Steven Wilson Describes Songwriting Process As ‘War Of Attrition’

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Porcupine Tree lead Steven Wilson recently joined Hack Music Theory for an interview and argued that the process of writing a song is a war of attrition.

Steven Wilson is mainly a solo artist, but he is also the founder, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Porcupine Tree and a member of several other bands. As a solo musician, Wilson has released six solo albums since his debut solo record, 2008’s ‘Insurgentes.’

The musician has a prolific career spanning over three decades. A self-taught composer, audio engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Wilson has been influenced by various genres and worked with numerous artists. The musician’s most recent work is his sixth solo album ‘The Future Bites,’ released on January 29, 2021.

Recently, Steven Wilson spoke to Hack Music Theory to reveal his thoughts on the songwriting process. Wilson resembled writing music to standing in front of a brick wall and hitting one’s head against it until it cracks. He then said a musician goes to that tiny hole and continues hitting their head against it until it becomes a wide hole.

Moreover, Porcupine Tree lead stated this might be a depressing way of approaching the songwriting process, but writing music has always been a war of attrition for him. He also said sometimes all the effort goes futile, and you go to bed feeling depressed, but other days, the wall suddenly crumbles, and he sees the music on the other side. According to Wilson, he would write a book and sell a million copies if he could tell how he did this.

During the conversation, Steven Wilson said the following:

“For me, writing music is like standing in front of a brick wall. You go to that brick wall, and you start to hit your head against the wall. After about an hour, you stand back from the wall and see if you’ve made any dent at all in the wall. Sometimes you haven’t, and it’s very frustrating.

But you go back to the wall and start hitting your head against it again. And then, after another hour, you stand back and see that there’s a tiny little chip, a little hole in the wall, and there’s something you can start now to build on. So you go back to that little chip and start hitting your head against that chip. Pretty soon, that chip becomes a hole in the wall.”

He then continued:

“For me, writing is a bit like that. It’s a depressing way of looking at it, but to me, writing music has always been that war of attrition, hitting your head against a wall. Sometimes a whole day of hitting your head against that wall has made no impression on the wall at all, and you go to bed really depressed because you feel like you’ve just failed all day.

I have many days like that writing, and then I have those wonderful days where suddenly the wall crumbles, and I find the music on the other side of the wall. I couldn’t tell you how I did it. If I could, I’d write a book and sell a million copies.”

You can watch the rest of the interview below.