“Wherever you are, you’re surrounded by inspiration.” — Arabella Harrison
Musician, musical mentor, music lover. Arabella Harrison certainly checks all of these boxes. She’s also Storybird’s guest instructor for our Song Lyrics Course and a music teacher at the School of Rock in San Diego and Encinitas, a performance-based school for musicians.
But we want you to learn who Arabella really is. What does she love about music? What things inspire her to create? What advice does she have for young songwriters?
Well, she can tell you better than we can:
Inspiration can be a tricky thing, but with experience and self-reflection, Arabella knows where to look:
Why do you find Songwriting inspiring?
Arabella: What really drew me to songwriting aside from wanting to do what I was hearing other people do on records, was the ability to convey feelings in a way other than just talking about them with somebody. It was a really great opportunity to find a more artistic and beautiful way to talk about feelings that fit in so well with what I loved about playing music.
It seems like songwriting is a very personal experience for you. If it’s so personal, how does sharing your music with the world feel?
“The best thing about being a songwriter is being able to share your ideas and emotions with other people.”
Whether that’s with a band or with an audience or with your family and friends. You’re choosing this really artistic way to share things that you’re feeling or share experiences that you’ve had in a way that’s really creative.
Where do you think young writers should get the inspiration to be creative?
Wherever you are, you’re surrounded by inspiration. Whether it’s in a city, in the mountains, or near the ocean. You can draw inspiration from the things around you and your personal experience.
But where do you find your inspiration?
“I’m very inspired by the ocean and the coast. Just walking on the beach or the sea cliffs.”
Finding the confidence to create can be difficult. What advice do you have for those who don’t think they’re “naturally talented?”
I think songwriting is a learned skill you can build up with experience, by learning how to write a song and practicing. There is something to be said for having musical talent but I don’t think that’s necessary to learn how to be a great songwriter. So long as you understand the basic principles, with experience and practice you can get really, really good at it.
What about people who do have “natural talent.” Does that mean they don’t have to work hard?
Writing that first song really showed me that it’s a process. It takes practice. You don’t just pick up a pen or your guitar and everything just starts flowing. You really have to work through it and sit with a line for a while and maybe you come back later and you’ve found something else that works better.
“You really have to work at writing lyrics, especially if it’s something that really means a lot to you.”
Whether you’re “talented” or not, songwriters always have the option of teaming up with other writers and musicians. What would you say to people who are afraid to work with others?
Even though you can sit down and write a song by yourself, it’s wonderful to write a song with someone else, with a partner or in a band. Collaboration is really helpful.
Sometimes when you’re involved in the writing process it can become very personal and you can be very absorbed in what you’re doing. A lot of times it’s very helpful to have an outside perspective.
But what if the other people criticize you?
I think one of the most difficult things about writing songs is how personal it can be and being able to deal with constructive criticism. Sometimes when you’re writing a song, it’s about a very personal experience and you could write your lyrics down and then play them for somebody and that person could tell you that that wasn’t very good. It’s important to remember that there is a difference between somebody giving you constructive criticism and telling you that your personal experience is somehow not very good. The benefit of constructive criticism is that it can help you improve your writing and improve your song.
What advice do you have for the young songwriter who just can’t finish that first song?
“As long as it sounds like a song to you, you’ve got a song!”
It sounds like you’ve experienced a lot—practicing, finding inspiration, collaborating, pushing yourself—what was the first time you felt like it had all paid off?
One of the first times performing songs that I wrote, I remember feeling very anxious that all of these people were standing there and looking at us.
“I was singing and I noticed that the audience started bobbing their heads and there were smiles.”
They started to really get into the song. It just felt wonderful. They like the song. It’s a good song! It was a very good feeling, that feeling of “Okay, we must have done something right because they’re liking the song.”