S.G. Browne

Writing Soundtracks

I’ve been asked several times over the past couple of months what kind of music I listen to when I write.

The truth is, most of the time when I’m writing, I don’t listen to anything.  It’s just me and the silence.  Which is why you’ll never find me sitting at a Starbucks or a cafe with my laptop.  I’m easily distracted, both by sights and by sounds.  Especially conversations.   However, when I’m on an airplane or when I have to deal with a jackhammer or a car alarm (hopefully not all three at the same time), I plug into my iPod and listen to my Writing Soundtrack.

Since I’m easily distracted when I’m writing, I have trouble listening to anything with lyrics. I find myself singing along.  Though I do have a writing mix that includes songs by Green Day, Morphine, Sublime, The Pixies, and The Doors.  Their songs inspire my writing without being distracting because I’ve heard the lyrics so many times the words just tend to blend in with the music.  For some reason this doesn’t hold true with The Beatles, who are my favorite band, just ahead of Green Day.

I tried listening to classical music, but it tends to put me to sleep and not provide the right kind of energy I need to write.  Same with a playlist of all jazz.  So I’ve compiled a mix of instrumental songs that includes funk, surf music, 50s tunes, classic rock, and jazz that seems to do the trick.

Included in the mix are songs like “Peter Gunn Theme” from The Blues Brothers soundtrack, “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MG’s, “Espionage” by Green Day, “Thunder Chicken” by The Mighty Imperials, and “One of These Days” by Pink Floyd.

The mix also includes songs from The Ventures, Sugarman 3, The Greasy Beats, John Lurie, The Red Elvises, The Dust Brothers (from the Fight Club soundtrack), and Medeski, Martin & Wood, among others.  And I’d be remiss in mentioning the soundtracks for Pulp Fiction and Get Shorty, which I love.

So there you have it.  That’s the music I write to when I want a soundtrack.  And I’m always looking for more songs to add, so if you have any favorites that are sans lyrics, send along your thoughts.

And as always, thanks for listening.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 6:46 pm


  1. I saw this come up on my facebook feed and got really excited! I’m obsessed with making soundtracks for whatever I happen to be writing at the time. Usually I go with a genre, like I just wrote a very southern short story, so I used some country music. That generally helps me, but I agree that I have to know the songs really well in order for them to make the cut. Otherwise I become too distracted by unfamiliar lyrics. It’s funny that you don’t listen to classical music though; that’s my fall-back, especially Vivaldi, but that just makes me sound pretentious.

    As far as good music goes, I like the sounds of Angels & Airwaves. Most of their songs have lyrics, but they have a few instrumentals peppered in.

    Just thought I’d weigh in on the conversation! And big props to you, sir. I always like to hear from a fellow Green Day fan!

    Comment by Kasey Vaught — March 15, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kasey. And sorry for the delayed reply. I don’t know how I missed this but I didn’t see it until I got back from Florida.

    And Vivaldi doesn’t make you sound pretentious. He and Mozart are great to just chill to, though I like to throw in some Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to add a little more passion and oomph. But I can’t listen to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture without getting distracted.

    As for Green Day, I think they’re doing pretty amazing things with their past two albums. And I loved most of their stuff before. Very creative musicians.

    Comment by admin — March 27, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

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