NON-SUPER SUPERFICIAL WRITING

In the past 25 years in Nashville, I have listened to thousands of songs. Spending hours and hours in writers nights, open mics, parties, shows, doing reviews, tours, workshops, critiques, you name it, it quite wears you out. I rarely even listen to music on the radio and listen to talk radio. I do check out new artists and songs coming out but most of the time I have heard them months or sometimes years before in my own shows, festivals, and relationships I have. Presently I am exposed to 200-300 songs a week and believe me, a lot of the time it is quite painful.

At the same time. I am fortunate to have been around some of the biggest writers in the business. I have written with literally dozens and dozens of them, and observed how they approach the craft. There is a HUGE difference between most amatruer or newer writers songs and the big boys and girls. Primarily it usually comes down to one main word:

BELIEVABILITY.

I am based in Nashville TN. and primarily deal with contemporary country. That is the bread and butter of most publishers here and the type of music I enjoy best. But that can be a VERY LARGE TENT, from teen pop country of Taylor Swift. slick Urban contemporary of Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, rock edge country of Montgomery Gentry, Jason Aldeen, pop sensabilities of Lady A and Rascal Flatts, Traditional country of Brad Paisly, Alan Jackson  and Reba McEntire,  It's all COUNTRY.

The thing about the big boys and girls are their songs are always BELIEVABLE. You can relate to the story, it feels like the singer has been there and you can see yourself in the song. Most country songs have three determining characteristics:

REALITY. They have a real life story that you can see, taste,. touch, smell, hear.

CONVERSATIONAL. If you removed the music, just looked at the lyrics, it looks like a person or two people having a conversation back and forth.

REINFORCING MELODIC HOOK. By the second chorus, usually you can find yourself humming along. You usually will know part of it by the last chorus. The hook will be very self evident and be like a "flashing billboard sign". You can tell EXACTLY WHAT THAT SONG IS ABOUT AND HUM ALONG.

Look at the lyrics of one of the best songs written in years, House that Built Me, recorded by Miranda Lambert, written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.

The House That Built Me

Tom Douglas / Allen Shamblin

I know they say you can’t go home again
I just had to come back one last time
Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam
But these handprints on the front steps are mine

Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar
I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me

Mama cut out pictures of houses for you
From Better Homes and Gardens magazine
Plans were drawn and concrete poured
Nail by nail and board by board
Daddy gave life to mama’s dream

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing

Chorus

You leave home and you move on and you do the best you can
I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me

Can you see every line of this? Does it feel real? Relatable?

I'd say yes.

When I write with artists or other writers, I try to ask them what they have going on in their lives, what are the passionate about?
The reason is that too many people bring in ideas. lyrics or titles of songs that just sound like the superficial things that we all have heard a million times. Those are the cliche's. I try to avoid that to begin with. Makes it easier in the long run.

So finding things that REALLY happen in your life is going to be a good start on songs. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
We'll cover story telling in the next episode.

Thanks for being here. Any questions, address to my web site, www.marcalanbarnette.com

MAB

3 comments

  • Mary Ann Beach

    Mary Ann Beach

    It's weird to see my moniker on someone else's blog. I was the first MAB. Tell Tina hi. Great job on the blog.

    It's weird to see my moniker on someone else's blog. I was the first MAB. Tell Tina hi. Great job on the blog.

  • Jimmy B

    Jimmy B

    Wow, Thank you once again! This has delivered me to a totaly new understanding of "Conversational" Thank you for taking the time Marc. Yours truly Jimmy

    Wow, Thank you once again! This has delivered me to a totaly new understanding of "Conversational"
    Thank you for taking the time Marc.
    Yours truly
    Jimmy

  • Patti

    Patti

    Kudos, my friend. Great site! You left out the when before the why and how! ;) Everyone wants to know when!!! hehe Love you.

    Kudos, my friend. Great site! You left out the when before the why and how! wink Everyone wants to know when!!! hehe Love you.

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