The heart of every song is the lyrics. The words, the story, the meaning, the message - all lie embedded in the lyrics.
Paul McCartney once said that "Melody is King", but in Nashville the mantra is a resounding, "Lyrics are King"! Who's right?
They both are. The answer has a lot to do with what type of song you are playing. what the genre is and where it came from.
Country Music - Nashville
Historically, country songs tell a story about "real life". The songs tend to be reflective of situations and emotions that everyday people go through.
To a large degree, artists in Nashville do not write their own songs (although this is a trend that is changing rapidly), so as a result, the town is a mecca for songwriters. It is highly competitive, lyric driven market where only the best songs get recorded.
Rock, Pop, Blues
In the world of rock, pop and blues; many of the songs are written by the artist themselves. The songs tend to speak from the artists own life and experiences and the songs are not held to the same lyrical standard as a Nashville written song.
Quite often, artist written songs in the rock and pop genre tend to lean more heavily on the melody side than the lyrical.
Writng Your Own Songs
At some point you will probably feel the urge to write your own songs. It is a natural progression for any musician to want to express themselves.
So what should you write about? Anything! You can write about your feelings, something that touches you emotionally, Something you did recently, a place you traveled to, an event that took place in your life.
Anything is fair game for the lyrics in your songs. They can be sad, funny, introspective, corny, or have a "message". They are your babies and you can do what you like with them.
The type of songs you write, and what the lyrics say, have a lot to do with what direction you want your music to go in.
If you are writing songs purely for the fun of sitting around your house and playing, then anything is fair game. The only one listening will be you. (or captive family members!)
If you are writing songs for your band or group to play then you may want to consider how the public might react to your lyrics. Will the audience relate to what you are saying.
On the other hand, if you are writing for the commercial market - songs that you may be pitching to other artists - then your lyrics will be held to a higher standard.
The best song lyrics have a universal message. Something that the masses can relate to. They tend to pull the listener in and touch them on an emotional level.
Many popular songs were written from the composers personal perspective, but relay an overall message that a large number of listeners are drawn to.
Songs written in Nashville rely heavily on "imagery". Instead of "telling" you they "show" you.
Instead of "telling" the listener, "I slept in this morning", they might "show" you by saying, "I pulled the covers over my head to block the first rays of sun".
By describing the small details rather than the big emotion, the listener can relate to the story on a more personal level.
Song lyric ideas can come from anywhere. Something you read in a magazine or book, a line you hear in a movie or on TV, something you pick up in a conversation overheard; literally anywhere. The key is to always have your "radar" on and be receptive to ideas when they hit. When they do, get in the habit of writing them down before they leave.
If you aspire to write songs, whether for personal enjoyment, or with more commercial goals, there are many outlets that will help you improve your writing skills.
One of my personal favorites is www.SongU.com. This is a Nashville based online songwriters community that is focused heavily on songwriter education. They also provide song coaching with pro writers and publishers, and they have a song pitching service that has helped many members get cuts and publishing deals. I have been a long time member and have had success with them.
Another good source is the Nashville Songwriters Association International. And, when you are ready to start pitching your material a great place to start is www.Taxi.com.
Good luck with your writing!
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!