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lyrics

Last time I wrote a little bit about how overused or common phrases tend to lose power or potency. To this discussion I would like to add that any moron can tell you what’s wrong with something, but few can tell you how to make it better, and even fewer have the commitment to actually do it. Let me just say I don’t want to be that moron. Writing a song is hard. The easy part of this process is recognizing “dead” wording. The difficult part is finding new ways to say things that don’t just make sense but actually impact the listener.

I recently had a five-minute conversation about songwriting with one of my songwriting heroes, Kevin Prosch. (Kevin may be the greatest unsung hero of the worship movement. In my opinion he could be the most influential worship leader of the last 20 years. Pick any successful modern worship band and, 9 times out of 10, I can trace what they do back to Kevin. )

Kevin told me that whenever he sees a sentence, or any group of words weather it be on a sign, in a book, or on a magazine cover he’ll reorder them in as many ways possible to see how many new lines he can make with the same words.

This is a great exercise as a songwriter and is a good way to experiment with new ways to say things in a lyric or song. If your lyrics are boring, flip them around a little. See how many things you can say with some of the same words.

Want to see how a master does it? Watch Bob Dylan in this video.


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A note about lyric:

Words lose potency with overuse.

My rule of thumb is if you’ve heard a term or phrase before, then don’t use it. Never use clichés, “dead” words, or tired metaphors.

A line doesn’t have to be especially clever or extreme to deliver an impact. It just has to be “heard”.

Here is a line from the chorus of my song “Skeleton Bones”:

“Oh let us adore the son of glory dressed in love”

There is nothing innovative or revolutionary about this line whatsoever. The idea isn’t new. I didn’t use any big words, and it isn’t difficult to understand. But as far as I can tell, it’s not been said before exactly like this.

I don’t think the specific term “Son of Glory” is used in the Bible at all and that’s exactly why I used it/possibly invented it. At the same time it isn’t at all unbiblical either. Christ in you is the “hope of Glory” and Jesus is known as the “son of man”, “the son of God” , the “son of David “ etc… so Jesus could easily and biblically be described as “the Son of Glory”.

I know this particular line obviously won’t “make” or “break” a song, but if you apply the idea to a whole song, then you could end up with something that sounds more original and authentic.

Just think of how boring it would have been if I had written:

“Come praise God, He’s so Holy, His name is lifted up”

The line is true. Just nobody will ever know how true it is because they won’t ever hear it. It will slip right by them. It will be true and silent.

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

Skeleton Bones is a frequently requested song from my new album The Medicine. So finally I got around to posting a chart (or something like it). I will have a more legit looking chart in the near future. 
I use a capo on the second fret and I play mostly “G” and “C” shaped chords on the 12th fret to make the song in “E”. The rhythm comes form the way I hammer on my index finger on the top chords from an open string. This gives it the twang. The C#m can be a little tricky for this technique but if I can do it anyone can. 
I’ve also posted a couple of examples of chords so you can see the voicing. I don’t put the voicing on the chart because I usually don’t want the whole band playing the extra notes my guitar makes or it comes across a little Jazzy sounding. So I just didn’t the voicing in. However if you play “G” and “C” shaped chord on the 12th fret but leave the other strings open you will attain the desired effect. For the other chords like the “A” and “B” on the chorus I have posted some diagrams for you to see how I play them as they are not common but not difficult to play.
Also since I’ve noticed people singing and posting the wrong words. I’ve included the real lyrics to the song for your pleasure.
Skeleton Bones

Peel back our ribs again
And stand inside of our chest
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah

Peel back the veil a time
Let us see you with our naked eyes
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah

Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
Grave stones roll
to the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
Yeah so separate those doors
Let the sun of resurrection in

Oh let us
Adore the son of glory
Dressed in love
Open up your gates
Before him
Crown him
Stand him up

We want your blood to flow inside our body and
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah
We want your blood to flow inside our body and
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah

Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
Grave stones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
yeah so separate those doors
And let the sun of resurrection in

Oh let us
Adore the son of glory
Dressed in love
Open up your gates
Before him
Crown him
Stand him up

Everything that breaths
Everything that breaths
Everything that breaths






Here are the lyrics to my new album as I’ve realized people are singing and posting the wrong lyrics. There may be a spelling error here or there but for the most part this is the way it ought to be.

Enjoy.

