If You Go Ballad, Go Big!

Man vs Row

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.

I’m a lyricist, and I don’t write melodies. I leave that to folks who are great at that. However, I know from experience and observation that MELODY MATTERS. It’s huge.

Let me be clear- a song with a great melody and average lyric will get cut a lot faster than a song with a great lyric and an average melody.

Your melody has to fit your idea, simple as that. This is not to say that sad songs HAVE to have “sad” melodies (I’ll touch on that later), but if your lyric is angry, your melody probably shouldn’t be too “sweet.” Likewise, if your idea is for a tough guy, the melody should be one that a tough-guy artist would sing.

In general (there ARE exceptions), if your song has a slower tempo, it probably needs to have a bigger, more rangy melody. There just aren’t many slow songs with soft melodies getting cut these days. You put your song at a disadvantage when you frame it that way.

If you’re going to go ballad, go big.

A good example of this is “I Drive Your Truck,” written by Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary and recorded by Lee Brice. It’s a sad ballad. But it doesn’t FEEL like a ballad because of the power in the chorus. Lee just sings his backside off.

If they hadn’t CHOSEN to go the power ballad route, I don’t think the song would have worked as well- and I definitely don’t think it would’ve been a #1 hit country single. If the tempo had been too fast, it might have trivialized the subject matter. If they had given it a soft, flat melody, I think the singer would’ve come across too whiney.

Again, if you go ballad, go big.

Also, if you’re interested in writing commercial songs, I’ve put together a book/workbook to help you write songs that are commercial and marketable.  It’s called, “Cut/able: Lessons In Market-Smart Songwriting,” and it teaches you how to break down what’s getting cut, help you find gaps in a major artist’s catalog (gaps that YOUR song might fill), and how to compare your songs to the songs on the radio.  You can find out more by clicking on the image below or by clicking here to write songs that connect to listeners and music industry professionals.

cutable 3d final white

God Bless,


3 thoughts on “If You Go Ballad, Go Big!”

  1. I appreciate your analysis of the current formula that seems to drive so much of what is called country music today. Personally, I really dislike the whole bro-country, formula-driven, tear-jerking, patchwork-assembly style of songwriting; as the formula has developed, country music has gotten a lot less interesting to me – and I spent 7 of my 29 years in radio on country-formatted stations. But you got me curious enough to watch the video and now I’m typing this through damp eyes despite myself. I guess they did something right….

  2. That song opens with some great imagery. It grabs you right out of the gate. If there is a formula for placing imagery together like that to lead up to the chorus, I sure would like to learn it. Imagery seems to be the week link in my songwriting chain.

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