Sometimes I do miss the days, four years ago, when I’d just started to write song lyrics and the words just poured out. For many years I had been thinking that writing lyrics might be something I could do, but I happened to know a few very good writers and felt a bit silly even thinking I could simulate what they were doing. My respect for the craft was so big that it took me until 2013 before my enormous interest in music and my curiosity concerning whether I could write song lyrics, made me step over that psychological hindrance I had built up for myself and start to write.
I discovered one thing I had going for me very quickly. I wrote very even lyrics when it came to syllables. Later, I realised this isn’t always a good thing for the composer, but it was a good start. A second thing that became my personal style almost immediately, was to never shy away from any subject matter that happened to cross my mind. I think this had a lot to do with me being born in Finland in the Swedish speaking area of the country. Here we were saturated with something called “Swedish dance-band music” and let’s just say that isn’t a genre known for its originality in lyrical expressions. It is a musical style that deserves its place and makes a lot of people very happy, but it is not for me. Lyrically it contains a lot of “I love you, you love me, think how happy we could be!” Subconsciously I have a feeling I avoided the subject of love because of an unintentional imprint of “Swedish dance-band music” that anybody born where I was, is carrying around. I should be grateful to this music genre from my childhood, because what ever else critics have had time to say about my lyrics during the last four years, one thing they all agree on is that my subject matters are original, or, if they have been tried and tested before, I look at them from a different angle.
A third thing that moulded me in my formative twelve months of lyric writing was my use of language. Having sent quite a few of my earlier lyrics for evaluation lately, I often get told that I’m not ‘chatty’ enough. A song lyric should be something you say, not something that is written in a book. I do agree with this but finding something ‘chatty’ enough is something I am struggling with. Most times, whichever sentence is being evaluated, is something I really would say. This makes me think that what I have written is more a sign of my personal style and way of talking than anything else. Granted, Swedish is my first language and even after 22 years in England I will never have that intuitiveness about the English language that a native has. It probably also means that I find different words normal than a native would.
Valid is an example of a word I was told recently that isn’t chatty enough. To me it is a common enough word. This is how I had used it;
“Aiming high as a challenge,
all good fun to me.
The stars, a valid option.
Or the top of a tree!”
I’m not saying the word is a good choice, but what makes me consider it to be the right word for my personal style of writing is that the song-lyrics this verse is a part of rolled out of me in less than five minutes. I didn’t think. It was instinctive and came from my gut. To me this means that the word “valid” is a natural part of my vocabulary. It is how I talk in my daily life. It belongs to my “chat”.
This is where I’m struggling now. I am not a contracted writer yet, but I would like to be. How much of my personality will I have to give up and instead form my writing to the “hit-code” if I am to reach my goal? Would I even have the skill to write in a certain “hit-code” if I tried? Another problem is that the critics in USA have a totally different opinion to my lyrics than those in Britain. Where one can see the glimpse in my eyes, the other one misses it.
What I am certain of is that if I were to write a pure quality lyric I’m sure (or at least I hope) it would be recognised for what it is. So, I suppose that is what I need to aim for if I wish to keep my integrity as a lyric writer. Until I do, I will take in the things of the constructive criticism I’m given that feels right. I will re-model myself where there is a need to and keep as much of my personality as possible in my word choices.
Billy Joel has written one of my all time favourite lyrics. His song “Piano Man” transports me directly to the bar he is talking about and I just love the story he is telling the listener. Especially these lines are talking to me;
“And the waitress is practising politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinking alone”
Take care until next time and happy writing!