Jimmy Webb: On Songwriting

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In the Aug. 2 issue of Country Weekly, we profiled classic songwriter Jimmy Webb, the guiding force behind such tunes as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Galveston" and "MacArthur Park." In the feature, Jimmy talked about his latest album, Just Across the River, which offers up new versions of some of his greatest hits with guest vocals by Vince Gill, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson and Linda Ronstadt, among others.

Here is an extra sampling from our interview with Jimmy that did not appear in the original article. Jimmy discusses his approach to songwriting and other aspects of the craft.


Do you take the same approach to songwriting as you did when you were first starting?
I actually have a ritual that I go through before I write a song. I write down everything that I feel about this thing that I'm going to try to do, including all the related rhymes. It's a collection of words that I might be using in the piece. I may fiddle around with that for a couple of days. This way, I don't have to sit there for hours because I have a lot of raw material in front of me. I think it's a really good way to write. It helps to avoid aimlessness.

What should aspiring writers strive for?
I always say that you want to be the kind of writer that producers want to listen to. They may not be expecting to hear a hit or even something they may want to cut. But they're going to listen to you because they're curious about what you're doing. You've shown some initiative and dash in the past, so they'll keep coming back to you. You don't want to be a formula writer. The formula can be dangerous.

How did it feel to have Glen Campbell on your new album. You have written so many hits for him ["Wichita Lineman," "Galveston" and others].
It was great to have him on here. Glen always had the gift for singing, but I don't think people always realize what a great musician he is. For "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" on my record, Glen came into the studio, did a little warmup and he just sang it. That's a one-taker on there. We didn't have to change anything. His voice is still intact after all these years.

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