My soul, in a few words

I was probably 6-7 when words started coming into my mind, unasked for, unprovoked. They formed into sentences and coupled in rhymes.

A lot of my lyrics were written on airplanes.
The Unbending Trees – Angels’ Secret – 2008

To me, being a lyricist is probably even more important than being a performer. I have never stopped, never taken a break from writing. The rhythm of the language has always mesmerized me, it has given me satisfaction and it has given me inner peace.

Lyrics are a funny thing, however. It is not poetry. It is clearly applied art, applied to the music, and applied to the performer. And being part of a performative art form, in most cases it is part of the self-expression of many, and this I, the lyricist must respect. My words become the words of the singer, the musicians, the composer. Naturally, there is also an interaction and a two way exchange, however, it requires humbleness and empathy.

And it is all this, in a very concise format, in most cases aiding the transmission of a message within three or four minutes.

I love writing for others, as much as I do for myself. Writing for others is like a role-play, like a legal identity theft. I could also compare it to the art of drag. I become that person, and I let them speak through me.

Writing for myself is more simple, it does reduce the number of agents of the message, but is still a balancing act. It’s trying to balance self-expression, but also writing in a way that is relevant and meaningful to others. I do not write for the drawer. I want others to have the same experience as I do, when I connect with a song. Because connecting with a song saved me many times.

Living in songs was my escapism in my childhood, it was my compass finding my true self. In that respect we can safely say Jarvis Cocker was one of my saviors.

I like my lyrics simple. The ones I relate to the best are painfully naturally written, as close to spoken language as humanly possible. Jarvis is one fine example of this, but the first time I really experienced such craft was with the Hungarian poet Dezső Kosztolányi (1885 – 1936). Using the stylistics of spoken language was his aesthetic, and it did not just speak to me, but also has become an integral part of me.

And since lyrics play such an important part in my life, I listen to songs almost exclusively where I understand the language. This is also why when I learn a language, one of my first reactions is to write lyrics using it.

And I have no mercy. I write and re-write, edit down, enrich, until there is a feeling of completion. I do not allow even slightly limping prosody. If it does not sound natural, it lands in the bin. It is frustrating, it is filled with adrenaline, and once it is done, it does feel empty.

But at the end, it is always worth it.

And when it’s done, you are welcome to have it. I’ll probably give you no context, so it can be yours easier.

By Kristóf Hajós

The singer of The Unbending Trees - your favourite Hungarian crooner from Amsterdam

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