Ben Folds is a clever and original songwriter and I’d recommend you download the interview he did with The Nerdist podcast. He has some interesting comments on the old inspiration vs perspiration debate (around the 29:45 mark).
Q: Do you sit down to write or do you have to get struck by [inspiration]?
Ben Folds: I have to get struck by the deadline. I always have songs in my head and I always have things that I’m starting but I find finishing it is really tough. Most of my best stuff was finished on a deadline.
He goes on to say that you can get stuck with partial songs because “you can enjoy the impulse of the song without it being finished,” filling in the gaps in your mind without actually coming up with complete lyrics or sections.
He also plays a few live songs, talks about the album he did with William Shatner and the story behind the song Cigarette. Turns out the whole lyric is a single unaltered sentence from a newspaper report. Amazing.
Fred Jones was worn down
From caring for his often
Screaming and crying wife
During the day but
He couldn’t sleep at night for fear that she
In a stupor from the drugs that didn’t even
Ease the pain would set the house ablaze
With a cigarette.