Grammy award-winning US singer-songwriter John Mayer claims he isn’t worried about writing hits any more. He insists that he no longer obsesses about dominating the charts. He now believes songs should focus more on being meaningful rather than simply having a catchy melody.
“I’m not worried about pop hits; I’m not worried about sales or relevance,” he recently told TIME.com. “I only care about one thing: tell your story. Tell YOUR story. … Follow where the road takes you.”
However, when telling your own story it is important to make sure that your song is not too narrow and personal. Don’t be too insular. Ideally, the song should be written in a way that leaves the audience thinking the song is about them and their lives—not about you.
People don’t really want to hear about your problems. They might, however, want to listen if your songs are about experiences, hardships and situations that everyone can relate to—such as a broken love affair, a personal tragedy, or a song about concern for the environment.
As singer-songwriter Jackson Browne once remarked when describing his own approach to storytelling: “I’m not looking to describe something that’s only true of my own circumstances. It’s all about reaching inside to something that you have in common with many.”
By writing about something that everyone experiences in his or her own life, you can touch people’s emotions. If you can engage listeners’ minds and make them feel something, it’s the sign of a good song.
On the subject of writing good songs, John Mayer urges new writers not to worry too much about whether a song is good or bad when they are writing it. “Just write it,” he says. “The rule is: write bad songs, but write ’em. If you start writing bad songs, you start writing better songs, and then you start getting really good.
“If you try to get into the building on the twelfth floor, you’ll never make it. You have to get in the basement floor and work up from there.”
Take a look at this quirky lyric video for ‘Paper Doll’ from John Mayer’s sixth album Paradise Valley.
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