Interview with Nelson Varon from First Friday Open Mic, March 3, 2023
Video: A full house gathered at Dagny’s to hear Nelson Varon sing his original tunes with his keyboard.
By: Carla Joy Martin
A full house gathered at Dagny’s to hear Nelson Varon sing his original tunes with his keyboard. Afterwards, we asked him some questions about his creative process:
Q. Do you hear melodies in your head or in your dreams?
A. No, not melodies but sometimes, while awake in the middle of the night, I will think of a word or a phrase I was having difficulty finding for a lyric. I soon became painfully aware, however, that a few hours later, when I got up for the day, that word or phrase had evaporated and was forever lost, regardless of my being certain I would remember it. Now I keep a pen and a notebook in my night table beside my bed so when that happens, I immediately write them down, regardless of whether or not I may ever use that that word or phrase.
Q. Do you compose while fooling around on the piano keyboard?
A. Many of the songs I have written over the years started being a melody which I suddenly began playing repeatedly while randomly noodling around on the piano (I keep a sheet of blank manuscript paper in the piano-bench so when that happens, I jot it down) and then write the lyrics to that melody.
Q. Looking back over your songwriting career, what are the various ways you have written the lyrics and composed melodies to your songs?
A. Sometimes, I will think of a song title then write the lyrics suggested by that song-title and compose the melody suggested by those lyrics, or sometimes I will write the melody suggested by that song-title and then the lyrics to that melody. I prefer, however, writing songs describing a specific circumstance. SHALOM, SHALOM, A Prayer for Peace, was written after watching a movie about the S.S. St. Louis which, after leaving Hamburg with 940 Jewish refugees trying to escape Germany, was forced to return them there for almost certain death because no country, including the United States, would accept them: or describing a character in a story,. HOT FOOT was written about the lead Huskey dog (so named because of its indefatigable strength and competitive spirit) in the annual Iditarod race in Alaska ; or to describe the emotions of a character.in a musical. IT’S SOMETHING NEW was written to be sung by the middle-aged woman on a cruise after the death of her ailing mother to whom she had dedicated her life and therefore never had a lover. She sings this song after she meets a sixty-six-year-old widower aboard the ship who is grieving the loss of his wife of 36 years, and feeling an immediate “love at first sight” attraction to him. Here is that lyric: “IT’S SOMETHING NEW, / Something exciting, / Something I’ve never felt before. / It’s so brand new, / Yet so inviting/ My heart keeps begging me for more. / I somehow knew/ Such things do happen/ But never thought they would for me/ Then here, even though I’m grieving, / and though I’ve stopped believing, / I fell in love with a man I hardly knew …./, Feeling the way I do, IT’S SOMETHING NEW.”
In the case of SHALOM, SHALOM, the music and the lyrics were written almost simultaneously. With HOT FOOT, I wrote the lyrics first after doing some research on both the Iditarod and the “hot foot” white-Alaskan huskie and then reciting the competed lyrics aloud, the meter and syllabification of the words of which suggested the rhythm and defining melody of the song. In IT’S SOMETHING NEW.,I also wrote the melody to the lyric I had first written.