Fame Q&A: “What can I write a song about?”

Singer-songwriter Andy Grammer told LSY!’s Jessica Wojcinski that it’s “heartbreaking” when some criticizes a song that’s driven by your emotions.

A Live! Starring … You! fan named Ellie posted this question to our Facebook wall. I’m guessing a lot of you can relate to her songwriting struggles (I know I can!), and I hope you find my answer helpful:

“Hey, I need advice. Okay, so I’ve been trying to write a new song and I don’t have anything to write the song about. I just really need to know how to get the inspiration on a song.”

Hi Ellie –

Good question …. glad you asked! A while back I interviewed two guys from a band named Tonic, which had a big hit in the 1990s called “If You Could Only See.” They still write music and I asked them about it. The lead singer, whose name is Emerson, said his advice is to write about whatever you’re feeling at the time. He said, “If you’re feeling happy, write about being happy. If you’re feeling low, write about being down. If you’re in the middle, write about the middle.” So … think about whatever you’re feeling now, brainstorm some words or phrases that describe it, and see if some poetry (song lyrics) emerges.

You could even write about the annoying feeling of being “stuck” for an idea. (And I say that seriously! It could be a cool song, actually…)

Lots of songwriters compare their craft to writing in a diary. They channel all their emotions into their music – then share it with the world.

“It can be an uncomfortable thing,” Josh Ramsay from Marianas Trench told us. “Then you feel like people are reading your diary.”

There’s a danger in this, of course: People won’t always like your music, and when they criticize something so personal, it can feel like they’re being critical of you.

“It’s heartbreaking when you show your song to someone and they just tell you, ‘It sucks!’” singer/songwriter Andy Grammer told Jessica Wojcinski, one of our teen reporters. “You’re already so vulnerable. To have someone say, ‘It isn’t good,’ is terrible. But when it happens, you just have to pick yourself up and go forward.”

That said, not every song needs to be personal or driven by your own emotions. Recently, I’ve been working with a couple of our teen reporters (Francesca Harvey and Jordann Luce) on a song called “Edge of the Spotlight.” It’s about the realities of being famous. None of us who are writing the song are famous, but we’ve all interviewed plenty of people who live their lives in the spotlight, and we thought it would be cool to write a song that captures those experiences. (Thanks to our friend, the Grammy-nominated producer Anthony Casuccio, for writing great music!)

Francesca recently performed the song with our friend Dallas Pace at Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Check it out below…

All the best with your songwriting, Ellie!

Tim O’Shei

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