We’re often told that the best music is inspired by predictably deep and important life events; the birth of a child, death of a parent, a traumatic breakup. This, as it turns out, isn’t always true. Music doesn’t always need to be attached to the things we think it should be, and surprising opportunities to be inspired are all around us if we could only just look for them. Here are five unconventional sources of music inspiration:
What does food have to do with music? Nothing, on its face, but hear me out. Food is something that’s familiar to everyone, making the topic a great starting off point for musical inspiration. Food is also physical, so writing about it is a good way to explore universally relatable human experiences.
Pets and animals
Pets and animals might not seem to have a strong link to music, but they’re actually the main subject of countless songs. If you’ve ever been in awe of a wild animal or in love with a cherished family pet, you probably can understand why. If the well of musical inspiration you typically turn to has run dry, consider looking to the animal kingdom for ideas.
Things that bug you
We usually write music about feeling incredible or utterly miserable and nothing in between, but this leaves out loads of rich, relatable experiences to draw from. Since we all know what it feels like to be irritated, angry, or downright disturbed by something, the way you navigate these uncomfortable feelings can be valuable music-making fodder.
Your daily routine
Making music might be the perfect escape from the day-to-day tedium in your daily life, but this doesn’t mean your routine isn’t filled with tasty songwriting inspirations. What do you love about your ride to work or hate about your neighborhood? If you feel strongly about something, then it’s fair game to be a part of your music. Digging deep into your observations and feelings is crucial for human songwriting, and the quirks and dramas that play out in your daily life are where most of this work is likely to happen.
Your relationship with technology
Digital technology shaping our lives in unprecedented and unpredictable ways, from how we communicate with one another to how we find love to the ways we listen to and discover music. Since modern technology is impacting our collective humanity, this is a rich topic to make music about.
Some of these unlikely sources of musical inspiration might seem bland, but they can absolutely be the seeds of meaningful, interesting music. As musicians and as ordinary people, it can be difficult to pay more attention in life, but doing so is crucial for finding creative inspiration. How we communicate, eat, move around the world, and feel about our lives is massively important. This means that if you’re out of ideas in music, you’re not making an effort to be fully aware of your surroundings and inner observations.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.