On Songwriting | Musings On How To Write a Song



Why write a song?

If your answer is some variation of “I had to” or “There was something I really wanted to say” or “I was moved by (fill in the blank) and wanted to express it,” there’s a good chance that the song will resonate with others.

If, as a songwriter, you can manage to keep your original source of inspiration alive and intact through the ups and downs of the creative process, the song can actually come alive and go on to transmit that inspiration to others like a direct current.

When a song brings tears to someone’s eyes or a smile to their face or makes their heart beat just a little faster, there’s something more going on than just a pleasant melody or a relevant topic. There’s a shared knowing, an authenticity, a mood — or a hundred other forms of emotional electricity — that’s connecting.

One of the songs I have written that has connected with many listeners, albeit in a sad way, is [easyazon-link asin=”B0014C1C4G” locale=”us”]Where Peaceful Waters Flow[/easyazon-link]. The song is about the human face of the seafaring tragedy described in The Perfect Storm. While reading the book, I kept tapping into how it might personally feel to be too far at sea to be able to make it back to dry land as an ominous storm grows in intensity and ever closer in proximity.

By the time I finished reading the book, I had to find some way to express the thoughts churning in my head, and I started writing…

Three days from home
Three miles below
A ship and crew went down
To darkness they were bound…

The idea of being so far out in the ocean that even if you “made a run for it” there was simply no way to outpace destiny, weighed heavily as I was writing.

Three long days from home, a ship sailed all alone
When a raging storm descended on the sea
Too far to make it in, to home and worried friends
They rode the waters to their destiny


Those words and the others that followed brought forward a melody in D minor that suited the mood, and the resulting tribute to the men who fought and died aboard the Andrea Gail.

Not that it needed it, but I gave the song a twist of irony in the chorus. I wanted to juxtapose the sentiment of “rest in peace” with the terrifying turbulence on the surface of the water, and wrote…

A ship and crew went down
To darkness they were bound
Where peaceful waters flow without a sound

…and finally…

Clear skies returned again, no trace of what had been
The ocean looked just like it did before
No sign of ship or crew, no witness left who knew
Their tragic journey to the ocean floor

Do you have a story of your own to share?
Your comments, insights and songwriting experiences are welcome!


[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”B0014C1C4G” locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51aDhoRcWxL.jpg” width=”500″]
MP3 Track: [easyazon-link asin=”B0014C1C4G” locale=”us”]Where Peaceful Waters Flow[/easyazon-link]