SONGWRITING TIPS AND ADVICE ON THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOUND IN ALL HIT SONGS

Tag Archives: Taylor Swift

We constantly hear about young singer-songwriters such as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry writing emotionally wrenching songs about their past loves and broken relationships. And other young writers find new ways of expressing the emotions associated with issues they’re experiencing for the first time—such as finding yourself, friendships, coming of age, fitting in, and growing up.

But what do songwriters turn to for inspiration when they get older?

Janis Ian was only 22 when she wrote her classic song ‘At Seventeen’—a groundbreaking, poignant commentary on adolescent cruelty and teenage angst. Would she be able to write that song now, 40 years later?

The answer, according to award-winning Nashville songwriter Brett James, is to learn how to think like a 15-year-old again.

In an interview with Viacom’s country music TV channel CMT, 45-year-old James explained that songwriters sometimes need to re-discover the adolescent inside them in order to come up with a great idea that hasn’t been written about before.

“You always want to keep that freshness, so you have to feel like a 15-year-old kid who has never written a song—sometimes it’s important to sit down with that attitude,” said James whose number one hits include Carrie Underwood’s Grammy Award-winning ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel’, ‘Who I Am’ by Jessica Andrews and Martina McBride’s ‘Blessed’.

James told CMT: “Sometimes we rehash and put twists on ideas. But there have been a lot of songs written in the world, so it’s tough to find the one that no one’s thought of yet. When you can write something truly original, the world takes notice.”

To achieve major success, songs need to be about issues and emotions that everyone is familiar with—and the lyrics should be honest, believable and heartfelt so that people can easily relate to them. If your lyrics don’t come across as genuine and relevant, listeners may find it hard to connect with your song.

Do you ever try to find inspiration, as Brett James suggests, by taking yourself back to when you were first starting out and every new chord, every new chord progression, every new song title, and every new way of rhyming a lyric was a wondrous discovery?

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

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While Taylor Swift recently commented that she thinks songs about people who are heartbroken tend to make the best and most interesting songs, Katy Perry insists that songwriters should always try to include a sense of humour in their songs – no matter what the song is about.

“I think people appreciate a songwriter who shows different sides,” says Katy. “The whole angst thing is cool, but if that’s all you’ve got, it’s just boring. Everything I write, whether it’s happy or sad, has a sense of humour to it.”

Katy once again demonstrates her quirky sense of fun on her new single ‘Roar’ which is released on September 8. It’s the first single from her new studio album PRISM which will be released on October 22.

Written with Bonnie McKee and produced by Max Martin and Lukasz Gottwald (aka Dr. Luke), ‘Roar’ still manages to balance the uplifting feel of the track with a serious message. ”It’s a bit of a self-empowering type of song,” Katy explains. “I wrote it because I was sick of keeping all these feelings inside and I’m now speaking up for myself.”

Even the lyric video for ‘Roar’ adds to the fun by cleverly replacing many of the words with emoticons. Take a look …

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

 Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).



To be successful, a song must be able to reach out and touch the listener and make him or her feel something. This means the song ideally needs to be about something that everyone is familiar with. It also means the lyrics should be honest, believable and heartfelt so that people can easily relate to them.

Taylor Swift says heartbreak is her favourite emotion when she is writing songs. She believes songs about people who are heartbroken tend to make the best and most interesting songs because most people can relate to how it feels.

“I think when you’re heartbroken you need music more than when you’re not,” she says. “There’s something so beautiful about people who are heartbroken. They think about things much more.”

She adds: “When you’re in love and you’re happy you don’t need to think; it’s just there. Love is one of those things that’s so simple, you only need to think about it when it’s bad. When you write a song about what you’re thinking… there’s such a gratification and it helps you move on.”

Taylor Swift is renowned for writing hit songs about her own relationships. For example, she has admitted that ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ was about the break-up of her relationship with One Direction’s Harry Styles. And tracks such as ‘Dear John’ and ‘All Too Well’ were reportedly written about her former flames John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal.

She says that when she eventually runs out of stories about her own life, she’ll start writing heartbreak lyrics from other people’s point of view.

Adele is another leading singer-songwriter who shares Taylor Swift’s view about the power of heartbreak songs. “Heartbreak can definitely give you a deeper sensibility for writing songs,” says Adele. “I drew on a lot of heartbreak when I was writing my first album, I didn’t mean to but I just did.”

Richard Marx – whose hits include ‘Right Here Waiting’, ‘Now and Forever’, ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’ and ‘Hold On to the Nights – also believes sad songs can make the best songs. “I just don’t find that there’s much poetry in a successful relationship,” he says. “The poetry comes from unrequited love and heartbreak and longing … I just find that even as a listener I don’t want to hear happy love songs, let alone write them.”

And the legendary Burt Bacharach also admits that he is drawn to heartbreak songs. “I’ve never been a terribly sad or depressed person,” he once remarked. “But when I write, I just happen to go toward that sort of thing … Maybe that’s because ‘she loves you’ or ‘I’m so happy’ don’t make for such good songs.”

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.A 5-star rated book at Amazon, How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has teamed up with Martin Guitar to produce a Signature Edition six string guitar. It is based on Martin’s classic 23 inch ‘Little Martin’ LX1E model which is said to have been Sheeran’s guitar of choice since his early teens.

