article will begin a new series in "Mary's Musings." Since in recent
articles we have been covering some of the "business" aspects of
promoting songs on radio, we will now focus for a while on the more
"creative" aspects of songwriting -- basics for approaching the
craft with understanding.
my oldest daughter was just 2 years old, we would be riding in the
car happily listening to a cassette or to the radio, when suddenly….Martha
would burst into tears. Alarmed, we would ask her, "What's the matter?"
Between heart-wrenching sobs, she would gasp, "That's a sad, sad
song!" We would chuckle and comfort her, but those experiences actually
taught me one of the most important principles of songwriting: Songs
are first and foremost an emotional commodity.
the combination of expressive words and memorable music has the
capacity to bypass our mental filters and go straight to the heart.
Whether we are a music lover who simply enjoys listening to songs
-- or the songwriter who creates them -- we must realize that songs
are emotional dynamite. Songs can reach past all our
defenses and cause us to hear the echoes of our hearts rather than
the logic of our brains. Hit songwriter, Sandy Knox, puts it this
way: "My goal as a songwriter is to make my listeners want to laugh,
or to cry or to make love. It's as simple
and as difficult as that!"
songwriters recognize that effective songs both come from
our emotions and speak to our emotions. A "hit song"
is simply one that touches the emotions of lots of people. To produce
hits, writers MUST be in touch with their own emotions and then
they must communicate those feelings with both words and music that
listeners can grasp. As Jim Webb puts it, songwriters "create the
colors that…paint images on the mind itself." The goal of the aspiring
"hit" writer should be to have every listener say, "Wow! I feel
that! That's me!" Songs that accomplish this goal are what we call
"universal" in their appeal and their impact will be around for
key here is that we must learn to think like a songwriter
in our approach to all of life. We must become sensitized to what
we are living every day -- feeling deeply the joys and learning
from the sorrows. I heard something several years ago that changed
my attitude toward painful life events. A speaker once posed the
question: "What is the most universal experience of life?" Most
of the audience guessed that it would be Love. But then the speaker
gave the real answer. Love is only the second most universal experience.
The most universal life experience is PAIN. As a
songwriter, then, what then should be my attitude toward pain? Rather
than resisting it, I must learn from it, become sensitized to the
myriad of human emotions that accompany it and write from
those feelings inside of me -- to the feelings of others.
is my belief that great songwriters are usually also philosophers
to some degree. They love life and they let life lead them into
truth. Instead of using all their emotional energy to fight against
the circumstances they are facing, they let their life experiences
carry them into new understandings…new sensitivities…and, ultimately,
into new creativity. Superficial people usually don't write great
songs -- neither do angry and bitter ones!
Jarrard, one of Nashville's most prolific songwriters, is the creator
of hits for dozens of artists. His catalog is filled with songs
of all emotions -- funny songs, sad songs, songs about love, songs
about loss, songs about the realities of life. Is it coincidence
that John has suffered from complications of diabetes for more than
25 years - including blindness, circulatory problems and even amputations
of his foot and finger?
you are thinking like a songwriter as you travel through
life, you will find songs everywhere…in every circumstance, every
person, every season and every day. If you are courageous enough
to launch into the emotional deeps and to truly feel
those experiences, you will begin to communicate those emotions
to others in the songs you write. If millions of listeners identify
with your song, you will have a "hit" and if generations of listeners
identify with your song, you will have a "standard."
song can change the heart of a person or a nation. Never underestimate
the emotional power of a great song!