Our feelings and intuition are signals in our body that show us where we can grow
“If I feel nervous in my stomach, I used to run away from it. Now when I get it, I follow it. There’s a reason I feel this way. Go check it out!”
When it came to sharing brand new songs and writing alongside others, Bobby Alu used to feel nervous and fearful. But he no longer shuts that down. He now listens to that feeling and follows it. This has turned his fear into an empowering new skill and a whole lot of new experiences.
“Now I don’t really get that nervous. I still have the feeling of vulnerability but I feel empowered by it. Writing songs and sharing, writing songs and sharing. Doing this over and over has shifted this. It’s now a strength to be vulnerable.”
It’s so easy to trick yourself with your head and talk yourself out of following that feeling. Our intuition is there to help us to grow and in all areas of life – in songwriting, in having hard conversations, making decisions.
Our sensitivity can be useful, but also can get in the way
“Songwriting is like a journey of sensitivity. Moving through those little nuances and feelings and just trying to naturally make it flow.”
Having access to those intuitive feelings relates to our sensitivity as creative beings. Similarly, we can use art to help us to express that emotion.
What makes songwriting so beautiful is that the creator most likely experienced that very feeling that the art was created with. And when we listen to the song we can also feel and know this is how the songwriter felt. There’s an energetic flow.
That sensitivity works for us when we’re writing songs as we feel everything in the writing process. But when you’re showing people your songs, running a business, for example, and you’re overthinking things and being attached to do what you’re doing, that sensitivity doesn’t assist.
“It’s hard to switch on, switch off. So however I can help my sensitivity through writing music, I encourage it.”
Bobby Alu’s cultural background shaped his songwriting and access to creativity
Bobby’s mother is from Samoa. “It ain’t no thing to be able to sing, dance, share songs. Everyone can sing there. To go watch someone sing is not what they would do. They sing at home.”
Moreover, the music we listen to at home really shapes what we write. Energy in, energy out. We don’t have a ‘choice’ in the music we create because we have a natural feeling for what we grew up listening to. And resistance is futile.
Bobby first started writing in his teens. He had a few chords and started putting things together from there. As well as being a professional drummer who has toured the world with Xavier Rudd and the John Butler Trio, Bobby was groove-oriented even in his early songwriting. He started hearing bass and drum parts throughout songs, and when he discovered multi-tracking, things started to heat up!
He continues to write songs, because he loves it. “Anything that I can do where time disappears, that’s a good thing. To be present, be in one place at one time.”
How Bobby Alu’s songwriting process has developed over time
Recently, Bobby had a dream that he wrote 1000 songs, so when he awoke that was his new goal. He’s 100 songs into that goal, and going strong thanks to his weekly songwriting practice in The Club.
The magic of songwriting is accessing this other realm where there’s a supernatural force that you’re tapping into. It encompasses all the senses – sound frequency, harmony, expression of performance – but it also taps into otherworldly senses.
In the way way, some traditional Samoan ceremonies gave Bobby a glimpse into tapping into this supernatural realm in order to connect for songwriting. In the Pe’a tattoo ceremony, there is a special place where the ceremony happens and all these rules in order to be able to connect with that other realm. Bobby cultivated connection to that other realm for songwriting by designing a special space to write and all these rules that needed to be met.
“The conditions had to be perfect in order to write. I had to feel in the best mood, my instruments needed to be in tune, my voice needed to be warmed up.”
Consequently, he realised all these parameters were really restrictive and it meant that he wasn’t writing that much. The last 100 songs taught him to still be respectful of the reverence, but let go of these rules.
“At first the physical structure might help the connection, but overtime, you might realise you can access the connection without the physical structure.”
Bobby Alu shares how others can cultivate and curate this magic
Bobby now changes up his starting point to songwriting each time because of how frequently he’s writing, which means he can try lots of different things.
“You learn about yourself and your process when you write a lot. And there are other weeks where you try new things. You’ve got your go-to processes, and sometimes you want to go to a new place.”
To those who want to start creating: “Just start. Everyone has creativity. It seems to be a Western thing to say ‘I don’t have a musical bone in my body’. Find the creativity within you – it may not be songwriting, it might be building boats, but acknowledge this within yourself. It’s all there for all of us, so just start. Whether it’s writing 3 words, 2 notes, just start and follow your notes.”
“No one feels confident with anything new that they do. You just have to keep writing. You’re picking up clues throughout life and so you keep going and you’ll find more to use.”
Bobby Alu shares a brand new song with us
“The Club themes break down so many barriers, because in the past I felt overwhelmed about all the things that could be written. The theme is such a good way to get started – I have to write about the theme.”
Following a thread of an idea, Bobby shares about how he wrote his song “Would It Feel Nice?” written to the theme ‘Malleable’ as part of his I Heart Songwriting Club practice. Listen to the podcast audio above to hear it.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
1:40 – Bobby shares how a ‘feeling’ inside guides him to new experiences, and how his relationship with this ‘feeling’ has developed over time.
8:44 – Bobby talks about how he has transformed his nerves around sharing new songs to vulnerability as a strength by continually showing up to write and share songs.
16:26 – Bobby shares how he first got into writing songs and how his maternal Samoan background has shaped much of his early creative experiences.
21:37 – Revering songwriting used to create too many restrictive parameters for Bobby, so by letting go of his self-imposed rules, he now takes a more experimental approach and this feels freer.
29:10 – As songwriting is a continual process, Bobby shares what he’s learning and developing in his songwriting practice at this moment.
39:59 – Bobby shares what the magic of songwriting means to him, and how others can cultivate this magic within themselves.
48:38 – Bobby reveals the magical process of writing a new song, from songwriting prompt to finished song. And then performs this song.
54:31 – Listen to Bobby performing live “Would It Feel Nice?”
About Bobby Alu:
“Find your flow and go about each day to the rhythm of your own making.” That’s the musical theme and personal mission for Byron Bay singer, ukulele strummer and drummer Bobby Alu. Amidst smooth harmonies, rhythms inspired by a strong family lineage of Polynesian performance, and unassuming grooves that work a gradual, smile-inducing high through even a casual listener, Bobby Alu tunes have a way of sneaking into the subconscious and taking up residence. Having toured extensively with Xavier Rudd, John Butler Trio, The Beautiful Girls, Bobby has also performed and co-written a song for the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
Contact Bobby: Website / Facebook / Instagram
Song credit: “Would it Feel Nice?” – Music and Lyrics by Charles Wall (aka Bobby Alu). Performed live by Bobby Alu at IHSC Headquarters.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
Want more for your songwriting but don’t know where to go from here? Take the I Heart Songwriting Club Quiz to discover your next steps and inspire your way to writing better songs.
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Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
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