Wordplay Thursday #3

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.

“Your kiss hit me like _____________________.”

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

“Your kiss hit me like a twister hits a trailer park.”

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!

SHOUT OUT!

Thanks to Jayne Sachs, Steve, Nila, Michael August, E.M. Street, Dennis, Russ Fogg, Steve, and Andrew Clayton for their fun additions to Wordplay Thursday #2!  Great job!

7 Things Every Lyricist Must Remember

As I discussed in my last post, “But I’m Only A Lyricist” I’m a (you guessed it) lyricist- I don’t write music or play an instrument (enough to count, anyway).  I write the words to songs.  It’s a specific skill set, but one I have leveraged to land publishing deals and cuts by major artists.

Today, I’d like to talk about seven things every lyricist should keep in mind.  I’m not saying this is an exhaustive list, but realizing the following points has helped me tremendously in my songwriting career.

 1.  You are enough.  It’s okay to be “just a lyricist.”  Writing great lyrics is a valuable skill, and the people that matter know this.  Hold your head up high.  If you think or act like you’re not worthy, people will assume that you probably aren’t.  Don’t be arrogant, but be confident.

2.  Lyrics are only half a song.  For the other half, you need a cowriter.  So pick your cowriters carefully. I know from experience- it’s a terrible feeling to take an idea or a lyric that I LOVE into a cowrite and have someone slap on a sub-par melody.  

3.  Your cowriters have different strengths- bring in ideas that let your cowriters shine. One cowriter may write killer traditional country songs.  Another cowriter may write great female pop country.  Where do you think I’m going to take my cry-in-my-beer ideas?  I don’t go to a steak house hoping for great salad, and I don’t go to a vegan restaurant hoping for steak.

4.  Give respect to the melody. I didn’t used to care too much how a line sang- just as long as they got all my words in there.  That was a proof of both my arrogance and inexperience, and my songs suffered as a result.  Songs are BOTH lyric and melody.  If a line just isn’t singing right, keep at it until you find the line that both says what you want it to say and sings like it should.

 5.  Show up with two or three strong ideas. If you’re a young writer writing with a seasoned pro, they expect it from you.  After all, they can probably write a great song without you- they want your fresh ideas.

 6.  You don’t always have to write your idea. Your cowriter may just have the right idea for that day.  Or a magic idea may spring up out of your conversation.  Don’t let your ego or your need to justify your presence in the room cloud your judgement.  All that really matters is getting a great song.  If you take care of that, the rest will take care of itself.

 7.  They’re just as scared of you as you are of them. People who can create great melodies out of thin air may be a mystery to you- they may intimidate you because you don’t have that skill.  Well, I’ve learned that it runs both ways.  They are often a little freaked that you can write great lyrics WITHOUT melodies running through your mind.  So don’t worry- you each have something the other needs.  And that’s beautiful.

Enjoy the journey,

Brent

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YOU VS…

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  If you have things to add to this list, help out your fellow songwriters and leave them in the comments.  If you think something on this list should NOT be on this list, go ahead and tell us why.  Thanks.

HEY, YA’LL…

Congrats to Charles Billingsley on his new album, “Charles Billingsley In Concert” on Inpop Records.  I’m proud to have my song, “God Amazing” on there.  Thanks for playing it in your shows, Charles!  You can check out the song on iTunes here.

Wordplay Thursday #2

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.

“His pickup truck was dirtier than __________________.”

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

“His pickup truck was dirtier than Playboy Magazine.”

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!

SHOUT OUT:

Thanks to Russ Fogg, Michael August, and Stanley Grimes for diving right in on Wordplay Thursday #1!   Love it!

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.

WHAT??

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.

HEY, YA’LL…

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!

Bullseye

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,

Brent

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