Songwriting Decisions: Joe Nichols “Crickets”

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As songwriters, we make decisions.  And it’s those creative decisions which make our songs more or less likely to get cut.  Here’s a look at some of the choices we made when writing Joe Nichols’ “Crickets.”

Bill Whyte and Lisa Shaffer invited me in on the idea of writing a funny song about awkward silences called “Crickets.”  This led me to my first decision…

Do I want to write this idea?

I figured there were several versions of that idea being written and pitched around Music Row, and that was a negative for me.  However, I hadn’t ACTUALLY heard it written before, so I decided the idea was still up for grabs if we wrote “the” version of it.  I decided to jump in .  If nothing else, I figured it’d be a lot of fun.

What kind of song is it?

Well, it’s called “Crickets,” and it’s about awkward silences. Given that subject matter, we felt it had to be pretty country and pretty funny.  Neither of those things was (or is) the favored flavor at radio, but we figured it was best to serve the song and hope it found a place.  We didn’t want to try and make it something it wasn’t.

Is this a novelty song?

We could’ve written a novelty song, an over-the-top whacky Ray Stevens comedy song (Bill and I both have cuts by Ray).  But we knew the idea, if written right, had a bigger potential market in mainstream country.  So we decided to keep it more grounded and relatable.

Do we tell one story or several?

We could have written each verse as a stand-alone funny story which led to a general chorus.  But that’s also the obvious way to write it.  And we didn’t want to do the obvious.  We decided to tackle the challenge of giving the song the “power of the present” – of diving into one story that has two or three “crickets” moments in a very compressed time frame.  Why?  For one thing, “3-act play” story songs aren’t getting cut very much.  The time frame of most songs right now is… right now.  Also, it would allow us to really immerse the listener into one story verses the more-expected “here are three separate unrelated stories we have to set up and tell in each of two verses and a bridge about a guy that sticks his foot in his mouth.”  Plus, we figured that although it’d be harder and we’d have to be more creative, it’d be awesome if we could pull it off.

How do we maximize the song’s commercial potential?

We made the song about one night- one story- to engage the listener more and not have to spend so much time on setting up each joke.  We also put it in the contest of a love story- the biggest commercial subject.  We also made sure the awkward moments weren’t caused by the singer saying something that would be a radio-killer: something too offensive for mainstream appeal.  We wanted the singer to be likable and someone the artist wouldn’t mind being for 3 minutes (on an album forever).  We also put the singer on BOTH sides of the crickets moment, which we thought was unexpected and fresh.

So, that’s an overview of some of the writing decisions for “Crickets.”  Even though we knew we were bucking trends by writing something more country and more funny, we made decisions within that framework to give the song maximum commercial appeal.  I hope our songwriting decisions will help YOU make better songwriting decisions.

You can check out “Crickets” on Amazon by clicking this link:

http://amzn.to/1bmCNd6

God Bless,

Brent

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Brent Baxter Music:  http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com

8 thoughts on “Songwriting Decisions: Joe Nichols “Crickets””

  1. I really love it when songwriters tell how they make decisions like this. It helps in the learning process. I heard Bill and Lisa sing it at a Hits and Grins performance and the audience loved it. Thanks again Brent.

  2. Great idea to post these comments–following your process for deciding how to position the song and how it evolved is really cool and is helpful too songwriters of all levels…will be passing this blog on to our member songwriters in Central Arkansas…

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