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Wednesday
Jul302014

What I Learned About Songwriting From Being Stuck in Traffic

Written by Lukas Camenzind

Quick story:

Since I moved to LA, I get to spend a lot of time on the 405.

And listen to the radio. Country radio to be exact. Which is how I discovered:

Country songs are highly engaging - whether you like it or not!

So if you’re a songwriter in any genre, take note… Because this is how you make listeners want to play it again, and again, and again…

Lyrics Matter (A LOT)

Essentially a song = melody + lyrics.

Both elements are important.

But I’m not a composer, so I’m not going to tell you how to write better melodies.

And really, how hard can it be? There are only 12 notes!

(Just kidding… Pick up Robin Frederick’s book for that.)

My point is:

Lyrics are a crucial - often undervalued - part of a song’s success.

Why?

Because listeners need to be able to identify with the message of a song, if you want to make an impact.

And lyrics are the main way to communicate the message of your song.

Now with that said:

How do you write engaging lyrics?

Just keep reading…

Focus On ONE Idea

Whether it’s a first date or a breakup:

Most popular songs are about love relationships.

No surprise. And it seems to be particularly true in Country music…

But how do you say what’s already been said a million times in a way that stands out?

My tip from studying these country hits:

Focus on ONE main idea - and stick with it!

Try to come up with just one clever angle, story or picture to communicate your idea or feeling.

And then just say the same thing over and over again… just in slightly different ways.

It leaves a mark because it’s clear, creative and the repetition makes it easy to remember.

Check out Rewind by Rascal Flatts - you’ll see what I mean: 


“I wish I had me a time machine…”

Be Specific

Have you ever had a song lyric stuck in your head?

Of course you have… and my guess is that it was a very particular line.

You can create such highly memorable lines in your own songs by being SUPER specific.

Don’t just say:

“Get in my car, girl!”

Say:

“Climb in my black, souped-up Chevy truck, girl!”

My favorite example comes from Justin Moore’s Lettin’ the Night Roll:

Which line stands out to you?

(Let me know in the comments)

Paint A Picture

Here’s another thing I noticed:

Many of the popular country songs are not only very specific, but also very descriptive:

They paint vivid pictures in the listeners mind.

It works so well because it sparks imagination. And - like in a virtual reality - the listener becomes the main character of the song…

It’s a powerful way to make your songs more engaging!

Describe places, smells, and other sensations to create those mental images.

Check out the lyrics from Scotty McCreery’s See You Tonight:


“Listen for me pulling into your drive. Look out your window, you’ll see my lights. (…) The way the breeze is blowing, got me wishing I was holding onto you so tight underneath that porch light.”

Share Your Lifestyle

Songs are the soundtrack of our lives.

Sometimes a song even captures a whole lifestyle - much like Macklemore’s hipster anthem Thrift Shop.

And so do many of the most popular Country songs:

They use (specific!) words, share views and values, and talk about activities and experiences that their target audience can relate to!

You can do the same with your song, but you need to know who your fans are.

This is How We Roll by Flordia Georgia Line feat. Luke Bryan is a perfect example:

 

 

Tell A Story

Stories are maybe the most powerful way to communicate any message.

Of course it’s true for songs, too. And Country music uses stories all the time.

The structure and concreteness of a story can make your song immensely more accessible and more interesting for listeners.

(So even if your lyrics don’t tell a story, make sure there is clear structure and progress within your song.)

Check out Cop Car by Keith Urban as an example:

 

 

The REAL Challenge…

Are some of these examples super cheesy?

Yeah, sure.

But the concepts work. So I suggest you use them in your own songs.

On the one hand music is art. A creative expression of the artist. On the other hand songwriting is a craft - and a business.

Or as Mary Gauthier puts it:

“The magic is in finding the sweet spot between art and craft.”

(Do you agree? -> Tweet it!)

So the real challenge for you now is to find that sweet spot…

Good luck!

P.S. What is the one line that sticks out to you in that Justin Moore song? Leave a comment and let me know…

Author Bio:

Hi, my name is Lukas. I have to passions in life: music and marketing. On my blog, I share proven online marketing strategies and how they apply to music. Want to find YOUR audience? You can download my step-by-step guide here: ➡ Find My Audience Now!

What I Learned About Songwriting From Being Stuck in Traffic

Reader Comments (2)

Good post, Lukas. Glad to hear about country music listeners out on the West Coast. Look us up when you come to Nashville for a visit.

Thanks, Amanda - will do!

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