A song critique I worked on recently reminded me of an approach I take with my own songwriting…tying a song lyric together using what I call “threads”. If you’ll forgive ANOTHER metaphor, a song is really like a weaving in that all of the threads rely on each other and wind around each other to give an overall effect. A song lyric with these common threads has a greater impact on a listener because they give a context and complete a story, even if there is no “story” in the song!
This ties into the effective use of metaphors in a song…when you mix up your metaphors too much, you give too many pictures for a listener to hang onto. But if you make your song relate back to the same idea over and over, you enforce the theme and create a powerful effect.
Let me preface this by explaining….I’m using my own lyric, explaining how I thought to tie everything together…this does not mean I think I’m the greatest lyricist! What I’m attempting to do is bring you through the thought processes I had, as I remember them. Let’s take a look at the lyric:
CHANGE OF SEASON
I’m here again
Down by the rivers’ icey waters
And I hold my breath
Simply remembering this place
Those bare-boned trees
Revealing rows of empty bird nests
And that cold, hard rain
Trying to wash them all away
I’m down by edge of the riverbank
And I’m waiting, waiting
For a promise we made and a smile again
I am waiting, for a change of season
Well I see my name
Where you wrote it on the old post
And I hear your voice
Somewhere inside this bitter wind
And though I’ve kept to myself
Let winter come in stone grey silence
This chill will pass
Just as the world itself must spin (CHORUS)
Have I come this far
Only to find our cause abandoned
Just like those nests
Watching the rain erase my name
Or will you rise to a brand new beginning
And let winter go
Giving a chance to life again (CHORUS)
This is what I would consider a very typical theme. The idea of seasons relating to the ups and downs of relationships is a common one…nothing new there. So what was I thinking of when I wrote this? This comes from a real life experience, a real relationship and a real place. I remembered the images that came to me when I was at this river once in the winter. I live on the west coast (or “wetcoast”, as we like to refer to it!) in what used to be a rain forest. In the winter, rather than it being cold, dry and white, we are cool, wet and grey! The images are of loneliness (bare-boned trees, empty bird nests), and the relationship having chilled (that cold, hard rain trying to wash them all [the nests] away) just as the singer is feeling abandoned by the other person. The chorus, again, reinforces the past experience at the river, and the suspended state of the relationship (waiting for a change of season).
The second verse introduces the “you”…the other person. I could have done this in the first verse, but instead chose to have that be about the memory. In the second verse, the memory is reinforced with the line “I see my name where you wrote it on the old post”…implying something having happened there, and “I hear your voice somewhere inside this bitter wind”…again some kind of presence of a past relationship in this place. The lines “Though I’ve kept to myself, let winter come in stone grey silence” reflects the singer accepting the dark season of the relationship, allowing it to happen, maybe knowing it was inevitable. But the next two lines imply hope…”this chill will pass, just as the world itself must spin”…where the singer equates the certainty of the earth’s turn with the certainty of the relationship reviving.
In the third and final verse, the singer is more or less leaving it up to the other person. “Have I come this far only to find our cause abandoned, just like those nests, watching the rain erase my name?” Is it going to stay this way, is the singer going to “disappear” from the other person’s life? “Or will you rise to a brand new beginning, and let winter go, giving a chance to life again?” Spring!! New life…a fresh start.
Each of the verses is meant to tie into the theme of the winter of a relationship, its past, and what’s going to happen next. What I try to be careful not to do is repeat my ideas too much…this is not as easy to do with a song that is not really a “story”, but just a description of a state of being or an emotion. In a story, you have a beginning, middle and end. I made the coming back to the river the “beginning”, the discovery of the written name and the sound of a past voice the “middle”, and the hope for the future, or spring, the “end”. The “threads” are all to do with nature and the nature of a relationship.
Believe it or not, I was tweaking this song as I was writing this article! Hey thanks! You helped me make my song better 🙂