Worship and Song Part 2: Bring It Home?

I’m certainly no authority on songwritting. However, I’ve written a hand full of songs and people seem to ask me often about songwriting.

The greatest songwriting lesson I’ve ever heard came from the movie Walk The Line. Listen to the sound clip called “bring it home” on moviesoundscentral.com (scroll down to: “bring it home” it’s 4th from the top) or just read this excerpt from the script:  


[after record producer Sam Phillips stops Cash’s band a couple of verses into their audition]


Sam Phillips: We’ve already heard that song a hundred times. Just like that. Just… like… how… you… sing it.


Johnny Cash: Well you didn’t let us bring it home.


Sam Phillips: Bring… bring it home? Alright, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You’re telling me that’s the song you sing. That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio, all day. About your peace within, and how it’s real, and how you’re gonna shout it? Or… would you sing something different. Something real. Something you felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothin to do with believin’ in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin’ in yourself.

– Walk The Line, 2005, 20th Century Fox

 

Something worth singing about originates from your “gut”. That means it’s not something you know as much as it’s something you feel. Furthermore, it’s something you feel strongly about. It’s not always correct or even accurate, but it is how you feel at the time.

In my opinion, it seems like too many songs I hear sound more like they’ve been written from a place of obligation or pressure as opposed to any sense of real urgency. (Pressure meaning to appease a specific audience, culture, or a time crunch.) Often the result if this kind of writing is that the words might be “true”, but they just don’t sound like “the truth”.

Quick note:  Have you ever wondered why bands often put out an incredible first album, then release very average second and third projects? It’s probably due to a major label production schedule. They spent 3 years writing the first album (before they got signed) and about 6 months writing the second and third.  

All this to say the writers who really touch me are the ones who are brave enough and honest enough to tap into that dangerous place in their hearts and sing about something they really feel. Not just something they think they’re supposed to feel.

So lets bring this home:

“If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song..that people would remember before you’re dirt….that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. You’re telling me that’s the song you sing…. Or would you sing something different. Something real. Something you felt. “

How do you really feel about life, yourself and the world around you? Do you really believe your words that your singing? Are these the words you would sing if nobody was around? What makes you cry? What makes you laugh? Do your own words and melodies move you or are you writing the things that you feel people like you ‘aught to write? Are you singing the words and phrases because they mean something to you or because you’ve heard them before?

Don’t give me the “side hug” folks. Write music from your gut, not out of obligation.  I want the grit. I want the hard truth. Otherwise your just buzzing like the fridge. We all hear ya, we just don’t notice anymore.

 

-JM

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15 comments
  1. benward said:

    That’s a great way to put it…it’s so easy to write what you think people will like instead of what you really feel. But that’s the only song that will be unique. It’s the song only YOU could write. Thanks for sharing — I think your songs do this.

  2. wow. that’s freaking awesome. i love the side hug comment…..that’s gonna stick with me. cheers to being brave.

  3. MMMM… the gut. That’s where the magic happens and that’s from where the song comes. Its the well from where all rivers flow.

  4. Good word. Thanks.There are songs I have sung (not performed necessarily, but some) that I didn’t write, but I felt deep in my gut and was able to sing as if I had written them because they spoke so deeply to me. But actually writing songs like that has been a much harder job for some reason. But thinking about it this way will help me dig deeper.Thanks again.

  5. Luiza said:

    I watched the movie and actually those words did not hit my heart as hard as they just did. Thanks I needed to hear and read those words today and apply them to my life in the future.

  6. yeah I think eddie vedder has a particular knack for writing things that resonate “the truth”… the weighty, gripping thing that it is.

  7. Sooo true. Yeah, love "Walk the Line", and it's message of finding that 'gut' music. I really like the comment about the fridge @ the end of the post, too.Hightower

  8. Eric said:

    And this is why more people should listen to Christian hip hop.

  9. samjt77 said:

    I know what my gut feeling is, but i just can't always get it onto paper… but thanks you're a real inspirationSam

  10. jpize said:

    Well said JM…I like the idea of 'What would you sing if you were alone…" As someone who's thrown away more songs than I've kept, I needed to be reminded that my voice is ultimately for me…and that 'me' is ultimately what God wants of me and why he felt it worth 'his time' to create me…

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