Over the past two years, Sheeran and his own well-used LX1E have graced prestigious stages worldwide – from the London Summer Olympics opening ceremony in 2012, to the 2013 Grammy Awards where he teamed up with Sir Elton John.

The new Signature model carries the orange plus sign from the cover of Sheeran’s 2011 debut album (which was titled ‘+‘), along with the words “Est. 1991” which is the year in which Sheeran was born. He will be playing the new guitar during the rest of his current tour with Taylor Swift.

Proceeds will go towards a Children’s Hospice charity in England.

“It was a huge privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with Martin Guitar,” said Ed Sheeran. “I have been a fan of Martin since I started playing guitar and songwriting, and I am honored to have a Signature Edition that bears my own personal imprint.”

He added: “All of the royalties from every purchase from my Signature Edition will go to the East Anglia Children’s Hospices. I can’t wait to get on stage and perform with it for my fans.”

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is now available from Amazon’s Kindle Store for only US$7.22 or GB£4.78.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).

Also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music).


Listening to the same things over and over again can kill your creative process, warns Taylor Swift.

“I think you need to change up your influences,” she recently told USA Today. “I think you need to be inspired by different things than you were inspired by before.”

Swift, who is about to start working on new songs for her next album, revealed that she often scraps new ideas if they sound too familiar to her. “I may like it, but if it’s going to sound like the last record it is going to get thrown away,” she said.

She also confessed that her songwriting is often spurred by anxiety. “When the anxiety starts, the writing happens right after, usually,” she said.

Many leading songwriters agree that is important to seek inspiration by listening to plenty of new things – even genres that you haven’t considered before. It can help you to start thinking differently about your own songs.

For example, Taylor’s good friend Ed Sheeran recently revealed that his follow-up to his 2011 debut album is likely to include a broad mix of influences. In an interview with MTV News, he even hinted that it could feature some hip-hop and rap-metal songs. He recently recorded a track with rapper and hip-hop star The Game.

“I’m actually writing very specific songs to genres at the moment,” he said. “I’ve got a whole album of one genre and enough to make another of another genre.”

US singer-songwriter Ben Harper also feels it is important to listen to other kinds of music. “That’s how new ideas come,” he said, “and how musical inspiration is passed on—through other music and other brilliant artists. Listen to whatever pulls you in different musical directions so that you don’t start copying yourself.”

Critically-acclaimed British songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson once told Innerviews magazine: “Someone very wise said ‘Copy everyone except yourself’. Looking at other people’s ideas and twisting them to fit your own style is a good thing.”

He added: “It’s important to keep searching and not go for the obvious idea.”

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK) or HERE (Australia).


Taylor SwiftA new US TV commercial for Diet Coke shows Taylor Swift writing her latest single ‘22’ – supposedly being inspired by the can of Diet Coke that the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is seen enjoying throughout the ad.

Filmed in Nashville, the TV ad – titled ‘Music That Moves’ – also features performances by Taylor’s fans singing and dancing along with the new song.

“Taylor is a true artist, deeply involved in the full creative process, from writing to production to release,” says Stuart Kronauge, general manager, Sparkling Beverages, Coca-Cola North America.

“The ‘Music That Moves’ ad shows Taylor in her natural element – penning lyrics that one day will speak volumes to millions of fans the world over … all while sipping on a Diet Coke. The commercial serves as a peek behind the curtain at an extraordinary day in the life of a true American superstar.

“Whether you’re writing a hit song like Taylor, or simply singing along, Diet Coke helps you Stay Extraordinary.”

You can judge for yourself HERE…

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How (Not) To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is now available from Amazon’s Kindle Store for only US$7.22 or GB£4.78.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).

Also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music).


Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift advises new songwriters to use their past relationships to inspire great song ideas.

The six times Grammy award winner always tries to draw on emotions she has actually experienced, she says, because she believes people can relate to songs more if they are based on real personal experiences.

But it seems 23-year-old Taylor’s ‘true life’ approach to songwriting is making life hell for One Direction’s Harry Styles, her former boyfriend.

Harry is said to be worried about what her next songwriting move is going to be. She has already written the hit song ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ about the break-up of their relationship, and she has reportedly aimed another jab at Harry in the promotional video for her new song ‘22’. The poor guy apparently doesn’t know what to expect next!

The 19-year-old One Direction star is reported to have told friends that he now regrets dating her because she keeps mocking him in her music. For Taylor, though, it’s all good material for her songs.

Different kinds of experiences inspire different kinds of songs, she says. “That’s why emotions are so beautiful to write about because they all sound so different to me.”

Taylor explains that real feelings can result in several types of songs – from ‘missing-him’ songs and ‘frustrated-and-confused, don’t-know-why-it-ended’ songs … to ‘I know we can’t be together but I miss you right now’ songs.

She says personal experiences can also inspire sad songs ‘tinged with anger’, guilt-laded songs, and sad songs that contain ‘a little bit of hope that he’ll come back’.

“I think songwriting is the ultimate form of being able to make anything that happens in your life productive,” Taylor insists. “If you get out of a bad relationship that was a complete waste of time, you can write about it and it can become a benefit to your career. How sweet is that?”

You can watch Taylor’s video for ‘22’ HERE…

The video for ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ can be seen HERE…

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).