The Songwriting Process: Part One – Lyrics

Bacon James here: I’ve gotten a few questions lately on my songwriting process, and will be doing a two-part series on the topic – lyrics in Part One, and the actual musical composition in Part Two.   

For Part One today, I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned over the years on writing song lyrics. I know the whole process can seem daunting, especially when you’re just starting out, but trust me, it gets easier and more fun as you go along. So, let’s dive into the world of songwriting together!

Let Go of Perfection and Your Ego

First things first, don’t worry about making everything perfect right away. I’ve learned that the best way to write is to let go of your ego and accept that you’re gonna make mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process! So, give yourself permission to write without judgment and remember that even the best songwriters had to start somewhere. 

The biggest obstacle to my creativity over the years has been a nasty perfectionist tendency. Some artists, such as myself, tend to be very precious with their work and it never quite seems to be “good enough”. Never forget that “perfect is the enemy of good”! 

Try Writing from a Character’s Point of View

One thing I love to do when writing lyrics is to step into someone else’s shoes. Creating a character to inhabit while performing can open up a whole new world of ideas and emotions. You don’t have to write about things that actually happened to you, but adding a bit of your own personality to the character can make it feel more genuine. Now I’m not saying you should go full Garth Brooks or David Bowie and completely become this new character (but hell, go for it if you want!). Give it a try and see where it takes you, you’ll be surprised at the freedom it can grant to explore perspectives that you would never attempt to portray personally. 

Tell a Story with Your Song

A good song is like a good story—it’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, when you’re writing your lyrics, think about how you can take your listeners on a journey. Use your verses to introduce characters and set the scene, hit ’em with the chorus to share the main message or emotion, and then mix things up with a bridge that adds a twist or a turning point. Trust me, it’s a surefire way to keep folks hooked!

Let’s look at my song “Lost and Found (at the Santa Fe)” for an example. Our protagonist here starts out in a dark place in verse one, and it’s reflected that they are lost in chorus one. However, they’ve found solace in nature in verse two and this plays out in the subtle charges to chorus two. By the bridge, the character has found a new cause to get behind and the final chorus is drastically different to reflect this change. 

Now I don’t know much about classic “narrative arcs” or writing much beyond lyrics, but I do know if you can give the characters in your song an interesting journey to take, it will make for a better song. 

Keep Your Listeners Guessing

Nobody wants to hear the same old predictable song, so don’t be scared to mix things up a bit! This applies to both the story you’re telling and how your words rhyme. When it comes to your song’s story, try to tackle some unusual topics or throw in some unexpected twists that’ll really grab your listeners. A little surprise can make your song pop and stick with people.

Now, let’s talk about rhymes. Instead of using the same rhyme schemes everybody else uses, why not switch it up? You could try internal rhymes, where the rhyming words are in the same line, or even slant rhymes, where the words kinda sound the same but don’t perfectly rhyme. Playing around with rhymes can make your lyrics feel fresh and keep your audience guessing.

Another way to dodge predictability is by avoiding those cliches and overused lines that we’ve all heard a million times. Instead, try to find new ways to say what you’re feeling. Use some cool imagery and metaphors to really paint a picture with your words. Get creative and don’t be scared to push your limits.

Have Fun! 

Writing lyrics is an adventure, and it’s all about finding your own unique voice. Keep these tips in mind as you start putting pen to paper, and remember to be patient with yourself. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And don’t forget to have fun along the way! Your love for music and storytelling will shine through in your lyrics, and that’s what will really connect with your audience. So, grab your guitar or sit down at the piano (or whatever instrument you fancy) and let your creativity run wild!