Cut/able Songwriting: Eric Church & “Kill A Word”

So… how do you get a rough-around-the-edges rock ‘n roll country rebel to sing about “love and truth” and NOT be cheesy?  You write it like “Kill A Word.”

Let’s look at some of the songwriting lessons that make “Kill A Word” a cut/able song.

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Ok, I know what you may be thinking.  “Didn’t Eric Church write that song himself?”  Well… yes.  He wrote the song with Jeff Hyde and Luke Dick.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it still made the record- and the radio.

I’m sure Church doesn’t cut everything he writes.  So “Kill A Word” still had to compete- even if was just against other songs Church wrote.  There are valuable songwriting lessons to be learned here.  So let’s look at a few.

The song is in Eric’s neighborhood.

Eric Church is NOT a hippie.  He’s shown no sign of being the sit-in-a-circle-and-sing-kumbaya type of artist.  He isn’t a sissy, and his ideal fan isn’t, either.  So how does he build a song that is pro love-and-truth in a way that fits him and his fans?

His solution is to sing about love in the most violent terms you’ll hear on country radio this year.

He’s not a dreamy-eyed pansy handing out daisies.  No, he’s seen the ugly in this world, and he’s had enough.  He’s mad as hell.  He wants to take all the bad, drag it out back and put a bullet in it.  That fits his artistic brand.

Not every artist could (or would) cut this song- and that’s alright.  Different artists have different styles.  This angle and execution (pun intended) wouldn’t work for everyone, but it sure works for Church.

The song fills one of his G.A.P.S.

Every artist has G.A.P.S. in his or her catalog – (areas of opportunity in Growth, Achievement, Preaching/Positioning, Songwriting).  These are slots the artist hasn’t yet filled with a song.  “Kill A Word” fills G.A.P.S. by being NOT about love, NOT about music, and NOT about being a rebel or outsider.  It’s a topic he hasn’t really covered before, but it still makes sense for him as an artist.  It allows him to grow into a new space as an artist.  It adds some depth to his persona and to his catalog.

The song shows you what can’t be seen.

Country music is a very visual genre.  We like to “see” our songs when we hear them.  But how do you talk about fear, hate, regret, etc. and still give us imagery?

The songwriters chose to show us the various methods of execution!

Yes, it’s all metaphorical, but I still see teeth flying and bare hands around a neck.  Yes, those are dark images, but they’re very engaging and memorable.  They found a way to “show” us thing we can’t see directly (lies, hate, etc.).

These are a few of the elements that make “Kill A Word” a more cut/able song. If you’re ready to dive into concepts like an artist’s “Neighborhood” and “G.A.P.S.” – if you want your songs to be more “cut/able” (able to be cut) then you should definitely check out my new, expanded and upgraded version of “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.” Its five powerful lessons will help you write songs that artists want to sing, radio wants to play, and listeners want to hear! CLICK HERE TO WRITE CUT/ABLE SONGS.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

3 thoughts on “Cut/able Songwriting: Eric Church & “Kill A Word””

  1. I love this song. It’s one where you get that “why didn’t I think of that?!” feeling when you hear it. I can see the take on Eric’s rough-around-the-edges hippiness (I do think of him as a hippie, myself, but certainly not the stereotypical kumbaya type, lol) and how it fits into his overall brand.

    This was a song, when I heard it, I could picture the conversation that lead to its creation. In my mind, the topic of discussion among the writers would have been politics which then lead into talking about terrorism. Think about it, “war on terrorism.” There have been a lot of discussions about the danger of making terrorism the enemy. Because it’s just an idea this theoretically can lead to endless war. Trying to kill an idea … trying to kill a word … Kill a Word. If I could only kill a word. What about jealousy? What about indifference? What about anger? Hate?

    Simply brilliant.

    Of course, I have no idea if that’s really what lead to this song or not. No political agenda, myself, just a thought that seemed plausible. But that’s the beauty of good writing. People see different things, take different meanings; sometimes discover something about the lyric you never had in mind.

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