Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.
Sometimes, as writers, we have the tendency to leave too much information in our heads and off of the page. Maybe we know the story too well- maybe because we’ve lived it. Either way, our lyrics can sometimes just comment upon the story without actually giving us the story.
You might say, “Last night, you made me cry,” without telling us that he made you cry BECAUSE he “looked at me with cold blue eyes like I was some stranger you were telling goodbye.” It’s up in your head- you see the picture when you sing that line. But the listeners won’t see that. They can’t. They’re not in your head.
So you want to build the habit of showing us the cause of the emotions, not just telling us about the emotions.
One way to help in this process is to “write the video.” This is not actual storyboarding. It’s just stream-of-consciousness (or more thoughtfully) writing down what you see in your mind’s eye when you’re thinking about the story in your song. Memories or make believe, it doesn’t matter. Just capture the sights, sounds, tastes, touch and smells of your story.
This process is good for a few reasons:
1. It gives you a stack of images to draw from in your lyrics. You can now pick out the coolest, most true images for your song.
2. It helps you really crystalize your thoughts. Instead of vague notions you’re trying to capture in your song, you’ve already sketched out your story. Now, instead of trying to come up with the next rhyme, you’re more likely to think about what the thought needs to be. And that’s much more important than just a cool rhyme.
3. It helps you reach past cliche’ images. It might be easy to just write about her “feet on the dashboard” because that’s what country songs say (and you’re just focused on finding a line that sings well). However, if you spend more time on the story without being constrained by “next line syndrome,” you’re more likely to say, “Well, no. Her feet weren’t on the dash. One leg was curled up under the other.” That’s way more original and more believable.
So, remember. Focus on giving the listener the cause of your emotions, not just your emotions. Write the video to your song, and you’re more likely to see the video OF your song someday.
KNOW THE ROW
You’re invited to be a part of an exclusive Google Hangout with myself and music publisher & former ASCAP Membership Representative, Chad Green. Ask Chad YOUR questions face-to-face as we discus how YOU can get on the radar of a publisher or PRO! There are only TWO spots left, so don’t wait- click the image below to find out more: