In my first blog posts I thought I’d cover off my ongoing journey as an aspiring lyricist. I hope that this will be interesting for you and that it may resonate with others who have gone, or are going, through a similar journey. I’ll also call out things along the way that helped me and resources that others can benefit from.
Part 1 covers my early forays into writing lyrics.
Early beginnings – that wow moment!
Lights, camera, action …
‘Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need!’
The camera shows a sea of screaming adoring fans, then pans to the stage where some impossibly cool-looking musicians blast out a catchy song with a big chorus.
Yes, my journey started the way I imagine it has done for many lyric writers. Hearing a song on the radio or seeing a music video and thinking ‘wow, I love that!’ And then sitting down and trying to write something similar.
That initial wow moment will be different for each of us. And how good the influencing song or artist actually was probably doesn’t matter hugely. (Although, if it was The Birdie Song or any of these other Ten worst songs of all time then you may want to keep quiet about it …)
Imagination – the cornerstone of success
David Beckham was VERY good at taking free kicks. He scored some important goals. You may be asking what has that got to do with a lyric writing post?! Well, I remember reading that he practiced visualisation before every free kick that he took. Before he stepped up and kicked the ball he imagined where he was going to place it and it nestling in the back of the net.
Visualisation and imagination are very important tools when we’re setting out on any endeavour. Before you can be world class at your chosen speciality you need to imagine being that famous guitarist, footballer, or lyricist.
So, going back to the musical wow moment idea, I had that moment with Bon Jovi. You may have had it listening to Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Axl Rose, Ed Sheeran, or whoever.
The key point is that we instantly wanted to be them or at least be like them. So we grabbed the nearest hairbrush, stood in front of a mirror and blared out their greatest hits. We visualised ourselves standing on that stage …
Of course, whilst imagination is great, the reality of our singing ability may diverge from the brilliance that we heard in our heads. This point is perfectly and very amusingly illustrated by Aaron Crascall in his ‘Awkward Headphone Countdown’ video!
So some of us realise very quickly that we are not destined to be the next rock or pop star. But that still leaves the dream of being the next great songwriter! As it did for me …
A dirty down addiction?
‘I don’t need no needle to be givin’ me a thrill
And I don’t need no anesthesia or a nurse to bring a pill
I got a dirty down addiction that doesn’t leave a track
I got a jones for your affection like a monkey on my back’
(Bad Medicine, by Bon Jovi)
As you may have guessed by now (!), my wow moment was seeing a video for Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi. And also hearing similar hits from bands such as Def Leppard, Guns N’Roses and Aerosmith.
I immediately had the rock addiction and started to scribble down what I hoped would be rock masterpieces. Songs with names like ‘She’s not a lady’. Sadly, that song and the others I wrote at that time were not masterpieces!
Lesson number one for any aspiring lyricist is that writing good lyrics normally requires 2 important things:
1) Some real world experience. It’s fine for Jon Bon Jovi or Steven Tyler to write songs about a glamorous world of beautiful women and rock n’roll parties. Your typical 15 year old isn’t going to be able to write about such topics in a way that is authentic or convincing!
2) Practice, practice, and more practice. In any form of writing the more you write the better your output will become. It can take time to learn the basics of songwriting structure and to hone your craft. (I’ll post more on this in future blogs).
But even if you don’t yet have the world experience or songwriting craft required to be a great lyric writer, writing bad lyrics can be regarded as a vital part of your evolution as a writer! You’ve got to get words down on paper, keep practising, keep listening to music (and expanding your tastes) and gradually your standard of writing will improve.
Of course there will be the occasional child genius who writes stunning lyrics straight away – you b**tards! The rest of us will use the pain of those early disasters to then write emotionally gritty lyrics in later years. 🙂
A prolific sock drawer lyricist
I recall reading that Prince had a goal of writing at least one new song each day, which is just incredible. I never achieved that level of output but I was always writing, always coming up with ideas.
The difference between me and Prince (apart from the money, the supermodel girlfriends, the lavish mansion, etc, etc) was that I stuffed the lyrics that I wrote into drawers or (if I was being more organised) placed them in ring-binder folders where they were left to grow old, their ink surely destined to fade into nothingness. He probably had Personal Assistants to stuff his lyrics in beside his supply of purple socks …
The lyrics (or frequently just snippets of lyrics) that I wrote were scribbled into notepads or on scraps of paper but I had no outlet for them. I don’t play a musical instrument and wasn’t connected closely enough* with anyone who was in a band. There didn’t seem to be a way to get them out into the world so they were just something I did for my own secret enjoyment.
And that’s how it would surely have been destined to remain had I not discovered the first of two vital websites.
In my next post I’ll reveal the first of those websites and how such sites can help aspiring lyric writers to move beyond the sock drawer stage and finally see life breathed into their words by musicians.
So check back again to learn more!
* I did go to school with some people who ended up in fairly well known bands. Maybe a missed opportunity (!) and possibly a topic for a future blog post …
Finally, I’d like to thank my blogtastic wife for her techie skills that have helped me to launch this site. If you have a spare moment, I’d recommend checking out her writing blog, A Comfy Kind of Restless