So, as you may have already assumed, there is a lot that goes into writing a song, and unfortunately you can’t just write a song only when you’re feeling inspired (although inspiration does sometimes come out of nowhere!). If you are going to call “Songwriting” an occupation then you have to treat it like a job, not just a hobby. You have to actively look for inspirations. I wanted to share with you all about what the songwriting process looks like for myself and all about what I do to create inspiration for my songwriting.
Usually I start by setting aside some time to put myself in a place of inspiration. That can range from looking through magazines and Pinterest, reading, watching some rom-coms — really just anything where I get to react to people, whether that's through print or film or 'real life' situations. I like to get inspired by beautiful visuals and just take myself out of my own limited reality and world and just reflect. I don’t get to do that enough right now, but it is so important to my creative process.
One of the things I started doing early on when I was first learning to songwrite was turning to magazines for inspiration. I have always loved looking at the editorials. They usually contain creative plays on words, and those creative plays on words are what a lot of country songs are made of.
One of my songwriting mentors, who has 30 number one singles at country radio, told me that I needed to say something that has been said a million times in a new way. Put a spin on it somehow, anyhow. Take my song 'Shooting Stars,' for instance (listen here!). I had been looking at an editorial in a magazine (probably InStyle or Glamour, my go-tos and favorites) and the certain look in the editorial spread was called “Shooting Star." I was in the head-space of thinking of ways I could change the meaning of that familiar term.
So, I wrote out the different ways the term could be taken and came up with “Shooting Stars,” not just stars shooting across the sky, but me literally shooting at the stars because my wishes didn’t come true — standing on the hood of my car with a shotgun. Sounds pretty country doesn’t it? Because that idea was developed before I wrote the song with my buddy Jordan Reynolds (“Gettin’ in the Way” Keith Urban, “Three,” Lauren Alaina) we wrote it over Skype in a little more than 30 minutes. Usually, that’s what preparation does for a writer/artist. Knowing the direction you want to take a song idea makes all the difference in the world. We are recutting “Shooting Stars” in the studio as we speak with my producers for an upcoming EP to be released this summer. Cannot wait for y'all to hear it!
I also get similar inspiration from the makeup isle at Target or Ulta or wherever you can spend lots of time reading names of eyes shadows or nail polishes. They use a similar play on words to articles in magazines and the colors always provoke something in me, which speaking of, I really need to find time to go do this ASAP because I am being reminded about how much it would do for me artistically and why am I not standing in the Revlon section as I type this? Sometimes we need these reminders of what inspires and rejuvenates us, you know?
Another thing my mentor told me to do is to take something I love about another song, a single word, melodic phrase or something and figure out why I like it and then change that to make it my own while still being inspired by the same idea. Sounds complicated, but it clicked with me. That lead me to studying all of my favorite songwriters like Hillary Lindsey, Luke Laird, Shane McaNally, and Ashley Gorley. Now, I can pretty much hear a song on the radio and guess who wrote on it because of the writing style. It’s a fun game for me, and no, I am not always right, haha. But that concept taught me to take what I loved about a song and to turn it into something that’s my own and it made me a better writer.
Usually when people write for country music it happens in a room with 2-3 (sometimes 4) people. If it’s at my place I try and make the atmosphere as cozy as possible. To me that means coffee, a candle burning (my favorite right now is Voluspa “Macaron"). People can sit on the floor or on the sofa, shoes on, shoes off, I don’t care, whatever helps us write the best song. I pitch a few ideas that I have developed and we write a song. Simple as that. ;)
I’ll follow up sometime soon with an inside peek into the writing room, until then go buy that macaroon candle and write some things you think might inspire me in the comments below!