What does Adam Levy think of the songs?

by Larissa Anderson

Adam Levy founded The Honeydogs with his brother Noah in the early 1990s. The band won national acclaim with its 1997 album,
Adam Levy founded The Honeydogs with his brother Noah in the early 1990s. The band won national acclaim with its 1997 album, "Seen a Ghost," and praise for the band grew with subsequent albums. It's just released a collection of instrumental songs titled, "Can't Feel the Beating," and is working on its ninth album. (MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)
  1. Listen Adam Levy - SFS

    Jul 26, 2008

  2. Listen Best Friends Forever's Songs from Scratch song (I'll Fall in Love with You Anyway)

    Jul 24, 2008

  3. Listen Jeremy Messersmith's Songs from Scratch song (The Man with Iron Veins)

    Jul 24, 2008

  4. Listen P.O.S.' Songs from Scratch song (I Made it from Scratch)

    Jul 24, 2008

Songs from Scratch is a project that tries to deconstruct the creative process -- break it down to all of its parts to find out how musicians make songs.

To do that, we asked Adam Levy of The Honeydogs to choose a familiar story and write the start to a set of lyrics inspired by that story. Levy chose "The Wizard of Oz," and wrote four lines.

From the ends of the earth to your own back yard,

Mouth and mind drink all but won't fill an empty heart.

It's all within -- energy and matter, namaste and ohm,

Myriad formulas, nostrums and prayer -- all roads lead home.

Then, Best Friends Forever, Jeremy Messersmith and P.O.S. had two weeks to incorporate Levy's lyrics into their own and set it all to music.

At the end of the process, Adam Levy listened to what the artists created and offered up his reflections on the project.

Levy says if there's anything we can learn about songwriting from Songs from Scratch, it's that "songwriting is as much an art as a kind of mysterious accidental process."

But, he also argues that the kind of challenge Songs from Scratch presents can be important for an artist.

"If you have to take an idea and construct something, it requires some work," Levy said. "And I think sometimes that's great fuel for a songwriter and artist -- to do something that they wouldn't normally have to do. It gets their minds working in ways maybe they might not have before."

In the Best Friends Forever song, Levy noticed the dark dynamic between their lyrics and music. It's a story of unrequited love set to upbeat, joyful music.

Levy said he felt "a kinship" with singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith. Levy liked the harmony, the emphasis Messersmith put on the lyric "all roads lead home," and the emotional epiphany of Messersmith's "bittersweet last verse."

The song P.O.S. put together captured what Levy said is "the metaphorical nature of the lyric itself." Levy liked the song's "sense of propulsion," its attention to the idea of someone on a journey.

Of the three, he says the P.O.S. song is probably the one that's likely to get in his head as he's walking down the street.

After hearing how these three artists took his words and incorporated them in their own songs, Levy says he was inspired to write his own song for the project.

At the time of this interview he still had some songwriting left to do, but he said with a "very strong cup of coffee and an hour and a half," he should be able to finish his new song.

1 Photo

  • Adam Levy strums his Gibson guitar.  He says that as a songwriter, he's always thinking about music and lyrics, sometimes writing bits at a time, whenever inspiration strikes.
    Adam Levy strums his Gibson guitar. He says that as a songwriter, he's always thinking about music and lyrics, sometimes writing bits at a time, whenever inspiration strikes. (MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)