Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How To Write A Song With Bruce Springsteen. Lyric tricks and a new video from Todd

Hi Everyone!  Thanks for reading my ongoing blog about songwriting!


I'll get to Bruce Springsteen here in a minute...

This is a common deal for me when it comes to songwriting.  I look for "friction & resolve".
While I write, I sometimes stumble along by moaning and groaning and improvising nonsense words and phrases, and a lot of times this will lead me to an interesting line.  I'll admit, this is a tricky method when someone else is in the house.   Sometimes I'll stumble into a word or phrase that is interesting enough for me to build a verse around.  Today's phrase was.

You never looked so good.

I really liked the notion of how I could play around with the meaning of this one simple sentence.
It could be an endearing one.  Or, well, the opposite of that.  

On a side note, I don't worry much about grammar and syntax.  The main reason is, most of the time I'm attempting to write from a characters point of view, and, well, the most interesting characters in my head are not too concerned with grammar and syntax, actually, most of them probably wouldn't know what syntax means.  Ha.  Leaving this behind helps free up my mind..  if something is way off, I'll edit a bit. Most songs are a combination of many different characters and people I know or have known.  Sometimes nonsense makes sense depending on the context. (See lyrics in verse 2**)  This one is one of those, although, I didn't think a whole lot about that while writing.  It comes naturally after a while by doing it daily I'm certain.

Okay, so, I have my phrase and I started out by funneling the lyric through time a bit.   I mean, it starts out young, then middle aged, then old.  So, it has a linear that hopefully keeps the listener a bit interested.  I try to make this happen with all songs although I don't always achieve it.  I think every line should move the listener forward somehow.

And here is a trick that moves me through many of my verses.  I think about opposites.

Check out the lyrics to today's song, 

You Never Looked So Good - July 12 2011 t. Burge

When you’re young and in love
All down sides are up (opposite)
And the sweet mood it smoothes out the rough(opposite)
When you’re young and in love
Ya got it bad and that’s good (opposite)
You’re as happy as you should be
And you never looked so good

I automatically think about the opposite of a word as I'm writing lyrics and it can drive me through a lot of times.  It also creates a friction/irony in the tune that needs to be resolved or, well, leaves me wanting to give the whole thing a positive spin at the end.  See final verse*

But time has a way
To tick tock your tail (**)
Some lovers they leap and some fail
If you let your guard down
In come the troupes  
A few years and you’re pooped
A look in the mirror
May not reflect as it should
You’ll never look so good

*When you’re old and in love
You sit with your time
The stillness is moving to you (opposite)
When you’re old and in love
The years are all there
In your thinned out hair
In the lines of your brow
In the wisdom somehow
In the touch of two hands
In the smiles of grandchildren
And when you look at them
You look just as you should
Yeah
You never looked so good
You never looked so good


Now, let's talk about using the "Boss".


Try using opposites as your writing lyrics and see where it takes you.  Try taking a favorite line from a song you love.  I just randomly took Born to Run by Bruce Springteen and with each line of the first verse, blurted out a quick response while thinking loosely about opposites.  My loose responses in no way connect to one another, but this is giving me some lines that I would not have otherwise thought of.  It is a great way to kick start a song!

The boss is in BOLD ... of course

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream 
At night it's dry in the fields of some stagnant and strange nightmare

At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines 
In the morning we walk through the ghettos of sorrow with the weight of our life long dreams

Sprung from cages out on highway 9, 
Trapped in a rage with my dirt track date (ha)

Chrome wheeled, fuel injected,and steppin' out over the line 
Rusty wheeled, broken down and slipping up behind the track

h-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back 
Damn it to hell, this city puts the meat on the muscle man

It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap 
It's life's release, this being "born to please"

We gotta get out while we're young 
We've got to get in before we're too old


Check out all of Todd's tricks for songwriters here.
He talks about using Bowie, George Carlin and many others for songwriting ideas!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Write What You Know? I Don't Know, You Decide. My Fire Works by Todd Burge


Some instructors of songwriting say, "write what you know", and I've done plenty of that, but as time moves on, I find it more of a challenge and so, I write about things that are strange to me and simply strange things.

This tune falls a bit into the "what I know" category.

It was written back in 2007 and I considered putting it on my CD entitled "My Lost and Found, but it didn't make the cut for various reasons.  Maybe I needed some distance, maybe it simply isn't that good.  I'm often not the one to ask when it comes to my own work.

My cousin passed away from an illness years ago.  His two year old baby passed some time before he did.  My memory is sketchy on the details and timeline.  He and his wife had a daughter who survived and this song comes from a Myspace blog of her's that I read back in '07.  In the blog post she was looking back on her early childhood.  Their family lived very close to the City Park where each year on or around the 4th of July, there was a monster fireworks display.  Well, there still is.  (If you have ever experienced a firework display from up close ... say, 30 yards, you know how awesome it can be. It is like the difference between actually seeing a Motorhead concert and listening to them on your iPod.  My family now lives near that same city park and our small children feel that fireworks display each year.)  Their house was about 25/30 yards away from where they would launch the fireworks.  In the young girl's blog, (in 07 she was about 14 or 15) she described how she used to watch the fireworks with her family and they would vibrate her feet... then, a few years later, after her dad had passed I'm assuming, she would stay inside and watch them or feel them from her room.

I tried to make this a happy or at least kind tune from the point of view of a 15 year old.  I hope it pays tribute to my cousin and his family.

Lyrics below the video.


My Fireworks – Todd Burge –
(C)2-15-2007 Bunj Jam BMI


In my 15 years I’ve sure seen a lot of hurt
And I wear it on my chest like a heavy metal shirt
We moved so far away from my West Virginia home
I need a buckeye boyfriend so I don’t feel so alone

My daddy left this world long ago and my baby brother too
And I became a big girl, that was all that I could do
Now I’ve tucked my thoughts away, keep my smiles in my room
If you were in my shoes I’ll bet you do the same thing too

Sometimes I’m broken and my life hurts, but my fireworks

It’s been too long since I’ve seen a really good display
But this one’s got my head up on this hang my head down day
When I was five I’d watch them barefoot, on my parent’s porch
I loved the way they made me giggle, they’d tickle and vibrate, my feet

Then I grew sentimental and watched ‘em from my bed instead
A thousand smiling faces, lit up blue and green and red
Colors sparkled on all those cars parked up and down our street
Colors bursting in me, made me happy, made me feel real
In this world of make believe

Sometimes I’m broken and my life hurts, but my fireworks

But just like a firework with one spark and a blast
Some things burn out quickly so I must let go of my past
Baby brother smiles while daddy says hi
Yeah, in my mind they’ll always shine like the fourth of July

Sometimes I’m broken and my life hurts, but my fire works

Todd Burge's tips and tricks for songwriters can be found here