I'm a lyricist- I don't write music or play an instrument (enough to count, anyway). I write the words to songs. It's a specific skill set, but one I have leveraged to land publishing deals and cuts by major artists including Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols and more.
Today, I'd like to talk about six things every lyricist should keep in mind. I'm not saying this is an exhaustive list, but realizing the following points has helped me tremendously in my songwriting career.
1. You are enough.
It's okay to be "just a lyricist." Writing great lyrics is a valuable skill, and the people that matter know this. Hold your head up high. If you think or act like you're not worthy, people will assume that you probably aren't. Don't be arrogant, but be confident.
2. Choose your cowriters carefully.
Lyrics are only half a song. For the other half, you need a cowriter. So pick your cowriters carefully. I know from experience- it's a terrible feeling to take an idea or a lyric that I LOVE into a cowrite and have someone slap on a sub-par melody. Your cowriters have different strengths- bring in ideas that let your cowriters shine. One cowriter may write killer traditional country songs. Another cowriter may write great female pop country. Where do you think I'm going to take my cry-in-my-beer ideas? I don't go to a steak house hoping for great salad, and I don't go to a vegan restaurant hoping for steak.
3. Give respect to the melody.
I didn't used to care too much how a line sang- just as long as they got all my words in there. That was a proof of both my arrogance and inexperience, and my songs suffered as a result. Songs are BOTH lyric and melody. If a line just isn't singing right, keep at it until you find the line that both says what you want it to say and sings like it should.
4. Be prepared.
Show up with two or three strong ideas. If you're a young writer writing with a seasoned pro, they expect it from you. After all, they can probably write a great song without you- they want your fresh ideas.
5. You don't always have to write your idea.
Your cowriter may just have the right idea for that day. Or a magic idea may spring up out of your conversation. Don't let your ego or your need to justify your presence in the room cloud your judgement. All that really matters is getting a great song. If you take care of that, the rest will take care of itself.
6. They're just as scared of you as you are of them.
People who can create great melodies out of thin air may be a mystery to you- they may intimidate you because you don't have that skill. Well, I've learned that it runs both ways. They are often a little freaked that you can write great lyrics WITHOUT melodies running through your mind. So don't worry- you each have something the other needs. And that's beautiful.
Well, I hope that's helpful. Enjoy the journey!