Inspiration strikes songwriters in odd and unexpected ways. Many of the greatest songs of the modern era are not products of meticulous craftsmanship but the result of chance, mundane thoughts. The Beatles' "Yesterday," for example, came to Paul McCartney in a dream. Having no words to accompany the melody, he walked around for weeks singing, "Scrambled eggs/Oh, my baby, how I love your legs."
Miami-based singer-songwriter Alejandra Jimenez can't explain why certain lyrics or melodies present themselves, but her latest song, "Casa," came to her in a similar fashion.
"I was driving to Key Biscayne to film a video for one of my songs, and the first lyric of the first two lines — 'Me pediste que me fuera a vivir contigo/Que tu perro y que mi gato pueden ser amigos' — just popped out in my brain. Starting from there, I started developing the story."
What began as a song about the prospect of moving in with a lover became a rumination on the meaning of home. "Though a small space on your bookshelf makes me smile," the native Colombian artist sings in Spanish, "what I need has always been here/Below the ceiling of your arms, behind the door of your lips... You are my home."
"I've been living away since I was 18, so it's about the people that are around you that make you feel like home," Jimenez says of the song. "Maybe you don't have contact with your family, but you have great friends and they make you feel at home. That's amazing — that's where you're supposed to be."
Jimenez moved from her hometown of Cali to Bogotá to pursue her studies in composition and music production. "I got super obsessed with the importance of knowing how to produce my own music. For me, as a woman, it was very important to know the technical stuff and try to be as independent as I could."
Though she was already a songwriter at the time, she didn't begin sharing her songs with an audience until she was required to do so as a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Jimenez says she struggled with insecurity about her talent as a songwriter, but once her songs garnered positive reactions from her peers, she became comfortable with her straightforward writing style.
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"I started noticing all these artists starting to come out doing very simple but very deep music. I was like, OK, maybe it doesn't have to be complicated, because, you know, when you go to school, you want to do everything supercomplicated. You want to put everything you learn into something."
She has learned that her talent is not in making grandiose statements about life but rather in analyzing the smaller moments in between. Another one of her songs, "Desliz," is about not wanting to go to work. She says she's been approached by listeners who say the song motivates them to get through the day.
Asked if her friends and family would be able to recognize themselves in her songs, she breaks out into nervous laughter. "Oh, no! I don't think so. I don't feel ready to write about experiences like that... I think that's going to be the point when I'm going to be fully developed as a writer."
Still, you probably won't catch Jimenez writing angry Alanis Morissette-style tunes or thinly veiled Taylor Swift-like kiss-offs. "Usually in my music, I try to be very positive," she says, "and I sincerely feel like that about things."