Avoid Songwriting Autopilot!

Man vs. PRO

To be honest, the whole thing is kinda fuzzy.  I’m not sure I can tell you exactly what happened, but… I think I blacked out during my cowrite. 

There I was, sitting across from my cowriter, working on a song – him with his guitar and me with my coffee and laptop.  Things were going well- we were crafting a love song, talking about our wives, etc.  Then he threw out a line that ended in “feelings so strong”… and that’s the last thing I remember.

It wasn’t until I was back in the truck, listening to the work tape that I seemed to come to my senses.  It was when my cowriter sang the line, “make love all night long…”

What the heck??

“Make love all night long?”  Really?  How’d that end up in my song?  Sure doesn’t sound like something I’d say.

Then came “with your feet on the dash…” Aw, come on!  No way I’d settle for that overused cliche’!  Did my cowriter make that edit when I was in the bathroom or something?  Maybe he slipped something in my coffee?  But deep down, I knew the truth – the awful, disgusting truth.

I’d gone on songwriting autopilot.

That’s right.  I’d gotten lazy and gone on autopilot.  Instead of doing the hard work of keeping my lyrics real, true and honest, I started just plugging in cliched, boring and formulaic phrases.

Instead of writing what WE had to say, we started writing what dozens upon dozens of other songs had ALREADY said.  No wonder the cowrite was a blur- “autopilot lines” make everything forgettable!

Okay, I’ve been having some fun with this, but I hope you get my point.  Songwriting on autopilot will never take you to new heights.


Autopilot lines are those lines, phrases and expressions that just wanna pop out of us – because we’ve heard them a thousand times.  You’ve used them, I’ve used them, every songwriter has probably used dozens of them.  But the 1st step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

What are these autopilot lines?  In country music, some of the usual suspects are “make love all night” “bare feet on the dash” “wild and free” and most things involving dirt roads and tailgates.

It’s easy to go on autopilot because those lines come so easily.  It’s hard to really stay engaged- to raise your standards and to dig deeper.  Dig deeper into your real life.  Dig deeper into your heart.

Dig Deeper

And if you do turn off the autopilot?  Well, some of your songs will take longer to write.  Sometimes you’ll frustrate your cowriter who wants to coast.  But your songs will get better, they’ll get more real, and they get more memorable.

And you won’t have to wonder if somebody spiked your coffee.

What about you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Are you guilty of going on autopilot?  Are you a recovering autopilot?  (Maybe we should make a songwriting support group- “AA” (Autopilots Anonymous.)  Please leave a comment!

Also, if you think this post might be helpful for your songwriting friends, please share it through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, however you want.  I want to help as many songwriters as possible!

If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs or do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE.  I want to help you on your songwriting journey.  I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises.  CLICK HERE TO START HERE.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,


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.


7 thoughts on “Avoid Songwriting Autopilot!”

  1. Funny, and sad, but true. It can happen to the best, and even worse then it can get on the radio! Then it spreads to our culture, and suddenly a whole generation of people are walking around in a haze induced coma from the songs that got written while on auto pilot!

  2. Going on “autopilot” happens to most of us at some point. It’s probably not a sign of any real problem unless it becomes our Go To attitude when we write.
    If I find myself struggling I try to recharge by stepping away from the music and doing other things–working in the yard, hunting, fishing or taking the motorcycle out for a good long cruise.
    Getting together with other writers is usually enough incentive for me to up my game, but I can see where autopilot could happen in a co-write too.

  3. That was a fun read, Brent! Still hearing those line out there in radio land. Refreshing to hear you talk about this! Thanks.

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