Some early influences in song writing were artists like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Later influences include Claudia Schmidt, David Bromberg, Greg Brown, and Pink Anderson to name a few.
But there is no formula for writing a song and it seems to me that my song writing style reflects my personality as much as anything else I do.
Good song ideas usually come to me spontaneously when I am busy doing something else and almost never when I am trying to write a song. Hiking in a beautiful place, working on a wildlife survey, riding my bicycle, working on a home repair project, driving on a long road trip. When I’m in a really good mood random songs will come to me and I’ll be singing them as I’m traveling or working, but songs also find me sometimes when things are not going very well and I’m in survival mode.
When a song first comes to me it usually consists of just a few words and a melody that fit together and convey an idea or a mood. If I really like the song, I will want to develop it further, both musically and lyrically, but at first I only have a handful of words and a melody that I like to sing and an outline or sketch in mind of how the rest of the song will go.
My favorite song ideas stay with me for years and pop up from time to time when I am working or driving or hiking somewhere. Over time, some of the songs that I have made up become “standards” in my mind, just like favorite popular songs that I have heard on the radio, even though they may still be unfinished pieces in my mind.
Periodically I take the time to work with some of my favorite song ideas and write out a usable version that I can perform and record. My songs never feel finished to me, as I will continue to make changes in the melody, wording, and chords over time, but at some point the song feels complete enough to be able to perform it. The primary goal is to convey the message and mood that I envisioned for that song from the beginning.