Here's part of an interview by Russell Hall, staff writer for the Independent Mail in Anderson, South Carolina, on the songwriting discipline as seen through the eyes of Nick Cave talking about his new album "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" (full article here):
Russell Hall: I understand that you go to an office every day to write songs, the way a businessman might do. That flies in the face of the image of the tortured artist, waiting for inspiration to strike.Always back at square one... doing it all over again... oh, that crazy Muse... may she stick by us all...
Nick Cave: Oh, I’m tortured. I’m tortured in my office, between nine and six.
RH: How exactly does a song tend to unfold for you?
NC: I’m happy if I’m writing a song — lyrics and music — once a week. I’m very happy if I get two, and I’m distressed if I don’t get any. The way a song comes about ... (pauses); It happens in so many ways it’s difficult to say. But it’s very much about a couple of words, and slowly sort of adding to those words. It starts off with a very small germ of an idea, which then blossoms in some way.
RH: Is there something that tells you when you’re onto something promising?
NC: Yes. It’s a physical thing. I start getting kind of shivery and excited, and my heart beats faster. And then suddenly I’m just there, in it, and it’s off. That feeling is great, but then you can lose that, too. Suddenly it’s gone — it’s not there any more — and that’s not so good.
RH: Have you ever experienced a serious case of writer’s block?
NC: No. Actually I’m horrified at the thought. I’m very superstitious about the whole thing, and horrified of being jinxed. One of the things I do is just never stop writing. If for one reason or another I’m forced to take a holiday, or something like that, I begin to get very anxious, and fearful that it will all go away.
RH: Which is more difficult, writing prose fiction or writing songs?
NC: Writing songs is the most difficult thing of all, for me. The problem is that you always have to start again, after each song. You’re always back at square one, very quickly. It’s like, “What do I do now? What do I write about now? What am I concerned with now?” With a novel or a piece of prose, or a film script, or these other things that I’ve done, you’ve got an idea and you run with it and tell a story. Each line suggests the next line. I find that very easy, actually.