thoughts on writing songs
I've spent my share of time tryin to figure out why a song I wrote didn't really get the job done. Second guessing after the fact is why so many artists are schizophrenic.
And then try to write something new. With everybody else's melodies in yer head, and all the things that have been said too many times. I've been asked to "write that song again" by company men who see the success of "Amazing Grace" for instance. Yea, let's just write that one again.
I've been poor company on occasions because I'm over thinking the obvious. But I've learned to be that way for the sake of a good song. I read something in a devotional from Oswald Chambers that really struck a chord in my soul.
"always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily. Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering. The author who benefits you most is NOT the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance"
This is why songs are written! Hallmark is a very successful company! And self help books out sell fiction. We all want to know how to look at our feelings! What to do with em. Cause they make our life unmanageable so much of the time.
I've been known to go back to a movie with a notebook to capture the exact way that something was said. I think "Insight" is the greatest quest of all time! Words can be arranged in so many ways that the possibilities are endless. A recent example was in a movie I saw four times! "Something's Gotta Give". There's a point where the daughter finds her mother sitting at the bottom of the stairs next to the beach. "are you crying?" she asks.. "yea, I'm in love... ain't it great" her mother replys.. "see you gotta self protect....' Her daughter fixes... and then the bomb shell line from her mother "oh you think you can outsmart getting hurt?" I don't know why but when I hear lines like that it just rings a bell in my soul.
One of my favorite writing experiences came with the writing of a song already done, presented to me to sing.
"A heart Like Mine"... I asked to rewrite it because I didn't identify with the lyrics. It was mostly an exercise in descriptions of the Heart without using the same word over and over again. But it was also a chance to really look hard at a description of my own heart... "a desperate pulse, racing to your embrace"... hit me in an airport parking lot one day. I still remember that euphoric feeling... like finding a gold nugget . I even remember where I was standing when it hit me!. At that point it doesn't matter if the song is successful either. That moment is the success! The song did go on to be nominated for "Song of the Year" at the Dove awards. The Record went Gold in sales and I won "Inspirational album of the year" on it. But by then the real joy was over for me. Why? Because I've found what the passion is in writing songs. Finding a new way to express what has been dumbly struggling in me for utterance. I find it remarkably healing.
You can read books on how to be a better writer. They'll give you lists of do's and don'ts but I'm not sure that's the point. It really is about shining a spot light on a particular feeling. Or maybe it's struggling with a dilemma of soul that keeps you spinning until you find some resolve. I heard a song by Ginny Owens the other day and she was singing "I can face what I don't know... by singing about what I do"... I had to hit the rewind button just to resonate with the wonderful simplicity of that line.
This is where I feel God the most! They are like little soft kisses of kindness to me in the words of his children. I think one of the biggest detriments to "worshiping" God in song is to try to say what everybody wants to hear. Maybe it makes you look a little "safer" and you'll be invited to sing at the local church, but those songs are mere jingles and not usually the ones people return to in their own quest for understanding and solace. We have preachers and teachers to expound the great truths to be learned. Songwriting should be more about the way things feel.
I'm not sayin that every song has to be a deep soul searching experience. But even expressing Joy in a song can be a great exercise in descriptions of true feelings. I love a good groove, something I can slide around the kitchen floor on in my socks. But give me a great line to sing at the top of my lungs too, because it's true to my feelings.
Even if you're not a lyricist, you know as a musician that people look at you funny in the business world because creativity is not an exact science. But when you describe in music and song what an accountant is feeling at his mother's funeral. Maybe then he'll understand, a little, why God made left brained people.