Songwriting is a beautiful form of expression and storytelling. It is a way to channel powerful emotions from the storyteller to the listener in a unique format. In a way, music is like magic. It communicates across barriers and it instills deep and real emotion. For that connection to happen, an artist goes through the creative challenge of writing not just a hit, but also something that the listener can relate to.
While there are songs out there that sometimes have no real meaning behind them, most artists write from experience. For example, Jason Wade from longtime alternative rock band, Lifehouse, once mentioned the song “Broken” off their 2007 album, Who We Are, is a song about a friend of his who needed a kidney transplant. However, Wade has tried very hard to make sure his music is open to interpretation for other listeners because Lifehouse’s music always means something different to each person.
“I feel like that song has gotten people through a lot of hard times,” he said. “I try not to make my songs about anything too specific, even though that song (Broken) was a little more specific. The lyrics are something you can take and interpret them with whatever emotion is going on in your own life.”
Wade also said the same thing about Lifehouse’s track “Everything” which was on their 2000 album No Name Face. This song is one of their most well known and is considered one of Wade’s most important songs personally. However, the most amazing thing about this track is how it resonates with everyone on different levels.
Wade said, “A lot of fans come up to us that really relate to the song ‘Everything’, which is a very interpretive lyric – people that are striving for the best versions of themselves, people that are striving for a great relationship. And we have people that have gone to war, soldiers and troops who are overseas, that are listening to the lyrics and interpreting them and it’s helping them in their lives. They’re coming to us and they’re sharing their experiences.”
Some artists have the gift of reaching an audience through movie soundtracks. Alternative rock band, The Goo Goo Dolls was brought in to write a song for the film City of Angels starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. For lead singer, Johnny Rzeznik, a very talented and poetic songwriter, it was a challenge to take his band in a new direction as far as style. The film was about an angel sent to transition humans into the afterlife, but he falls in love with a human and has to choose between eternal life and being human. There is a wonderful perspective from the outside looking in when the song isn’t personally related to the artist writing it. Songwriting from the outside presents a great challenge, enormous growth for the storyteller, and a fresh outlook from someone who sees things through music. Rzeznik is a legendary storyteller with hits like “Slide”, “Broadway”, and “Black Balloon”. For Rzeznik, “Iris” was about a man willing to risk everything he had for the woman he loved. “This guy is completely willing to give up his immortality to be able to feel something very human,” Rzeznik said.
When an artist taps into inspiration from an outside source, their songwriting process grows and changes. There is nothing wrong as an artist with writing from experience because some of the most powerful songs come from the heart and real life. However, writer’s block is every songwriter’s worst enemy and forcing quality lyrics and melodies turns into an endless battle. To combat that block, artists can take a step back and come back to it tomorrow. Heffron Drive’s Kendall Schmidt answered a fan question on Twitter when they asked if him and his bandmate, Dustin Belts ever had any issues songwriting. Kendall said, “We always do, but we work out whatever sounds best. If we have writer’s block, we call it a day and come back the next day. That, or we start a new idea!”