25 Great Songwriters on the Art of Songwriting

Thomas Edison’s famous and oft-abused quote about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration is one of the great truisms of our time. But is it actually, y’know, true? How creativity actually works — in terms of the nuts and bolts of actually getting things down on the page/tape/canvas/etc. — is perhaps the most mysterious aspect of art, a process that’s both romanticized and often misunderstood. And in view of this, we thought it might be interesting to see what some of our favorite songwriters had to say about how they approach the process of writing. Click through to read opinions from Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Björk, Patti Smith and a whole heap more. We hope they provide some measure of inspiration, interest, or insight.

Leonard Cohen

“I’m writing all the time. And as the songs begin to coalesce, I’m not doing anything else but writing. I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is.”