How do you know when you’ve finished a song?

Often we write great songs under pressure. Like when there’s a gig coming up and you’ve got an idea you love so you press on as the deadline for the gig means you’ve got to have it ready.

In reality the song is then usually 80 – 90% finished. But it’s not quite there.

I remember in 1989 our manager persuaded Madonna’s manager, Seymour Stein to come and hear us play. I’d written a new song and he thought it was a hit. The manager that is, not Mr Stein.

But it wasn’t really ready. Bad move. Not that we would ever have gone down that well with him… turned out that our manager had to meet him off the plane with a bag of cocaine… (one way of getting past customs)

Heady days – but now I think there is an answer to this. I was reminded of it when my son was watching the video and lyrics for George Ezra’s ‘Shotgun’ which are just doggerel IMHO.

If you want to sing a song that’s finished this is the test.

Every new line that comes up feels satisfying. It feels like it’s you that is really talking, you’re anticipating enjoying the next line and you’re proud of what you’re saying in its own right. The poetry fits the mood and tone of the song and is consistent with the other sentiments. It’s never too abstract or just thrown in to fit the rhyming scheme, but it’s part of the whole piece and develops the big idea of the song. Then you’re pleased to sing it from start to finish with conviction in your own style, from the gut. You don’t dread that line you’re going to mumble through.

And it doesn’t matter to you that much whether guys with the cocaine like it – because first and foremost it’s what you wanted to say.

Does that ring true for you? If it does, you might just be familiar with the experience of taking half an hour to write 90% of a song and 3 months for the other 10%.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *