As songwriters we always want to try to surprise our listeners with new, deep ideas. We try very hard to not sound cliche, and not do things that have been done a million times. If you are not aiming for this, you should be. But this is easier said than done. When you think about it, people have been writing about love and life for hundreds, if not thousands of years…so how do we come up with new ideas and keep the same topics fresh?
Think about the last time you heard a song that really caught your attention……Ok, I bet it was about a very common topic, but something was very original about it. Was it said in a new way? Did the lyrics paint a new picture? Did the melody do something unexpected? Whoa, wait…..there it is…..UNEXPECTED. That is the key word. Say it with me, “UNEXPECTED!”
So how do you keep your songs sounding fresh and giving your listeners something ‘unexpected?’ You have to move beyond the obvious. The obvious ideas are the easy ones, they seem to plop out of the heavens and rush from your mind like water. These are the times where you feel like you are the next Diane Warren and it is so ‘easy.’ BUT BUT BUT….those obvious, easy ideas are probably the same ideas that tons of other writers have already used or thought of. It is weird, but some ideas seem to be part of a giant shared consciousness. What do I mean by that…Well if I said the word, ‘Beach’…..TONS of people would say ‘SAND.’ Songwriters that stop there are the ones writing cliche songs….obvious songs. But what if I said ‘Beach’ and then you thought about it for awhile, and said, “broke down car.” OK, now we may be on to something….What if the car is broke down by the beach, so you walk the board walk to get ice cream instead of waiting for the tow truck on the road? Do you see what I mean? Once you get on to something start asking the questions, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW, Where to next, How did we get here? Really dive into the idea and dig for those special nuggets that almost never pop up first.
So how do you apply this to your next song? Well, many of you start writing from titles. So the next time you have a great title….spend some time thinking up every possible storyline or idea you can think of. DO NOT stop at the first things that come to mind, because they come to everyone else’s mind too…..WE WANT TO SURPRISE THEM! So keep digging and do not be afraid to try out wacky, experimental ideas. You never know what kind of great breakthrough is waiting on the other side of your obvious ideas.