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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