Songwriting Tips from the writer of "Hallelujah, Your Love Is Amazing"
Featuring Brian Doerksen Posted on April 3, 2010
Be prepared to write songs anytime, anywhere—even if you are looking after your squalling child. Okay, that’s a little unusual, but it happened to me! I think sometimes we believe that to write good songs and be effective in our creativity, we have to separate ourselves completely from the world and noise and distractions. Sometimes that’s a good and right thing to do. But sometimes it’s not necessary. I was recently working on a song with Kathryn Scott; she started writing it in a busy airport and recorded the melodic idea amid the din of airport noise.
My wife sometimes blesses me to go away for a couple of days to retreat and write. But occasionally, if I ask her for the opportunity, she looks at me with a twinkle in her eye and just says, “Hallelujah!” I know what she is saying—that even in the middle of crazy family life God can give good creative gifts!
Sing God words. There are a number of God words found in the Scriptures. Study their root meanings, dive into the depth of what they mean, and then find a way to sing them.
Don’t dismiss an idea because it sounds too simple. That’s what Brenton initially did when I sang out the idea (and I don’t blame him considering the circumstances!). Of course, the key thing is figuring out whether the idea is simple and bad or simple and great!
If you can’t finish a song, embrace the joy and challenges of cowriting. Sometimes you keep coming back to a song—you really believe that one section is strong, but you can’t seem to finish it. Listen for God’s direction to partner with someone else. And by the way, that cowriting partner is not your favorite songwriter whom you don’t know and don’t have access to; it’s someone in your circle of relationships.
Be prepared to live the songs that you are writing. To me this is one of the biggest downers of mainstream music. Most of the time the singers and songwriters are acting (sadly some of them are not; they are living out their sensual and immoral songs!). They will say things like, “It’s only a song.”
God intends us to live our songs. So I want to challenge each songwriter to write songs—but more importantly I want to challenge all writers to live their songs … and if you can’t live your songs, maybe you need to change your life, and maybe you need to change your songs.