Smile Bexx

Raising money for Brain Injury

The Writing Of Smile


I find the story behind the writing of any good song interesting.  I was privileged to be around as Bexx wrote Smile, and here is my account of it….


I met Bexx through Jenny, my girl for the past 14 or so years, Bexx was 14 at the time.  One day around that time, Jen, who I’m often minded to refer to as an exploding bomb on legs, had another of her incendiary ideas.  This particular blast was to help Bexx with her rehabilitation through a song writing workshop.

Bexx liked to sing to herself, dum-de-da a tune or two, listen to music of the popular variety, but she had never written a song.  An interest in music was evident, and Jen knew that sometimes a seed, maybe just the glimmer of a seed, given some food and some room, may grow.  Jen clearly had professional instinct, knew Bexx, and judged that regardless of the subjective quality of the end result, the process would benefit Bexx.


Jen’s first instinct, knowing Lee Knott, was that he would be a good guy to get Bexx playing with words.  His enthusiasm, warmth, and freedom in expression, would be a great ignition device, as it proved to be.  Following the sessions with Lee, I was asked to take up the reigns, the fuse was burning.  I know from dropping in on those workshops with Lee for a minute here and there, that he did the perfect job of not given Bexx any answers, not giving her a word.  He posed questions, woke memories, challenged her to think about how she felt now, in the past, how she might feel in an imaginary circumstance, to write down her thoughts and feelings, and he made it great fun.  Indeed Jen had coached us, and so Lee and I were clear that if there were to be a song at the end of this, it would be Bexx’s, and hers alone.


Commonly thought of musical ability, being a great guitarist, drummer or player of the Bassoon in the London Philharmonic, is not a requirement to write songs, many great players of musical instruments have never written a song in all their days, it’s a different skill.  Bexx played a bit of one finger type piano, that’s enough to write a tune and I didn’t see any reason why Bexx couldn’t write a song.  I had no idea how a person with a brain injury would write songs differently or the same as anyone else, or how that impacts anything I take for granted.


When I started workshops with Bexx around the piano at home, she had some lines of words for a few ideas, one of which was a song idea called “Lush”, she shyly and a little nervously, sang me the melody of the song now called “Smile”.  Though all the lyrics weren’t there at this stage, the all important start had been made, and the lovely melody was formed, as you hear it on the recording.  I played a few chords along with Bexx singing and she told me which one’s sounded right or wrong.  The wonderful thing about Bexx with music is her lack of judging her thoughts whilst they’re forming, she just knew whether something was right or wrong to her, and told me without fear of reproach or judgement.  It’s a characteristic, a mood of being, that musicians and songwriters aspire to be in, in the moment, a free flow of ideas.  Writers of musical ideas and words know the feeling because we treasure it.

David Bowie, apparently, used to cut up words on pieces of paper, scatter them about, to defeat his usual judgement and thought patterns, Brian Eno has his Oblique Strategies cards (© 1975, 1978, and 1979 Brian Eno/Peter Schmidt), the cards he developed to avoid “head on” thinking, to defeat established thinking processes and inhibitions.  Not required here.

Through the workshops, I did my best to coach Bexx to shape her ideas and feelings in the song.  For example, discussing what might be a good chorus, a central theme, which lines seem to relate to each other and why, how she feels about the lines she wrote and what they mean to her, to remember and recapture the feelings she was having when writing the first lines, the mood she was in, to write more that come from the same place.  We also got talking about songs she liked, music styles she likes, putting on Girls Aloud and doing some analytical listening…what instruments are playing, do they stay there all the time, do they come and go and why would they do that?  How does that relate to the structure of the song and the feeling that the writer wants to express?  This was to help Bexx to start to think about her song objectively, perhaps to begin to point out that even something that appears emotionally driven such as songs about life, love and relationships, have, and indeed in most cases need, some structure and the musical equivalent of body language, to be understood, to communicate effectively.


Over a couple of months, Bexx had made enough progress to have nearly all the verses and the chorus and we had a basic arrangement.  I made a rough recording at the piano of Bexx singing her song “Smile”.  I liked the song, it’s melody, it’s innocence and it’s honesty, I still do.  I emailed it to Colin and he offered to lend a hand, he was touched by the song, and by the reasons for the workshop, and thought it should end up as a pretty decent recording for Bexx if we could muster one up.

Colin’s support and advice, behind the scenes initially, informing the remaining workshops I conducted, enhancing the arrangement, being encouraging, was invaluable.

We then got stuck into the recording process, and that’s another story.


Somewhere later down the line, Jen, and Bexx, had another one of those incendiary ideas;  to raise some money to assist the charities that provide the vital support for others who experience difficulties in life due to traumatic brain injury.


Bexx’s generosity of spirit is heart warming and inspiring.