Songwriting Wisdom

Inspired by the seminars I attended this weekend I went back through all my old seminar notes. There was lots of technical stuff about song forms, rhymes, rhythms and such, but mixed in were a lot things that aren’t technical, but everyone that writes professionally seems to say. So, from notes of seminars with Gary Burr, Ruth Carter, Bob Cheevers, Stephen Doster, Joe Ely, David Halley, Georgia Middleman, Kathy Mattea, Pat Pattison, Jim Photoglo, Kimmie Rhodes, Sonny Throckmorton, Allen Shamblin, Chuck Gannon, Roger Brown, Austin Cunningham and some others whose names I don’t recall :

Don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to suck, know that if you fail you tried.

Don’t be afraid of silence, don’t be afraid of an empty page.

Your creative flow and your analytical self have to make a deal – neither can write a good song alone.

Turn on your recorder when writing, don’t throw anything out, ideas that seemed like dead ends when you started may be just what you need a few hours or days later, even for the same song.

Write for love, not money. “Writing for money is like marrying for sex – it’s nice when it happens but it isn’t the point”

Forget hierarchical thinking, don’t write to compete.

Touching someone’s heart is the only worthwhile goal.

Let the rabbit come to you.

Be willing to work hard – when it is good enough try to make it better. When it is the best song you ever wrote try to make it better still.

It’s a long way from good to magical.

Good ideas help you write them. “If the song won’t help me write it it can go to hell.”

You can break the rules about writing songs, but you can’t deny the facts about human nature.

Put a girl in it.

Play out – the best way to learn what is good is to play it and see how people react.

Start with the truth. If it isn’t true it isn’t worth a damn.


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