I started writing this blog because I want to get good at song writing. Part of that process is understanding how other people go about writing songs. The problem is that most people who have got good at writing songs, particularly those who make a living doing so, don’t talk about it. I also suspect that those who do, don’t want to give all the dark details about how the song evolved, just a glossy version.

I decided I would write a “warts and all” description of how I write songs in the hope that it will help others who, like me, are still learning. Here is a description of how I wrote “Best Year yet”.

I was listening to a news program and the politicians were talking about the “Great Austerity” in the UK. The phrase had echoes of “The Great Depression” in the 1920s and I wanted to write a song about it. I collected together Ideas and wrote a song focused on how bad things are at the moment. It had the following chorus and was generally rather downbeat.

G
It’s called austerity
A
the great austerity
D
put your life on hold
C
The future was sold
Am               D
The bright tomorrow’s been delayed.

I liked parts of the song but the whole thing was just all doom and gloom so I filed it away.

Sometime later I read Carole King’s Autobiography and one of the reasons she wrote so much is that she was always trying to write a follow up hit when she was working in the Brill building. It was a good way to get very focused.

It gave me an idea for an exercise. I have no idea what has been a hit over the past year as I generally take little interest in the charts but I thought it would be interesting to choose a number one single from the last year and try to write a follow up hit. I listened to a few and in the process I realised that a lot of the choruses used a lot of repetition and a single memorable phrase. There is a good book called “Best Year Yet” around the idea of New Years Resolutions so I chose that and wrote the following chorus.

A                     D
Gona be the best year yet
E
best year yet
D
best year
A                     D
Gona be the best year yet
E
best year yet
A
Gona be the best

I then added it to the verses of “Great Austerity” and thought it balanced the downbeat words with a more positive feel. This is a live demo that I did of it.

I tried it out a few times and thought the song worked well but I had some feedback on the recording from a guy that I respect a lot. He was a little harsh but I think he was right. He said that the recording needed a lot of work and that the chorus repeated a bit too much. So I simplified the chorus and rerecorded with a bass part and two guitars.

G                     C
Gona be the best year yet
D
best year yet
G
Gona be the best

This is the final version.

I’ll be interested in any feedback and would love to hear how your songs developed. That is one of the main reasons I am writing this.

It starts at 3.45 in the video.