But I’m Only A Lyricist!!

I’ll be honest with you- I sing like a horse.  I haven’t picked up a guitar in years.  I’ve never played a writer’s night.  Oh, and I’m a professional songwriter who has had cuts and staff songwriting deals.


I’m a lyricist, which means I write the words to songs.  Personally, I don’t write a lick (pardon the pun) of music.  God, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to give me the gift of music.  But He gave me words.  Maybe you can relate.

So how does a person find success as a lyricist?  Well, I can only really tell you what I’ve learned from my journey.  I decided early on that if I were ONLY (as if it were something to be ashamed of) a lyricist, then I would be a GREAT lyricist.  I figured if I were going to have success in the music business, then…

…I’d better be great at one thing.  At least ONE thing.


So I focused like a laser on my strength.  I wrote and wrote and wrote some more.  I was living in Arkansas at the time, and only had one steady cowriter, Tim Meitzen.  But I didn’t wait for a cowriting session to write.  I wrote by myself, and I focused on structure.  I focused on hooks.  I focused on storytelling.  Then, when Tim and I would get together, I’d usually have a stack of lyrics ready and waiting for him.

We all love a song that has a great hook.  Well, it doesn’t hurt to have a hook as a writer, either.  If people talk about you and say, “Man, Joe is the guitar-riff guru,” or “Suzi is the queen of country hooks.  You need a hook, go to Suzi,” then you have value in the songwriting community.  It gives you something to hang your hat on.  It’s marketing, really.

“He’s a great lyricist” will get you more attention than “he’s a good songwriter.”

I’ll admit to having bouts of frustration and low self-esteem about being “half a songwriter.”  But, you know what?  If that’s what God has gifted me to do, who am I to say it isn’t enough or that He should’ve given me different gifts?

If God has called you to do something, He’ll gift you sufficiently to do it.

Now, I don’t want to leave you with any false impressions.  Making a living as a songwriter is extremely difficult.  Making a living as a lyricist is by no means any easier.  In many cases, it leaves you with extra hurdles to jump.  But if you’re great at what you do, keep a positive attitude, and learn how to leverage your skill set, you just might get a seat at the table.


I want to give a big “congrats” to my songwriting buddy, Gord Bamford, who has been nominated for SEVEN Canadian Country Music Awards!  I’m excited to have a song (“On My Best Days”) on his current album, which is nominated for “Album Of The Year.”  Good luck, Gord!


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13 thoughts on “But I’m Only A Lyricist!!”

  1. Last paragraph sounds like a saying I like to use…”what’s meant to be, will be…And not a moment sooner”. Or it might not at all! 42 years of hindsight has shown me that I can want it all I want but, It ain’t happening until it’s supposed to. Your path and journey becomes apparent eventually and what you’ve done along the way had a reason for it! Great stuff again! Can’t wait 4 Thursday.

  2. Sorry for “blowing up” your blog with comments one after the other. This was a much needed read! Hits on most of the feelings I’ve had being half a song writer.

  3. When I made my first trip to Nashville in 2011 to have some songs recorded I too said, “I’m only a lyricist, don’t sing or play” as if I was apologizing. Today, I know that having an idea and being able to express it lyrically is just as important as singing or playing. It takes a team to make a song. Cowriters, singers, players, producers, business associates, etc. We all play our parts and, when it all comes together, something very special is born.

  4. Ok, some how i feel there is a direct message for me. You got me at “If God has called you to do something, He’ll gift you sufficiently to do it.”
    Infinite thanks to you! God is using you in my life… He really works on misterious roads.

      1. Wow ! You been reading my mail? This one hit so close to home it was scary. I think I was meant to find this today. Everything I write both lyric and music, has come out sounding like an unknown folk singer. about 8 yrs ago I took to the path of “words”, and it is working better than anything. I am a semi-retired publisher of a daily newspaper (75 miles north of Chicago) I’ve had a lot of Indy cuts the last several years and finally have a staff writing position with a mid size Nashville publisher . And today, you brought validation to my world as a “songwriter” THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS !!!

    1. I’m the same. I have been told I write very good lyrics. The problem is getting them to someone who can put them to music. Suggestions?

  5. Yeah, I figured that out too. I really wanted to compose my own songs completely, but truth is: I was gifted with lyrics, ideas and expression. I can play guitar, but in no way am I a musician. I can come up with melody, but cannot seem to flesh it out like musicians can. I know my part & leave the other giftings to those who have them. Never only me; the best is usually WE.

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