I have to be pressured into beginning to write it, number one," says songwriter Dave Frishberg, explaining how he gets a new piece under way, "and number two, I think of a title . . .

"The last couple of days I've been stumped, because I can't really get a title. I know exactly the tone of the song I have to write -- it's for a show I'm writing -- and I know exactly what it's supposed to be about and who the guy is that's singing it, but I can't begin writing because I don't have the title. As soon as I get the title, it'll be more like a puzzle I have to complete."

Pianist and singer Frishberg, who opens at Cates on Tuesday for a three-week solo run, is recognized as a creative and original lyricist. His recent album on "Fantasy" includes "Blizzard of Lies," a catalogue of human mendacities -- for example, "the check is in the mail." Other vintage Frishbergisms are "Van Lingle Mungo," a roster of his baseball heroes, and "Z's," a homage to sleep.

"As soon as I get that title," continues Frishberg, "that will trigger a rhythmic impulse and usually the outlines of the melody are in my head as I'm writing the lyrics. I don't write a lyric first and then set it to music. I usually have some kind of a musical idea that I'm humming along as I'm writing those lyrics."