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

Your songwriting needs to show, not just tell.

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on April 04, 2018

Imagery is a very important part of your lyric- especially in country music. The saying in Nashville is, ”Show me, don’t tell me.” There are a few reasons we’d rather you show us your song than tell us.

1. Images engage the heart, not just the brain.

You can tell me you’re sad. You can just say, “I’m sad now that you’re gone.” I will hear that and understand it. But I will only understand that with my head, not my heart. My head says, “Yes. The singer is sad. I understand what sadness is.” But that’s just information, and it stays in my head without moving to my heart.

However, when you show me what the sadness looks like- when I see the emptiness in your heart through the empty 2nd coffee cup you set out through habit and don’t have the heart to put back in the cupboard just yet- I FEEL your sadness. If I see you hugging his pillow at night because it smells like him, then I don’t just KNOW you’re sad, I FEEL your sadness.

Imagery is what gets your song through the head and into the heart.

2. Imagery makes it easy on your listener.

You can ask listeners to picture a lonely night AND be moved by whatever it is they imagine. Or you can SHOW your listeners a lonely night and ask them to be moved. Which one requires more from your listener? Exactly.

People are busy.

They’re probably listening to your song while doing something else- driving, eating, working, hanging out with friends, etc. If the listener doesn’t have enough mental bandwidth left to process your lyric, they may either just hear the melody only (which isn’t the worst thing in the world) or they ignore your song altogether (which IS the worst thing- love my song or hate my song, but don’t ignore it).

Painting the picture for your listeners is often an easier path to their hearts- which is directly connected to their wallets, by the way.

3. Imagery helps you be unique.

Let’s face it, there are only so many emotions that show up in songs. New love, old love, new heartache, old heartache, anger, hope, nostalgia, etc. Since we really just sing about a handful of emotions, our lyrics are going to be pretty bland and boring if we only write in emotional terms. After all, how many ways can you say, “I miss you” without imagery?

The use of fresh imagery allows you to talk about the same old emotions in a new way. So it’s really in your best interest (and you’ll be more likely to keep your listener’s interest) if you use fresh, believable images to tell your story.

4. People are visual.

Visuals impact us deeply. There’s a reason radio dramas were made obsolete by movies and television- people respond more strongly to visuals! If you can paint pictures with your lyrics, you can give the listener something to see in his or her mind.

So there you have it. Four reasons why imagery matters. If you’ve been a very emotional, non-imagery based writer, I encourage you to try incorporating images into your lyrics. I think it will serve you well.

But don't just take my word for it. You want to get advice directly from another hit songwriter? Well, then, you're in luck!

On May 24, I'm hosting Frettie's quarterly "Know The Row" event with multi-hit songwriter, Jimmy Yeary. Jimmy's a writer on the CMA and ACM Song of the Year, "I Drive Your Truck" as well as #1 hits for Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, Rascal Flatts and more. This is YOUR opportunity to connect face to face with a hit songwriter. And since it's an online event, it doesn't matter where in the world you live. And the best news is...

"Know The Row" with Jimmy Yeary is FREE for Frettie subscribers!

If you're on Team Frettie, you get free access to each of Frettie's "Know The Row" events, as well as exclusive access to a ton of other great songwriting resources and events, including replays of previous "Know The Row" events.


If you aren't ready to take advantage of all the great membership advantages of Frettie, you can still buy a ticket.


Jimmy Yeary poster

God bless,


PS- Thanks for stopping by Frettie! I appreciate it. As a matter of fact, I want to give you a special little something just for your visit. It's my FREE ebook "Think Like A Pro Songwriter," and it reveals valuable I-learned-it-the-hard-way-so-you-don't-have-to tips to help you succeed at the art, craft and business of songwriting. You can download it at

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