Michael Burrows, musician: Creative Space
Michael Burrows is a Melbourne-based singer/songwriter and has recently returned from a tour of Nashville where he recorded his debut EP, ‘Turn This Love Around’, at the world famous Ocean Way Studios with luminaries such as Grammy Award-winning artist Frank Myers, producer Jimmy Nichols and engineer Steve Marcantonio.
That’s exciting enough, but Michael also had the opportunity to record some of these songs with his musical hero, Neil Finn (Crowded House), and he assures me, these will come out some day soon.
When he is not playing local gigs, he spends his daytimes creating tunes you may not know you know – he writes jingles for TV and radio and his music is all over our airwaves!
Where are you rocking from today?
My studio is my favourite place to write and also just hang out. Like the ideal “man cave”, it’s filled with all my instruments plugged in and ready to go, but also lots of bizarre books, records and objet d’art collected over years. Sometimes I just lie on the floor while a record is playing and stare until inspirations strikes. Somedays I’m lucky, other times I just fall asleep.
What are you working on?
I have a bunch of new songs I’m trying to finish and add colour to for a new EP. I’ve always got so many ideas I want to write about but they can take forever to materialise into a formed and finished piece I’m happy with. Most days I just play through a song, singing stream of consciousness phrases until something sticks. I’m finding when I let go and don’t put pressure on the writing session, my mind delivers some great concepts to work with.
How’s it going?
There are some songs that I’ve been staring at and playing the same opening verse and chorus for months and that’s frustrating.
It does mean when a song is finally finished I really appreciate it. I’m so used to working within a 30 second framework (for my commercial advertising music), that often by default my own songwriting has a strong opening verse and chorus and then I am never happy with the 2nd verse.
When you get stuck, what do you do?
I have tried two new methods. Paul McCartney once wrote about breaking through writer’s block by flicking open any book to a random page and then starting with whichever word or sentence your eyes land on. It’s worked for me.
The other is David Bowie’s idea of writing up random phrases and then cutting them up and reordering them so they make new ideas. I really like the abstract ideas that happen when I do this, and more often than not, they inspire a whole new thought pattern.
I’m getting the feeling that you need to shake the mind up and constantly try new methods to break the block so that it doesn’t get used to any one excersise and adapt.
Who sees your earliest version / draft & at what stage?
My wife knows when I come home in an excited state that she will probably have to endure a mini concert. At that stage I feel like I’ve workshopped them enough and rehearsed them so I always feel like she’s going to love it … but it’s not always the case and then I just retreat back into the space and start shuffling words, melodies and papers again until I feel it’s ready for the next showing. It must be hard listening to a first draft of a song and trying to be encouraging and constructive, but it’s really an important part of the process to me. If I can connect in that raw, intimate setting, I know I’m onto something good.
Michael Burrows is an Australian singer/songwriter. You can sign up to a newsletter and keep in touch with him through these social channels.