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Learn the art, craft & business of songwriting from hit songwriter, Brent Baxter!

The Frettie Journal
A collection of interviews, updates, tips and resources for songwriters.

Hey, Songwriter.  Please stop showing off!

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on October 03, 2018

Sometimes, it’s tempting and a whole lot of fun to get really clever with our songwriting. And I mean REALLY clever. We start getting good at spinning a phrase or using double meanings, and the next thing you know, our songs have them all over the place...

...and they suck.

Maybe it’s time to stop showing off how clever you are and just get back to what’s important.

Here’s a case in point. Back before my first publishing deal, I remember writing a song with a good friend of mine. It was really clever. Every line had some turn-of-a-phrase and clever lyric. I was really proud of lines like “I never duck when it all goes South” and “Like a clock with a nervous tick, when I’m with you time sure goes quick.” I remember saying, “Every line has a pun - EVERY LINE!” like I’d cured cancer or something.

Eventually, after I signed my publishing deal with Major Bob Music, I turned it with my Schedule A. I hoped they’d really like it. They didn’t. Not at all. But why not? Couldn’t they see how well I’d crafted that lyric? Didn’t they get my puns and humor and my genius?

They got the jokes. They just didn’t like the song. And looking back, I don’t like it, either.

Here’s the deal. I’d gotten way too clever, way too much in my own head. The song didn’t have any emotion. Clever lines are cool when they serve a bigger purpose, but they can’t be the whole point of your song. The lines in the song weren’t enough to make you laugh, so it wasn’t a “funny song.” It was a love song, but it just didn’t feel real. It just felt clever.

And, in the end, it didn’t FEEL much of anything.

A song should elicit some emotion in the listener. It should make them (basically) laugh, cry, dance or think. It needs to do more than just make the listener say, “Huh. That’s clever.” That was my mistake. I was all in my head, and I’d forgotten the heart.

And the same goes for chord progressions and melody. You might be really proud of your cool guitar tuning or intricate fingerpicking pattern. But if the listener isn’t moved by it, it doesn’t really matter. You’re writing to impress other guitar players. They’re probably the only ones who’ll even notice all the cool stuff you’re doing while the rest of us just wonder why your song isn’t very good.

Maybe you need to beware of being overly clever in your writing. Your song doesn’t have to be super clever. It doesn’t have to be really smart. That’s writing for yourself or for other songwriters. And that’s fine. But if you want to write for a large audience, you need to remember the heart. You need to engage the listener’s emotions.

A song with a heart... beats... a song without one. See what I did there?

Hey, I have a really cool event coming up. On October 16, I'm hosting a "Know The Row" event with multi-hit songwriter, Chris Lindsey. This is your chance to hang out online and ask YOUR questions to a real hit songwriter.  Chris wrote "Amazed" for Lonestar, "Every Time I Hear That Song" for Blake Shelton, as well cuts for Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and others.

This is YOUR chance to sit down face-to-face (online) with a real-deal hit songwriter, and I hope you won't let it slip away.

Here's the deal. Usually, these events are only for members of However, this one is different. This one is free for everybody!  You can join us online from anywhere in the world on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 from 7:30pm-8:30pm Central time.


Chris Lindsey poster

God bless,


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