I've interviewed close to 150 songwriters for this site, but no one has a songwriting approach quite like Heather McEntire of Mount Moriah. Once McEntire has a song topic, she researches it. That's right. She researches. Whereas many songwriters rely on the inspiration of the muse, her approach is methodical and deliberative; in fact, she says that when she sits down to write, it's almost akin to a college professor's office hours.
McEntire was a creative writing major in college, something that informs her songwriting process. Once she has an idea for a song, she reads as much as she can about the topic, because, well, she likes to learn. But if you read her lyrics and recognize the depth of her imagery and even her attention to geographical detail, none of this is surprising. And I haven't even mentioned her voice yet, one of my favorites in music today. (Full disclosure: I reviewed the latest Mount Moriah album Miracle Temple on Merge Records in the Washington Post a few months ago.)
There are so many fascinating aspects to McEntire's songwriting process. A few tidbits:
- she has a typewriter collection
- she hoards the notepads in hotel rooms, and this is where she writes all of her songwriting ideas
- the paper from these notepads goes in a bin on an altar in her house
- she fact checks her song lyrics
- she sees parts of her songwriting process as a research process
- she gets many of her melodies while running
- she was once inspired while being stuck in an MRI chamber
After reading over this interview, I did something I've never done before: I reread her lyrics with a fresh eye, thinking about everything she's said. And with that, they took on a new meaning for me.
Read my interview with Heather McEntire of Mount Moriah after the video for "White Sands."