#6 My Top Ten Mistakes as a Songwriter Feelings

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Feelings nothing more than feelings. Okay enough of that, but expressing how you feel is not British, the stiff upper lip and all that nonsense but where I come from in Scotland (the northern part of the UK) we are even more restrained. I was taught that big boys don’t cry, and it has taken me a long time to free myself from this terrible notion of holding in your feelings.

My first attempts as a songwriter were completely void of this idea about how to feel, and the music came across as cold and heartless. The turning point for me was when my youngest brother nearly died in a traffic accident, for the very first time I saw my father breakdown in tears, it was then that I worked out that we would not be human if we had no feelings, and to cry is a normal reaction in a grievous situation.

What I do now when I’m working on a new song is this, I try to remember situations in my own life about how I felt in situations similar to the subject or song title. For this I keep a second note book which I call my object writing note book. I simply try to remember how I felt in that situation or a similar one and write down how I felt at that moment, describing it in as much detail as I can with or without any rhyme, this will only take me about ten to fifteen minutes, but you will be amazed by what you will come up with.

I’m going to give you an example of a recent song that is popular amongst my fans because it touches the heart, but it does need a few listens before you start to get what it is really about. The title is “My Dear Friend”, now read the chorus first and summarise in your mind what you think it is about.

I’m here to say farewell my dear friend

But the words are hard to say

I’ll miss you completely

And think about you every single day

If I cry or shed a tear my dear friend

I hope you understand

The love that you gave me

Will save me though we may be far apart

I’ll light a candle in my heart

And tomorrow may not be so far

If you didn’t get the idea about a friend dying then it is probably because you haven’t experienced it yet, although death isn’t mentioned here or in the whole song, that is the subject matter of the song. I was at the funeral of a dear friend who died from cancer and I started to reminisce during the service, as soon as I got home I started to write down my feelings in the note book. I didn’t want the song to be to dark because we did have some good times together, but the verses are the narrative so it is sad and in a minor key but the chorus implies hope and written in a major key and has a positive feel to it. The last two lines are the most popular and where everyone sings along, at gigs I’ve seen big farmers and builders shed a little tear after hearing this song.

In my next blog we will consider song arrangements what it is and how to get it right from the start to finish.


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