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

Tag Archives: Taylor Swift

Macklemore and Ryan LewisWe all have the same 24 hours in a day as songwriters like Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (pictured), so how come they are able to turn out so many hit songs on a regular basis while other writers can’t?

One reason, it seems, is that some writers may have the talent to write hit songs, but they lack the determination, focus and self-discipline to make it happen.

John Legend, for example, believes success as a songwriter is as much about working hard as it is talent. “There’s this mistaken belief that everything is about talent,” he told Q magazine, “but talent has to be cultivated and developed. If it’s not nurtured, pushed and challenged it’s not going to happen.”

Diane Warren, one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, says she spent 20 years writing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day, before she felt she could finally take the occasional weekend off!

Experienced songwriters know how important it is to challenge yourself to write something every day—even when you don’t feel like it—otherwise potential hit songs will never get written.

Establishing a consistent writing habit—making it part of your daily routine—will boost your creativity and productivity, and lead to better songs.

As Burt Bacharach once remarked: “Music breeds its own inspiration. You can only do it by doing it. You may not feel like it, but you push yourself.”

Nick Cave agrees: “I go into my office every day and work—whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.”

PJ Harvey takes a similar view: “If you want to be good at anything, you have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. I work every day at trying to improve my writing, and I really enjoy it.”

Of course, no two creative people are the same in the way they find their inspiration. That’s why it is so important to identify the most creative time of day for you. Some people like to write something as soon as they wake up in the morning, when their mind is fresh and full of ideas. Some work better late at night.

The fascinating infographic below—created by Info We Trustshows the daily routines of some of history’s most creative individuals—including composers, painters, writers, scientists and philosophers. It is based on Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, in which he investigated the rigid daily rituals that legendary creative figures practised in order to carve out enough time, every day, to work their craft.

How does your daily writing routine compare with the creative masters below?

CREATIVE ROUTINES - INFOGRAPHIC

 Click the infographic for larger image

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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, and Barnes & Noble's Nook store 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) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

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


Taylor SwiftWith Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album expected to be released in October 2014, the seven-time Grammy winner has been dropping hints that her follow-up to multi-platinum Red will be very different from anything she has ever done before.

It is likely to push the boundaries of her sound by featuring greater cross-pollination between different music genres.

“It’s already evolved into a new sound, and that’s all I wanted,” the 24-year-old recently told Billboard magazine. “There’s a fusing of genres that makes me happy and excited.”

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), she also stressed how important it is for songwriters not to simply put out a retread of songs they’ve already done: “The goal is to continue to change, and never change in the same way twice,” she said. On her new album, this involved writing in ways that she had never attempted before and using a sonic backdrop that she had not previously explored.

She said: “I love [collaborating with] people who have endless strange and exciting ideas about where music can go—people like Max Martin and Johan Shellback who are likely to ask ‘What if we made it weirder? What if we took it darker?’.”

ED SHEERANMeanwhile, Taylor Swift’s good friend Ed Sheeran has also been exploring entirely new realms of sound for his next album, titled x, which will be released on June 23. “I’ve been writing very specific songs to different genres,” he explained.

Never a songwriter to stand still, Sheeran has recorded x at various locations around the world—adding new flavours to his music with the aid of producers such as Rick Rubin (Eminem, Jay-Z, Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Pharrell Williams (Daft Punk, Robin Thicke, N.E.R.D), Benny Blanco (Rhianna, Wiz Khalifa), and Jeff Bhasker (Alicia Keys, Jay-Z), as well as his key collaborators Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol and Jake Gosling (who produced Sheeran’s first album +).

The first single from Sheeran’s new album is ‘Sing’. It was produced by Pharrell Williams—another singer/songwriter/producer who believes in marrying different elements together to create something fresh. “That is where I find the magic,” said Pharrell, “in trying to just blend different worlds together and mix it up.”

Commenting on his work with Pharrell Williams, Sheeran told Music Week magazine: “Pharrell took me way outside of my comfort zone, which was very, very helpful. He forced me to try new things.”

Here’s the Official Video for ‘Sing’ (featuring Ed the Puppet) …

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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, and Barnes & Noble's Nook storeHow [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) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

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


U2 have won this year’s Golden Globe award for Best Original Song From a Motion Picture for their song ‘Ordinary Love’ from the Nelson Mandela biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

The U2 song beat Coldplay’s ‘Atlas’ from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, ‘Let It Go’ by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (from Disney’s Frozen), ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’ by Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake and Joel and Ethan Coen from Inside Llewyn Davis, and ‘Sweeter Than Fiction’ by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff from One Chance.

After receiving the award, U2’s Bono said: “This really is personal, very very personal. This man turned our life upside down, right side up. A man who refused to hate but he thought love would do a better job. We wrote a love song because it’s kind of what’s extraordinary about the film. It’s a dysfunctional love story.”

Meanwhile, Alex Ebert beat legendary film composers John Williams and Hans Zimmer to win the Golden Globe for Best Original Score for his work on the Robert Redford movie All is Lost.

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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) and HERE (UK).


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.

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


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.”

# # # #SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and across Europe. It is also available as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle store in the United States, the UK and Europe, as well as Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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

“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.

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

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.

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


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.

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