It’s true. If we eat healthier food, we will have healthier bodies! But what about your musical diet? Many of the emails to me each week are asking what they can do to become better writers and have artists to record their songs. When examining the music they love, it becomes apparent that the goal (getting their songs cut) does not match up to their musical diet. Simply put, if you spend ALL your time listening to music that is 5, 10, 15, or 20 years old, then that is what you will write. What goes in must come out.
Your music might be perfect for those albums, but not today’s albums. Now, I’m not suggesting that you listen only to brand new music. But if your goal is to get a cut today, then your writing will thank you for digesting new music! Most of us have a great library of music stored in our heads spinning the songs we grew up on.
Map out an outline of the song as soon as you decide on a hook. Knowing where you are going helps you avoid saying too much before you get to the 2nd verse. Second verses are not that difficult if you have planned out your whole song’s structure and you already know what you are going to say in advance, and you avoid saying those things earlier in the song. A map will help you do that.
Say ONE thing in each verse that supports your hook. Don’t try to say 5 different things in one verse. Say one thing at the time and elaborate on it to develop it well. If you communicate one clear message, you’ve done your job.
I write a lot about encouragement and perspective because I believe they are two of the most important issues that songwriters face at any level. For me, I stay in my “happy place” when I see progress every day. It can be the smallest bit of progress, but I need to feel a little momentum or movement in the right direction each day. The days that I get down are the days when I feel like I’m slipping backwards. A big co-write cancels. I lose a hold I counted on. Or a cut doesn’t make the record.
I feel myself slipping back into the abyss and I get scared. The “voices” start telling me that I’ve had my last cut. They start making me wonder if I’m cut out for songwriting. They tell me I should have found a stable job to work at. I fight the voices with my daily progress. I prove that I’m moving toward success and away from failure by taking at least one step forward each day.