We write a lot of lyrics. On average at least a song a day either for ourselves, production libraries, or our wonderful clients. Since I am the primary lyric writer here I have to stay inspired all of the time. Somedays can be very tough. I’m sure you have had them. Sitting there scratching your head and nothing is coming out. This short post explains what I do to keep my creative juices flowing, how I organize my thoughts, and how I keep from running out of ideas.
The first thing I’ll say is that I am always searching for ideas even when I am not aware of it. In every day life doing every day tasks I have my ears open for little words and phrases that strike me. I’ll give you an example. I was listening to the radio the other day. It happened to be on the country station. The host of the radio show in between songs did a plug for something and she used the phrase “I hope you all are having a great Monday or at least trying to get it right!”. I thought it was funny because gettin’ it right would be a great modern country hook. I wrote it down. Last night, a good friend and I were writing a song for a Songwriting Team client and my “getting it right” phrase worked. Sort of. We didn’t use those exact words, but that simple phrase I heard on the radio inspired us to create the line “Is this what it feels like to get it wrong?”. A very compelling first line for this particular song.
Keep a list. A good friend of mine that I co-write with often turned me on to keeping lists of words and phrases. Since then I’ve been keeping things in a document on my phone for easy access. He prefers notebooks, and boy does he have a bunch of them. On our first co-write we brought over 3 or 4 notebooks full of titles. Some great, some okay, and some that we probably wouldn’t ever use. It was long after scanning through I found a title that he had and we created the song “Love is Pop”.
Sometimes I’ll fill up my list with random things. Objects in a room, places I’ve traveled too, people I know, and so on. Hit songwriter Sia has spoken out about taking this approach. It is how she wrote her Grammy nominated song “Chandelier”. She saw a chandelier, and there you go.
I enjoy title writing. I feel that the toughest part of songwriting for me is creating a hook worthy title. When I focus my time on constantly listening for words and phrases that could be a song title I find that I have a much easier time when I sit down to write lyrics. Once I have a title in place the song comes naturally. Now, I don’t always write from a title. As you read in the first example above, my list inspired a great opening line. There are no set rules of where you should start while writing lyrics. It’ll be different each time. I feel lucky though when I already have a title. 9 times out of 10 it means that this write will be effortless.
To sum it up.. here are some points to take away:
- Always be listening for words and phrases when you are watching TV, listening to the radio, out with your friends, reading a book, at work, on a boat, etc.
- Always write them down! Even if you think they are dumb or worthless write them down. You’ll be surprised.
- Seriously, always write them down. And do it quick. If you don’t do it then you probably won’t remember it. I can’t count how many great songs I have probably missed out on because of being lazy and saying “Oh, I’ll write it down later”.
- Create a list of random things. People, places, objects, etc. Jot them down in your notebook.
- Look for connections. Scroll through your words and phrases notebook and see if any titles come about from simply pairing up different words and phrases. This is a very common way for me to find titles.