(Dierks Bentley/Courtesy: The Green Room)
Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, country artists Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves and Charlie Worsham share what they have learned as songwriters.
Charlie Worsham admits that songwriting is “just a switch you can’t turn off.” He is quick to explain that it’s something that never leaves him.
“I’m always jotting something down on an airplane,” he says. “It’s this thing that keeps you up at night. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, it gets you up early. You just can’t shut it off. You can’t ever put the pen down. It’s constantly gnawing at you in an excruciatingly beautiful way.”
Stuck on a chorus or song idea? Charlie suggests stating a universal truth.
“Some of the best advice I ever got on chorus writing was listen to the Beatles and Tom Petty,” he admits. “If you listen to their choruses, ‘And I’m free. Free fallin.’ ‘All you need is love.’ If it’s a really powerful truth sometimes all you need to do is say it and then repeat it two more times.”
Most of the artists I’ve spoken with in the past have said the best songs often come from something he or she has experienced firsthand, Kacey Musgraves being no exception.
“The best songs for me come from things that I have actually experienced or have some kind of insight on,” she says. “It all has to resonate somewhere within me. It can’t be completely fabricated. It always starts from me and that’s my favorite kind of music. You can tell it’s truthful.”
So you want to be a songwriter? The most important advice Dierks Bentley has for an aspiring songwriter is to write every day.
“One guy said to me, ‘You know what? You need to write about 500 songs, and just put them all in a drawer. When you get done doing that, call me up and I’ll write with you,’” he recalls. “I thought he was being a dick, but basically what he was saying was—you can’t be precious with your songs—you just got to write ’em and file ’em.”
He continues: “You want to be a songwriter? Write every day. 500 songs is a lot, but I got what he was saying. Don’t type them up on a nice sheet of paper and put ’em in a three ring binder. Just write ’em up, then go on to the next one. Keep writing.”
For more tips from country songwriters, visit my article on Radio.com.