But I’m Only A Lyricist!!

I’ll be honest with you- I sing like a horse.  I haven’t picked up a guitar in years.  I’ve never played a writer’s night.  Oh, and I’m a professional songwriter who has had cuts and staff songwriting deals.


I’m a lyricist, which means I write the words to songs.  Personally, I don’t write a lick (pardon the pun) of music.  God, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to give me the gift of music.  But He gave me words.  Maybe you can relate.

So how does a person find success as a lyricist?  Well, I can only really tell you what I’ve learned from my journey.  I decided early on that if I were ONLY (as if it were something to be ashamed of) a lyricist, then I would be a GREAT lyricist.  I figured if I were going to have success in the music business, then…

…I’d better be great at one thing.  At least ONE thing.


So I focused like a laser on my strength.  I wrote and wrote and wrote some more.  I was living in Arkansas at the time, and only had one steady cowriter, Tim Meitzen.  But I didn’t wait for a cowriting session to write.  I wrote by myself, and I focused on structure.  I focused on hooks.  I focused on storytelling.  Then, when Tim and I would get together, I’d usually have a stack of lyrics ready and waiting for him.

We all love a song that has a great hook.  Well, it doesn’t hurt to have a hook as a writer, either.  If people talk about you and say, “Man, Joe is the guitar-riff guru,” or “Suzi is the queen of country hooks.  You need a hook, go to Suzi,” then you have value in the songwriting community.  It gives you something to hang your hat on.  It’s marketing, really.

“He’s a great lyricist” will get you more attention than “he’s a good songwriter.”

I’ll admit to having bouts of frustration and low self-esteem about being “half a songwriter.”  But, you know what?  If that’s what God has gifted me to do, who am I to say it isn’t enough or that He should’ve given me different gifts?

If God has called you to do something, He’ll gift you sufficiently to do it.

Now, I don’t want to leave you with any false impressions.  Making a living as a songwriter is extremely difficult.  Making a living as a lyricist is by no means any easier.  In many cases, it leaves you with extra hurdles to jump.  But if you’re great at what you do, keep a positive attitude, and learn how to leverage your skill set, you just might get a seat at the table.


I want to give a big “congrats” to my songwriting buddy, Gord Bamford, who has been nominated for SEVEN Canadian Country Music Awards!  I’m excited to have a song (“On My Best Days”) on his current album, which is nominated for “Album Of The Year.”  Good luck, Gord!


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Wordplay Thursday #1

Here’s a writing prompt for you.  It’s a simple fill-in-the-blank.  You can use one word or several.  Feel free to get as crazy, genre-appropriate, or as imaginative as you want.  The point is to get the creative juices flowing.  And, as it’s a good thing to dig deeper, don’t stop at the first idea that hits you.  Try coming up with at least five things.

“She treats me like _________________ treats __________________.”

I’ll give you one example to get you started:

“She treats me like a baby treats a diaper.”

I’d love to hear what you come up with, so please share in the comments.  Oh, and please keep your posts below an R-rating.  It’s a family show, after all!


Brent is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more.  He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

 You walk into a room called “Country Music” and Mr. Music Row hands you darts.  He says, “These darts are your songs.  Hit a bullseye with a dart, and that song gets cut.”  You look at the wall on the far side of the room, and you notice that there are bullseyes of all different sizes.  Some are fairly large, and some are small.  Some are so small, you’re not sure they’re really even there.  It’s up to you to pick your darts and start throwing.

The room is also full of other songwriters.  Some are just lobbing darts in the air.  They don’t aim at anything, they just throw.  They figure if they throw enough darts, something is bound to land eventually.  Some songwriters throw dart after dart after the smallest bullseyes on the wall.  Some throw darts at blank spots on the wall, where they would like a bullseye to be.  Some are so busy aiming, that the dart never leaves their hand.

If your goal is to get a song recorded by major artist, your best bet is usually by throwing at “the big bullseye.”

Well, how do we do that?

We make choices as songwriters.  And the better we are at our craft, the more options are available to us.  For example, you can choose to write an idea as a slow ballad, or you can choose to write it as an uptempo (fast song).  The uptempo song is the bigger bullseye.  You can choose an idea that makes your singer look good (bullseye) or look bad (small bullseye).  You can write the song from the point of view of an 85 year old woman (small bullseye) or as a 21 year old girl (bigger bullseye).

How do you know what the big bullseye is?  Well, size of the bullseye is simply a measure of how demand there is for a certain type of song.  This changes over time, so you need to be aware of the market.  Trends shift.  What was a big bullseye in the 1990’s might not be a big bullseye anymore.

However, one type of song always seems to be a big bullseye.  This is the “first-person uptempo positive love song.”  That’s not exactly shocking news, if you pay much attention to country radio.  This type of song is probably your best bet to get a cut.  I’m not saying, however, to never write a small bullseye.  Those can be hit from time to time- it’s just harder to do.  What I’m saying is to be aware of the realities.  Be intentional.  Be aware of the choices you make.

God Bless,



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