The Art of [Writing] Lyrics with Paul Barrere & Roger Cole

Paul:  Ya know lyrics are a very funny thing, over the past 50 years that I’ve been writing songs, which is since I was about 18, actually, a little before.  They come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes I have a melody in mind, sometimes I just have a track that I want to put lyrics to.  I’ve even been woken in the middle of the night with a lyric running through my head, then I have to just kind get up and jot it down.  So I would say there is no specific one way to write lyrics to a song.  However, whenever the inspiration hits, the best thing to do is to either write it down or have a little voice recorder and put it down there because everything can be a seed that can grow into a song.

Roger:  I guess if there is an actual ‘method’ to it, I always tried to take whatever the situation is that you’re writing about - be it a story or first person conversation, whatever - the trick to it all is to try to put a lot of stuff into a few minutes as far as meaning, what you’re trying to get across.  You don’t have all day, it’s not like writing a book. So what’s fun for me is to try to take a concept and boil it all down into 4 or 5 words and then play with the words that can mean multiple things so that it kind of says something about whoever is listening to it, as opposed to it being just about me writing it.  One trick for that is to buy yourself a thesaurus, they’re priceless and can help in a lot of ways if you get stuck on a word.   I also always try to pay attention to how the stanzas work, what types of syllables are landing at the end of each phrase and make sure there is somewhat of continuous tone so that the listener can enjoy the music that the lyrics are on top of instead of getting interrupted.

The evolution of writing?  That just comes with doing a lot of it.  You will start off with things that have tons of lyrics and all kinds of different stuff, and eventually you learn ways to whittle it down and work over the track a little bit better and your concepts get a little more intelligent - you hope.  Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.  


Jon Rogers asks:  Do you start a song with a general idea, a lyric, or do you start w a beat or melody and build lyrics around it?

The answer to that is pretty much all of the above.  Sometimes you will get some words and you’ll sit down and lay them out in some kind of format and as you’re formatting you start hearing how they’ll lay down against the track, then you will write the music for that.  A little more challenging sometimes, is to write the music first andmake sure you have all your sections, then you’re kind of locked into making lyrics work within that framework.  At that point it becomes trying to make the math really come together and work over the track.  Sometimes you will just get a groove and as you’re doing that you put stuff on it and you get an idea from what type of emotional response it is getting from you and then you just start working it.  And then there are times you just want to be nuts and create phrases that can mean 10 different things.  You just throw it out there and say it can be what you (the listener) want it to be about.