Superjesus' Sarah McLeod

Got to ask a few questions of Superjesus singer Sarah McLeod last night and found it fascinating to learn about her approach songwriting.

A couple of points really jumped out for me, first she said she usually writes in the key of A. This reminded me my formative years were spent listening to Metallica and they wrote almost exclusively in E (before dropping down and tuning up again in recent years). And now A reminds me of Apples, being the note they chime on boot-up. Anyway, she said she was surprised how low she sung on early songs and that it took her a bit of time to find her voice -- as it were -- and sing higher melodies.

The other point was that she went through bouts of songwriting, attributing this to creative flow but I wondered if deadlines didn't play a role when you're on a contract to a record label. Sarah said she'd work on material and then, before returning to it the next day, have another idea before listening to the first to avoid feeling like it was the one creative thread to explore. This seems like a good approach because often I'll find myself flogging a dead horse trying to make a song of a single interesting idea.

Sarah recounted that one of the blokes in ABBA had described songwriting as being like looking in a cupboard waiting for a monster to appear. You wait and wait and eventually get up to go to the toilet or something and there it is -- which I don't think suggested that he found his songs in the bowl but it reminded me of this line from Badly Drawn Boy's Damon Gough:
"I've got this theory about songwriting," he says. "I go to a tree, which has several doors in it. Every door has a bell that plays a melody when you press it, and has a pixie living behind it. If the pixie decides to let you in, he'll give you some kind of nucleus for a song, such as the melody from the doorbell or maybe a couple of lyrics. All the pixies have got different characters. Sometimes you'll get a snappy little fella who's very impatient, so that will have to be quite a quick song, but if you get a gentler, more patient pixie, you might end up with a ballad."

It was great to pick the brain of another ARIA-winning songwriter and Sarah was charming. After reminding myself of Superjesus' material I'm surprised at some of the dark undercurrents in it but maybe that was grunge.