Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The importance of 2.5 minutes

I’m taking a break from the songwriting series to stress the effect 2.5 minutes of your day could have on my life. I have entered the band in a contest at It is sponsored by Motel 6 and the top 2 bands that receive the most votes will get 6 weeks of free hotel rooms for their tours. This would be huge for us. It would take away the stress of finding host homes, couch surfing, or paying out of pocket for lodging. It would mean we don’t have to sell our left arms to afford a place to stay. It could even mean we’re able to play more dates and visit more cities.

Voting is quick, easy, and can be done every day. It really doesn’t take more than 2.5 minutes.

Please, support us by going to to sign up and vote. Thanks so much!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Songwriting Series #4: It’s your baby, and babies grow.

It’s a song. It’s something creative that can grow and change. Don’t hold onto it with a closed fist. I get it, it’s your baby. Something you made and you may have a very specific vision for it. But, keep in mind that you’re not always right, you don’t always have the best ideas ever, and sometimes it take the insight of another to shed light on that.

Be open to critique. Attend songwriting workshops, share your ideas with friends or bandmates, perform at open mics. Pay attention to the feedback you get. Also, ignore the schmucks. You’ll get some responses that should just be ignored, and you should do just that. If it’s not constructive, or if they can’t verbalize why they do or don’t like something, don’t stress out about it.

Also, rework your own songs. Even if you think something is finished. It can be helpful to set a song aside for a while and return to it with a fresh outlook. What seemed like pure genius may seem a little too heady or vague. Maybe something that seemed really clever now seems cliché. Continue to refine your song until it’s recording time. At that point, you’ve got to be content with what you laid down in the studio.

A couple good songwriting associations to check out are TexasCSA and NSAI. Both would provide opportunities for you to perform in front of others and get feedback on what you write.

P.S. The first 3 people that send an mp3 and lyrics of their song to will get a free song critique by yours truly!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Songwriting Series #3: The handy jotter

Don’t ever underestimate the importance of a handy jotter aka small notebook. It turns everyday occurrences into inspiration for future songs.

For example, last night, the band and I were driving back from Houston, and someone said “my dreams keep me awake”. Sam heard it and thought, “That’d be a good song lyric” so he had me write it down for him in his handy jotter.

Ideas come to us all the time. How often have you thought of something great and told yourself “I’ve got to remember this and work on it later” and then it just disappeared? I am totally guilty of this. I don’t let it happen anymore. I got tired of losing so much material while driving, I finally bought a voice recorder to keep in my car for those ideas.

Sources of inspiration

Pay attention to people around you. Write down clever or interesting ideas or phrases people say.

Get ideas from other songs. Sometimes a mis-heard lyric can turn into a good one for you.

Watch movies and TV shows for ideas…it’s not breaking copyright if you use the lyric in a different art medium, i.e.) a song.

Sermons and teachers

Self-introspection, journaling, meditation, and prayer.

Find a common place to keep all of your bits of inspiration. I have a file folder on my laptop labeled “work in progress” where I type in all lyric ideas. If it’s a melody I don’t want to forget, I record it on Garage Band and save it on my computer.

If you’re jotting everything down on old receipts and post-its that are scattered throughout your purse/car/bedroom, it’s likely that you’ll lose them and never develop the ideas. What a shame that would be!

So, in conclusion…

Step 1. Get a notebook and pencil to keep with you at all times.

Step 2. Keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration.

Step 3. Turn that inspiration into something great.

* A handy jotter is really just a small notebook that you keep with you. I call mine a handy jotter because when I was studying abroad in England, I needed a notebook to take backpacking, and the one I bought said “handy jotter” on the front. So, the name stuck.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Songwriting Series #2: Really? That song is called Iris?

Remember that song, Iris? You may have noticed the Goo Goo Dolls never say the word “Iris” once throughout the whole song, and it’s possible that only Johnny Rzeznick knows why that became the title.

If you are an indie artist writing a song, and if you want people to remember the song, buy the song, google the song, find the song on your album, etc., then it is helpful to know some tips for the title of your song.

1. Make the title unique.

a. Good example: Blah Blah Blah

b. Bad example: Baby

2. Make it the hook- something that repeats throughout the song. Usually in the chorus or at the end of each verse.

a. Good examples: Hot in Herre, Don’t Know Why, Telephone

b. Bad examples: Iris, Misery Business

3. Put the title at the end of the chorus

a. Good examples: Two is Better Than One, Unwritten

4. Keep it short and easy to remember. One word titles can be effective.

a. Good examples: Fireflies, Love Story

b. Bad examples: Pretty much all of Sufjan Stevens’s songs

Remember, these aren’t hard and fast rules. Depending on the “brand” you’re trying to create as an artist, it might be effective to go in a different direction. For example, Sufjan Stevens can title his songs things like “Decatur, or Round of Applause for your Stepmother!” because it works for his brand. His fans like his quirky song titles.

However, if you are trying to develop your craft as a songwriter, it is helpful to follow the rule instead of the exception. Check out the billboard top 100 for examples.

I’ll leave you with an example of what I think is a great song with a title that does all of the things I suggested as tips for a good title.


by Natasha Bedingfield, Danielle Brisebois, and Wayne Rodriguez


I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined

I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Pre Chorus

Staring at the blank page before you

Open up the dirty window

Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance

So close you can almost taste it

Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin


No one else can feel it for you

Only you can let it in

No one else, no one else

Can speak the words on your lips

Drench yourself in words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten

Verse 2

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines

We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

Pre Chorus

Chorus x 2

Pre Chorus

Chorus x 2