Songwriting 101: Top 10 Tips from Country Songwriters


By Annie Reuter

Have you ever written a song? The task can seem daunting. This is especially true if you’re a beginner, but even seasoned professionals feel it, too. There is simply no shortcut to writing songs you are truly proud of, or crafting hits that get played on the radio.

However, there are some ways to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

“I always tell people to chase their passion,” Kip Moore tells Radio.com. But that ‘chase’ also comes with a warning. “My advice to songwriters is, unless you’re truly serious about it, and it’s all you can think about doing, it’s all that’s in your heart, leave it alone. Trying to do it for a career, it has to be all or nothing. It’s gotta drive everything in you.”

Related: Songwriter’s Revenge: Writing Heartbreak Into Country Songs Is Sweet Retribution

Whether you’re serious about making a career out of songwriting, or just dabbling in it occasionally—or, frankly, even if you’re a longtime veteran—there are always things to learn.

We spoke with more than 20 songwriters and artists, asking them for tips on everything related to writing songs, from how to jumpstart an idea to what goes into creating a memorable chorus. Read on to discover solid writing advice from some of country music’s biggest hitmakers, including Moore, Lady Antebellum, Big & Rich, Brett Eldredge, Kacey Musgraves, Jerrod Niemann, Charlie Worsham, Steve Wariner and Clint Black.

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1. There’s no set way to write a song

“There’s no right or wrong way to write a song,” Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley advises. “We’ve written many different ways. We usually start with the melody first and then it always evokes some kind of feeling, whether it’s a song or melody. It always finds its way. Some people come in with lyric ideas or a poem.”

Clint Black says many times his songs take their first shape as poetry and then he puts music to them.

“Sometimes I’ll have a musical idea that I have to come up with a lyric for,” he says. “The music beats the lyric to the finish line and the lyric becomes the Rubik’s Cube. I have to figure out how to make it all work, to say something in a unique way and make it rhyme.”

“My process is I write and try to write a great song,” Steve Wariner admits. “Write something unique or clever. I may have a guitar riff and something may fall out. Sometimes I start with no title or anything and I’ll keep building around a that. Try to discipline yourself to be able to do it in different ways always. I’ve also been in a restaurant where I’m trying to not eavesdrop but you hear a great phrase [at] the next table and you’re like, ‘That’s a great song title.'”

2. Be aware of your surroundings and stay tapped in

“Songs are everywhere,” Wariner confesses. But, he adds, as a writer you must always be paying attention so you’re ready for that inspiration to strike.

This is something both Caitlyn Smith (“Wasting All These Tears,” “You Can’t Make Old Friends”) and Charlie Worsham (“Could It Be,” “Want Me Too”) agree on.

“There is always a song in something, somewhere,” Smith adds. “You just have to open your eyes a little bit.”

Read the full list of Top 10 Songwriting Tips on Radio.com

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