I was sitting behind a mixing table at NRG music studios in North Hollywood. From the street, NRG looks like a back-alley warehouse, surrounded by a high, chained link fence. No flash. No fanfare. From the outside, you’d have no idea NRG hosts artists like: Jay-Z, Linkin Park, Alicia Keys, Foo Fighters, Avril Lavigne and others. We were in Studio A, listening to an artist lay down vocal tracks. After a few takes, the songwriter got up and went into the recording room. He was saying something to the singer – she was nodding. I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, but I did make out one phrase….
Bleed for me.
Ben was calling for blood. He wanted her to wring every drop of raw passion and pour it into the her song. Here were two Grammy-winning songwriters – two of the best in the world – and instead of worrying about meter, pitch or style, they wanted something deeper. Something more visceral. They wanted blood and the singer responded.
This was a transformational moment for me. Something transcendent was happening - more than voices, and lyrics and frequencies. It was connecting. Clive Davis, President of RCA Records speaks to this. He recalls the night he first heard Whitney Houston sing:
The first time I saw her was at Sweet Waters in Manhattan. It was stunning - to hear this young girl breathe fire into the song - it was electric.
How do we breathe fire into our songs and into our writing? In Confessions of a Story Writer, Paul Gallico offers:
‘It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.’
I know the idea of writing with blood sounds subjective. Unless the artist is owns, feels and lives his experience, it will most likely fall flat. Without soul, even the greatest talents in the world don't connect. They may sound amazing, but they don't move us. The best artists put words and flesh on our: anguish, aloneness, elation, ecstasies – words we often can't find ourselves.
The best artists, writers, and creatives have superior craft, work ethic, talent and rare opportunity. They have resources, support, and teams of editors. But the great ones have mastered the ability to reach deep inside themselves, and pull out whatever they find. They move beyond words, they know how to bleed.
Of all that is written, I love only what a man has written in blood. Write with blood and you will experience the blood as spirit. Whoever writes with blood does not to be read, but to be learned by heart. (from Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
How do you write with blood? Do you listen to music? Do you have a specific place or places you write? Do you have patterns or rhythms that help you write from your deep soul?