I just discovered that the NY Times has a songwriter blog called „Measure for Measure„. In one of the last entries, Suzanne Vega explains how her writing style and method have changed with time and that she has a non-standard relationship with melodies.
„I would start to write a song sometime late Saturday afternoon. Then, after dinner, when everyone in my family was doing other Saturday-night things, I would go into my room by myself and fool around with the guitar for several hours, usually managing to hammer out some kind of idea. In those days the chords came first, and they depended on what I was singing about. Then the melody, and lastly the lyrics.
Each chord told a piece of a story, and by putting the chords together in a certain way you had a musical narrative. Major chords = happy. Minor chords = sad. Sevenths were sort of sexy and bluesy. Augmented and diminished chords were spooky and spiritual, so I had a lot of those.
Most of the time I didn’t know the names of the chords or what kinds of chords they were; I learned that later when I worked with a band and producers. But in the beginning I worked from a book called ”Pop Songs of the Sixties” that had little pictures of the fretboard and showed where to put your fingers. (Actually, I have never learned to read music and still don’t to this day. I have always depended on the
kindness of arrangers! Hahaha.)“