5 Songwriting Tips from Brian Hendrix

2020-03-26 Essay


by Brian Hendrix

The first song I ever wrote in my life won 1st place in a country songwriting contest in Nashville, Tennessee. So, that’s it, right? Rich and famous, Hollywood Hills, living the dream life. That’s what happens… in movies. In real life, nothing much came from it. An “Attaboy!” with a very small check, and recording studios telling me “This just doesn’t seem right for us.”

So, no, I cannot place myself above other writers as some mega success story. I’m just a songwriter. My spirit animal is Townes Van Zandt. I’ll likely cry when David Allan Coe passes away. I did cry when Chris Cornell died. These songwriters shaped and molded my life in many ways. I thank them all for that. To date, I have won over 12 1st-place awards in songwriting contests, have received three studio releases of my songs, and have sold four licenses for my songs through Premium Lyrics.

That’s the topic on which we’re going to focus here: Premium Lyrics. As the web’s number-one website to discovery lyricists of all styles and genres, Premium Lyrics has thousands of songs listed openly in pop, rock, country, rhythm and blues, hip-hop and rap, and so much more. The site is also accepting quality lyricists.

I’m a firm believer that every heart contains a song, even if it’s never heard. So, why not allow that song to be heard?

I can’t teach anyone physics. I can’t rebuild an engine. I don’t even dance that well. But for the purposes of achieving success on Premium Lyrics, I can write a song. The proof is in the sales. We can all sell songs here. And while I might not be the foremost expert in the field of songwriting, I still have a few words of advice for writers looking to use Premium Lyrics as a launching pad for their careers.

So, let’s go over some songwriting tips that will help your song stand out to interested parties.

1: Turn Off the Radio

Music begets music. This is true. Every song I’ve ever written has been inspired in no small part by the music of my youth, the music that shaped my life. But while you’re in the songwriting process, you shouldn’t be listening to anyone else’s music. This is going to kill that internal beat in your head. It’s going to cause you to inadvertently plagiarize ideas and song themes. That’s how inspirational good music is. Have you ever caught yourself whistling along to a popular song tune? Now imagine this music is your head while you’re trying to write original music. At minimum, it will take over your creativity and all your songs end up sounding the same. At worst, you end up just copying what others have done. And who wants to buy version 2.0 when the original already exists?

2: Just Write It

If you think Earnest Hemingway and Stephen King have suffered writer’s block, they have nothing on songwriters! The thing about songwriting is that we’re also storytellers, but we’re doing it in three verses and a chorus, not 340 pages of prose. So we need to go from Purple Prose Lane to Haiku City in our minds, we need songs to be catchy and on beat, and we need it popular enough for others to take a personal meaning from it. This leads many songwriters to get stuck halfway through songs before they’re abandoned. Well, just write it! Just finish the song. You’d be amazed what you’ll come up with; and you can always go back and edit and change later. Leave a completed song on the shelf for a week. Go back and sing it to yourself. You’ll find that it all comes to you. “Oh, so a better verb here, fewer syllables in this line, more descriptive here!” As songwriters, we can piece it together, but we need all the pieces on the board first. So throw them out there.

(Note: This also means not posting it to Premium Lyrics right away. As a bonus tip, keep in mind that potential buyers want quality, not volume. Just because you write 20 songs a week doesn’t mean you need to post them. Pick your best five, then whittle that down to your best two or three.)

3: Be True to a Genre

If you write pop music, write pop music. Don’t write death metal or hip hop. Because I’m a fan of so many genres of music, yet a country music songwriter per genre, I’m often bombarded by random inspirational fairies buzzing around my head with rock and rap beats. “But you said just write it! Should I just write it?” Yes, and no. Convert the words in your head into your genre. The reason one should stay in their musical genre isn’t necessarily the same reason auto mechanics shouldn’t be performing surgery. It’s only music; it’s not that serious. But as songwriters, we’re catering to very distinct niche markets. People looking for rap songs aren’t browsing country music, or vice versa. As you’re trying to get a foothold in Premium Lyrics to sell your songs, it helps if you pick-and-stick; find a genre and be true to it. McDonald’s doesn’t sell fried chicken and biscuits. That’s Popeye’s territory.

4: Write More, More, More

Having won 14 songwriting contests and having sold four songs on Premium Lyrics, I’ve written around 500 complete songs over the years. Some are really good. I wrote a song called ”Come to Life” that’s won two contests and has attracted the interests of four recording studios. That’s the exception, not the rule. 400 of my songs are probably good for no one but me and my own reference. And that’s the thing here. Just write. Write as many as you can. But don’t post them all! A very cool trick I use is to go through songs that I’m not that crazy about, gather three or four of them up, and take ideas from them, here and there, and Voltron my way to a much, much better song. This is precisely what I did with my song “I Wanna Do It All,” which recently sold on Premium Lyrics. The ideas for that were an amalgam of a few other songs I had written before. Write as many as you can; they’ll come in handy in numerous ways.

5: Go to School

People who search out songs to buy aren’t grammar teachers, but they still don’t want to see a bunch of misspellings and poor grammar like using random commas and obvious spelling mistakes.

This formula,
Isn’t great, is it.
Becuz, it’s confusing,

This formula is better
Check your spelling, please
No punctuation needed on the end

Go read some of the great lyrics posted on different sites, or lyrics that have sold on Premium Lyrics, and you’ll find that the commonality is the format of the clean, pristine lines, and proper spelling and grammar.

When it’s all said and done, the strength of a song is the song itself. Writing the best songs gives you the best chance of selling songs on Premium Lyrics. This requires original, on-genre songs that are formatted properly and truly have something to say. Keep your diary entries for your diary. Use Premium Lyrics to put your best songs forward.