A note to my young songwriting friends

Do me a favor. Take that heart-felt emotional ballad you’ve just written, and place it in the hands of a trusted friend. Ask them to read the lyrics, and circle any metaphors they’ve heard before.

Then, cut them out. Do it now. Show no mercy. Think of a different way to say whatever it is you want to say. You’ll thank me 6 hours into the recording session.


The guy

beth orton
photo by Neil Wykes

16 thoughts on “A note to my young songwriting friends

  1. Morphea

    Michael, my heart bleeds. Please don’t walk away – don’t leave me standing in the pouring rain. I would walk through fire for you. I’ve never felt this way before – nobody knows me like you. Please promise me you and I will go the distance. Together, forever. Our friends say our love won’t last but they just don’t understand. You’re my soul mate; it’s forever love.


  2. michael lee Post author

    Cerise, our love has faded like the dust in the wind. I’m moving on, like a rolling stone, and a band of wild horses couldn’t keep me here.

    I’m sorry if these words cut like a knife, but if you stay strong through this cold winter, the dawn will come again.

  3. Morphea

    Fine. I’ll flip a quarter and take my chances with the strength I’ve found inside. No more lonely nights for me – I’m going to dance the pain away. I’ve got a full tank of gas (and some chips) and a prayer on my lips. I’ll find someone to watch over me.


  4. Sharolyn

    Let’s have a “love from above” contest. Give us the lyric.

    I thought of making up some bizarre, abstract (and hopefully funny) metaphor, but then I read that Mike uses the whole buffalo, and something about Aly’s chest being a C. I’m done.

  5. harmonicminer

    I have a song title for somebody:

    Because of Who We Shall Behold Being Lifted Up In Praise

    It is, of course, for a Victoria’s Secret Ad.

    Seriously, though…. I haven’t heard an original song in a LONG time.

    Don’t expect to next week, either. That’s why arrangers will always be able to find work, polishing… well, you know.

  6. Stick

    Who cares if it’s been done before!? All you have to do is put the overused metaphors in a different order, and you have the “new original hit song of the century”. This my friends is songwriting.

    I particularly like Mike’s mixed overused metaphor… “cold winter… dawn will come again”. Can I use that?

  7. michael lee Post author

    Thanks stick – I was particularly proud of that one.

    Although, I must concede to Cerise in the crappy metaphor contest. She’s clearly the queen, higher than us all, up with the sun, like the birds in the sky, so high.

  8. Chad Sylvester

    You guys left out:
    high horse
    buring like the sand in the desert
    tears like rain
    straight to the heart
    staring back at me
    … and on and on and on (oops there’s another one)
    oops, I did it again

  9. Morphea

    Other Chad, I did mention rain – but not tears like rain, you’re right. Ooh, ‘staring back at me’. That’s good one.


  10. june

    Ok, so what’s anyone’s truly favorite lyric?

    One of mine is by Bruce Cockburn:

    All the diamonds in this world
    That mean anything to me
    Are conjured up by wind and sunlight
    Sparkling on the sea

    I ran aground in a harbour town
    Lost the taste for being free
    Thank God He sent some gull-chased ship
    To carry me to sea

    Two thousand years and half a world away
    Dying trees still grow greener when you pray

    Silver scales flash bright and fade
    In reeds along the shore
    Like a pearl in sea of liquid jade
    His ship comes shining
    Like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
    His ship comes shining.

    When I first heard this song (circa 1990) I decided I’d never even try to be a song writer because, for me, this was the perfect song. Why bother? It was done…and I loved it.

  11. Stick

    So, I’m sitting here trying to wrtie a sappy love-ballad, and came to this thread for some inpiration. Good work, all.

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