Why don’t I write traditional love songs? Well to answer that question we have to address that in fact, I do write them. “Traditional love songs” can mean a lot of things to different people. Some say that a “traditional love song” is a doting melodic piece in a crooner style. Others say it’s any proclamation of love within a song. When I talk about “traditional love songs”, I mean songs that include unconditional love, occasional escalation of events (meeting, dating, married) and happy endings.
So when I write “non-traditional love songs”, it means I write them with an unconventional subject or I play around with expectations. However, I’m not immune to writing happy, book-ended lyrics, just look at my first release; ‘The Englishman and the American’. It has a narrative that follows all the norms you would expect, and that’s fine! In no way are writers who write those type of lyrics bad, for that specific song I felt it was the perfect path to go down. We have always listened to love songs that are cheerful and uplifting and that you can’t get enough of because it makes you feel positive.
The reason I don’t normally write songs like this is because, as a songwriter, I get bored. They paint a picture of something that is rare to find; a perfect reality. In my opinion it is much more interesting for songs to reflect life, songs like Glen Hansard’s Falling Slowly or Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. Both have an added depth and sadness that makes you fall even more in love with them. I find magic in the melancholy. There is something about a sadness in what should be a happy song, and that juxtaposition, that creates something brilliant. On top of that, in today’s world it is unusual to find a conventional relationship that works and we should reflect that.
Getting to how I write love songs. My process is down to avoiding/experimenting with typical lyric paths for a love song, or inserting a twist. Take my song ‘Never Knew’. This song is about a young man who falls in love for the first time, not knowing he could, indicated by the lines “I never knew, I could fall as hard as I did for you”. I go on to suggest that this relationship with the girl worked out, implied by the line “only feels like yesterday” suggesting the couple then went on to live a happy life. It is not until the bridge “catch in the night, I wake up cold and numb still wondering why” that you realise the young man is still alone, looking back. Maybe never even have spoken to the girl. See my thinking? It sets it up to be a traditional love song but has a twist that makes it more intriguing.
In comparison, my song ‘My Love, My Love’ is in many ways “traditional” but it has a much slower escalation of events and leaves you unknowing whether it reached that happy ending. I start off with two people exchanging glances; that firework moment: “Don’t look at me that way”. I then continue to build over the night until the narrator internally states “So let me take you into my arms”. Line after line the pair get closer and closer right down to the second they are about to kiss and you are left “waiting on the one” but you never actually reach it, going back into the narrators internal refrain. It has signatures of a traditional love song, confessing ones love (even internally) and an escalation but it plays around with the ideas in a way the listener might not expect. To me this makes the song more interesting.
Doing something unexpected lyrically instantly sets a song apart and gives it flavour. Songwriters have been doing it for years, Both Sides Now being a light song that quickly turns sour. You may notice that my lyrics are also conceivable. Moments like these could happen, in the same way songwriters use personal experience to write love songs, these lyrics reflect life. Not only does it make them more relatable but it makes them more compelling. It’s like telling a story. We will always be more interested in real life stories and sharing experiences, it’s the human condition. I hope this has given you a bit more insight into my writing process with what you already know about how I design songs to play over movie scenes. Yes, I know that seems to negate the part about reflecting life, but in this instance you can definitely have it both ways. You may or may not agree but this is why I tend not to write love songs that conform with the expected lyrical structure. If you found this blog interesting let me know, I’m always happy to hear feedback.