Random Thoughts From A Songwriter: Just Another Song

Just another song

“You heard my record on the radio, well Dad, that’s just another song But I’ve got a hit recorded and it’ll be out on the market fore too long” – Tom T. Hall

These two lines from the Tom T. Hall song “Homecoming” are a good place to start this article I guess. Tom T. pretty well sums up the fact that when it comes to songs there are two kinds. a “Hit” or just another song. If you never learn to distinguish between the two when they are still in their most basic format (usually a simple demo) or you cannot find someone to help you find these hidden “Hits” then you face the risk of a career filled with songs that fall in the category of “Just another song” and that is a pretty dead end career.
What I consider a “Hit” song does not mean a # 1 in Billboard that makes a gazillion dollars. I consider a “Hit” as a song that separates the singer from all the other singers out there and a song that the fans identify with that one singer. “Amarillo By Morning” has probably been cut hundreds of times after George Strait recorded it but there is only one cut that matters to the public. That is what you as an artist have to find, a song that works for you. That song was NOT a “Hit” because George sang it “pretty” and it was not even a # 1. I think it just barely made the top 20 but try this sometimes. Ask the next 10 country music fans you meet to name their favorite 5 songs by George Strait and it will probably be included in all 10 fans favorite choices.
If it is important to you to write some of your songs then don’t waste your time re-writing bad versions of current hits. There’s some short cuts and little tricks you can use to write songs that you don’t have to introduce as (Here’s a song I wrote) every time you sing it just to make it stand out as special.
Use geography as your friend. Suppose you live in Johnson County, Alabama. Instead of just writing a song about some pretty girl why not say something like “She was the homecoming queen in Johnson County and she drove those Alabama boys half wild” Use real local names in all of your descriptions for Rivers, Mountains, Cafes. Dance Halls, Highways, etc! but remember to keep the characters ficticious so as not to get into any kind of trouble with anyone. I always use real last names of people from the area but if I call the the girl Susie Cochran then in reality all the Cochran family in that area is really boys or maybe the Cochran name is the local Sheriff’s name and he has no kids so little Susie Cochran can’t be traced back to anyone which is the truth since you just made her up. If you play your song around town very much pretty soon you will meet people who swear they went to school with Susie Cochran or that she married their cousin. Just keep quiet and let the legend grow as your career grows. Just for fun one time I made our local bootlegger’s name a preacher’s name in one of my songs.
There’s lots of other little songwriting tricks I will try to cover as time permits.

Copr. Lonnie C. Ratliff

Used with kind permission from Lonnie Ratliff  nashvilleshowcase@comcast.net

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