they touch people. A great song is timeless! You’ve branched out into producing, artist management and engineering. Do you think aspiring songwriters should learn all aspects of the music-making process? As a young kid I was fascinated by the manipulation of sound and how different instruments were recorded etc, so I made it a point to learn as much about the recording/creative process as I could. Getting into production and engineering allowed me to be creative in other ways. I still really enjoy it. That being said, I don’t think it’s necessary. Songwriting is entirely different than any other musical process. I don’t believe it’s something one can learn. One can only develop their songwriting craft if they are already able to ’hear music in their head’. I know lots of incredible musicians that just are not able to write songs….they have a different gift. Someone can only become a great songwriter if they’re already blessed with the gift of hearing music. I feel very blessed because I’ve been hearing music in my head since I was a young kid. For that I’m very, very grateful. You’re a prolific speaker on panels and workshops. What do you like best about speaking with aspiring musicians and industry professionals? I really enjoy sharing my experiences with young people and the positive energy they exude. I think creative people are fascinating in an ‘off-center’ kind of way. We’re all a little nuts and that’s what makes life interesting! Thanks to Arnold for taking the time to chat with us. If you want to hear more from him and his insights into the art of writing a song, sign up for our New Songwriters’ Workshop and learn from him and our other incredible instructors. Workshop Dates Saturday, September 29 Regina, SK | The Artful Dodger Cafe & Music Emporium Presenters: Tom Wilson, Terry O’Brien, Jodie Ferneyhough Sunday, September 30 Winnipeg, MB | West End Cultural Centre Presenters: Tom Wilson, Rodney Murphy, Jodie Ferneyhough Saturday, October 13 Toronto, ON | Metalworks Institute Presenters: Arnold Lanni, Rodney Murphy, Cheryl Link Sunday, October 14 Montreal, QC | Tanna Schulich Hall McGill Presenters: Arnold Lanni, Rodney Murphy, Cheryl Link Monday, October 15 Ottawa, ON | The Bronson Centre Presenters: Arnold Lanni, Rodney Murphy, Cheryl Link Thursday, October 18 Edmonton, AB | Transalta Arts Barn Presenters: Rick Jackett, Terry O’Brien, Jodie Ferneyhough Saturday, October 20 Calgary, AB | Axe Music Presenters: Rick Jackett, Terry O’Brien, Jodie Ferneyhough Sunday, October 21 Vancouver, BC | Tom Lee Music Hall Presenters: Rick Jackett, Terry O’Brien, Jodie Ferneyhough Saturday, October 27 Saint John, NB | Saint John Arts Centre Presenters: James Black, Rodney Murphy, Jodie Ferneyhough Sunday, October 28 Halifax, NS | The Music Room Presenters: James Black, Rodney Murphy, Jodie Ferneyhough  For complete details, visit: Share
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