So, you’re all signed up to explore songwriter classes. You’re thinking about what the professionals are doing. You’ve looked up a lot of songwriting tips, you’re reading the lyrical structures of famous—or at least successful—songwriters. You’re all ready to make that important plunge. But have you stopped and asked yourself the single most important question of your life? “Why am I writing?”
This isn’t just some question you can brush off. That people want to write simply to have their name on a song, or to rub shoulders with the ritzy and famous industry typically leads to a lot more failures than successes. What’s the point in figuring out the reasons you’re writing? Well, it’s all about your conviction. There’s a damn good reason that a lot of today’s country radio hits have religious themes to them: There’s a lot of overlap in faith and hit songwriting. Think of one of the best songwriters ever, Leonard Cohen, and which song of his was considered a masterpiece. “Hallelujah,” secret chords and David pleasing the Lord.
So, before you step into the business of trying to write hit country songs for the radio, you first have to figure out where your convictions lie. For religious people, this is a lot easier to do, as they’ve already spent a lot of their lives examining their convictions. For instance, what is Heaven like? What will I see when I get there? Will I meet my family? Will I see angels? Will I meet Jesus?
Perhaps you can see how this can be extrapolated to successful songwriting. What is a hit song? Do I need to believe in the song? Do I have to find a catchy hook? Do I need to meet publishers? You see, this isn’t just some random topic, an excuse to release content aimed at today’s modern hit country radio songs. It’s actually a philosophical exercise in deciding what you, as a songwriter, are willing to explore within yourself to write better music.
Yes, religious people and their ponderings about Heaven is a great parallel here.
Many Rooms in God’s Mansion, and Clay Roads?
Imagine, for a minute, that there were red clay roads in Heaven that reminded you of your youth and where you grew up with hit country music that inspired you. Give it a second; this really is going somewhere. Imagine how luxurious houses might be in Heaven, or if there are any houses at all. Or imagine if you will need to sleep or eat or, at the risk of embarrassment, use the bathroom! Why does any of this matter? It’s because these questions end up leading to extraordinary songs that the world can fall in love with while singing along.
“There’ll be red clay roads up in Heaven; weaving through the clouds, what a blessin’.” That’s a lyric from up and coming hit country songwriter Ben Krahne, who drew on real-world experience to imagine a Heaven that mirrored Earth.
See how that works? It’s the conviction of faith, mixed with the want for something familiar, that leads to great country music. You cannot simply decide one day you want to write a hit country song and nail it. You need inspiration. You need a frame of reference. You need to practice a little bit of philosophical thinking in pondering what it is about life that truly moves you enough to write a song to which other people can relate.
So, as you might imagine, having conviction in something helps people to become better songwriters. We don’t know for sure if there are red clay roads in Heaven, but many people believe that Heaven awaits them when they die, and it’s this sort of conviction in something that can lead to hit country songs for modern country radio.