FEATURE: Unwritten Law's Scott Russo - Songwriting 101

17 November 2015 | 4:53 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Unwritten Law vocalist Scott Russo recently checked in with Killyourstereo.com to share insights into his writing process.

Californian punk veterans Unwritten Law return to our shores next month for a national tour.

Joined by Adelaide’s Grenadiers, the US stalwarts come down under on an eight show headline run.

In the lead-up, vocalist Scott Russo recently checked in with Killyourstereo.com to share insights into his writing process.

My Process

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It always happens two ways for me. I’ll come up with some kind of line, a hook or a group of words that sound dope and put a melody to it, acapella, or I will write music, get a cadence that I like, like the amount of syllables that are hitting it, a melody, then I’ll fill in the blanks of that melody with real, actual words. The music is going to tell me what the lyrics are about, if I’m writing music in a certain way, that’s what I’ll write about. Then I try and tap into something that I’ve either really lived myself and/or personally observed. I like to use real content so it’s sincere.

Taboo Subjects?

I mean, I really don’t fuck with politics, you know, like bands like Bad Religion or whatever. I guess that politics and religion are two things I personally don’t give a fuck about. Every single song I have written has been about someone, or something. It’s kind of like an outlet for any energy I’m feeling toward a subject that I’m writing about. The only thing that is taboo is bad songwriting! I truly don’t want to put anything out in the universe that I think I’d be embarrassed to play for my kids, or my friends. That is my quality control. I make shit now specifically so when I’m gone and my grandkids hear it [they'll] go, ‘fuck Grandpa was dope’!

How I Work with the Band

It’s kind of a fucked up question to answer, but I’m pretty gnarly. I, unfortunately for my band, will have everything pre-meditated and planned out to pretty much what I want, down to the kick and snare patterns. So with my band Unwritten Law in particular, I will demo out a song and give it to them, but then this is the deal with me and my music is that I have no egotistical attachment to it. So, if you come up with kick and snare pattern, or a lick that can beat that demo, or if you can beat that lyric for that matter, then the best of the best wins. I generally think my stuff is pretty close to completed when I give it to them, but always the better riff wins, that’s how it goes. No egos or feelings attached.

3 Things That Make A Great Song

I mean honestly, it kind of sounds pompous coming from a singer, but the vocals have got to have soul, that is really important. I think the next thing is that you have to have a hook and it’s got to be clever. Other than that, I think the beat and the bass line have got to be dope, or again fucking clever.

When Is A Song Finished?

You’re talking to the wrong guy about that! I mean, here I am working on an acoustic record for the last two and a half years! Especially if I’m in control, it’s not done until I can play it to you without any disclaimers, that’s when that shit is done. I tend to re-cook and re-heat shit all the time.

Catch Unwritten Law on tour this December. Dates and details via the Facebook event page and Killrockstar.com.au.