One of my client’s favorite things to do is choose a song to listen to or sing together. Recently, my client chose the song “Seven Years” by Lukas Graham. I had heard the song on the radio before, but never really took the time to listen to the lyrics. The song talks about memories the singer had at age 7, 11, and 20 years old, as well as his thoughts about turning 30, and later, 60 years old.
“Seven Years” was a very poignant song that helped me realize that at every moment, we can look back and see ways in which we’ve changed. In the present, we can reflect on the things we’re feeling and learning, while also looking ahead to who we might be in the future.
I love this song because it has certain ages already put in place where the client can share about the times when he or she was (or will be) 7, 11, 20, 30, and 60…or any age, for that matter.
As a music therapist, my mind immediately started forming ways in which I could turn this song (or similar songs that have to do with growing up) into a songwriting activity.
How I go about starting a songwriting activity:
With any songwriting activity, I like to begin with asking a mix of open-ended and closed questions. For “Seven Years,” some sample questions I may ask a client include:
- Can you remember the earliest memory you’ve ever had?
- What do you remember about being that age?
- How does that memory make you feel?
- What are some things about yourself that you think have changed?
- What are some things about yourself that that you think have stayed the same?
- What are some things about yourself that you think might change or stay the same in the next 5 years? 10 years?
As my client answers these questions, I write down the responses with the exact words that he or she uses. I then do my best to fit their responses within the song structure, and if I need to adapt their response, I always give them choices of how they prefer to rephrase their lyrics to fit the song.
My favorite moment during the songwriting experience is after new lyrics are written. This is when I get to sing through the song and see the look on my client’s face when their thoughts, feelings, and creativity become validated. Sometimes the moment we share together is so meaningful that I try to extend these songwriting experiences from session to session, or make recordings so that clients have something tangible to take away from our time together.
The best thing about songs like “Seven Years” is that they encompass the entire life span of the individual. Whether you are working with a young child, adolescent, young or older adult, songs similar to “Seven Years” can be an outlet for the client to share and process thoughts and experiences from their past, during the present, and as they look towards the future.
As I close out this post, I’ve included two more songs that would work well with songwriting throughout one’s life journey. Feel free to try out this songwriting intervention with your clients, and let me know in the comments your experience in using them in your sessions!
“100 Years” – Five for Fighting
“Seasons of Love” – from RENT