1. Reckoning Day

The Lions in the street bend their heads
For the reckoning day
Cause the interstate’s giving up her dead
For the reckoning day

Would you come alive everybody
Would you come alive everyone
Get up out of bed for the sound of the song unsung

Bury all your guns in the sand
Cause the temperature’s changed
and the blood shot eye of the sun
stains the bones of the slain

Would you come alive everybody
Would you come alive everyone
Get up out of bed for the sound of the song unsung

The hour’s gonna take you apart
On the reckoning day
If the property lines of your heart
Are drawn in the clay

Would you come alive everybody
Would you come alive everyone
Get up out of bed for the sound of the song unsung

The tide water’s taxing the shores
of the washing away
The flood stands high at your doors
of the houses you made

Would you come alive everybody
Would you come alive everyone
Get up out of bed for the sound of the song unsung

Lift up your head
Oh you gate
Lift up your eyes
All you who wait
Daughter and son
Ashes and dust
Come untied from the weight of the age

2.The Medicine

Driving by those trucker stops
The cheap motels made of concrete rocks
With a hole inside your chest
The size of a city block
And I remember the day
When you said you weren’t afraid to die
I don’t think your brave for it
I just think your more afraid of being alive

If I had the medicine
I’d give you the medicine
Cause I miss you son
I’d bring you back home if I was the one
But it’s four and ten
In the belly of the four AM
And your staring down the weekend
To silence the pain
And I’m wide awake
And there’s blood on the promenade

Here’s to waking up with that stone between your ribs
And you’re lying down again
You just pretend you don’t know what it is
When everyone around you says that you’re not the one to blame for it
But you’re the only one feeling the pain for it
So you’re gonna take matters into your own hands

If I had the medicine
I’d give you the medicine
Cause I miss you son
I’d bring you back home if I was the one
But it’s four and ten
In the belly of the four AM
And your staring down the weekend
To silence the pain
And I’m wide awake
And there’s blood on the promenade

3. Skeleton Bones

Peel back our ribs again
And stand inside of our chest
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah

Peel back the veil a time
Let us see you with our naked eyes
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah

Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
Grave stones roll
to the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
Yeah so separate those doors
Let the sun of resurrection in

Oh let us
Adore the son of glory
Dressed in love
Open up your gates
Before him
Crown him
Stand him up

We want your blood to flow inside our body and
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah
We want your blood to flow inside our body and
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just want to love you
We just want to love you yeah

Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
Grave stones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound
Of eternity on
The lips of the found
yeah so separate those doors
And let the sun of resurrection in

Oh let us
Adore the son of glory
Dressed in love
Open up your gates
Before him
Crown him
Stand him up

Everything that breaths
Everything that breaths
Everything that breaths

4. Carbon Ribs

A Thousand pairs of firey eyes
Burn like a serpent down the hwy 5
As the Long amber tail to Los Angeles unwinds
I’ve got resurrection down in side my skin
But for all my revealating
I just cant make sense
Of this gravity we’re in

Cause I’m a dead man now
With a ghost who lives
Within the confines of
These carbon ribs
And one day when I’m free
I will sit
The cripple at your table
The cripple by your side

A thousand miles of pain I’m sure
Led you to the threshold
Of my hearts screen door
To tell me what it is I’m dying for
Gravity comes
Like a cold cold Rain
To lead me to the rope again
But someone is standing in my place

Cause I’m a dead man now
With a ghost who lives
Within the confines of
These carbon ribs
And one day when I’m free
I will sit
The cripple at your table
The cripple by your side
The cripple at your table
The cripple by your side

And I sit beside you
And I sit beside you
And I sit beside you
And I sit beside you

5. Dress Us Up

Dress us up in your righteousness
Bring us in with a ring and a kiss
When you walk into the room you know we can’t resist
Every bottle of perfume always ends up on the floor in a mess

You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we’ll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They’re coming out of their grave
And it’s just for you

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death

Dress us up in the blood of a son
Who opened up his veins so that we would overcome
Hell and the grave in the power of his love
After three dark days he showed us how it’s done
And he still does

You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we’ll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky
Yeah

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They’re coming out of their grave
And it’s just for you
Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death

His love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger
His love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger

6. Death in his grave

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls of men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke holding keys
To Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

7. Belly Of The Lion

Dance the dance
We call living and dying
In the valley of the city
in the belly of the lion
Work all week long
All week long
You can lose your soul
In the concrete riverbeds
Rolling with the flow
Of the currents of the walking deads
Five comes and you’re a rolling stone

Days like these
We’ve got nothing to sing about
Days like these
I don’t know what I think about
Day like these
Who would’ve known
Days like these
I’ve got nothing to sing about
Days like these
I don’t know what I think about
Day like these
Who would’ve known

Listen to the rhythm
Of the pawn shop shore
Got you falling off your hinges
Like that old screen porch
It’s the interstate slipping in your pores again
You can ride the vein
From the corner store to Amsterdam
You can bleed the train
From the courthouse to the Vatican
But Friday she’s a ghost
And gonna slip right through your hands again

Days like these
I’ve got nothing to sing about
Days like these
I don’t know what I think about
Day like these
Who would’ve known
Days like these
I don’t know what I think about
Days like these
I’ve got nothing to sing about
Days like these
Who would’ve known

So dance the dance
We call living and dying
In the valley of the city
in the belly of the lion
We work all week long
All week long
You can lose your soul
In the concrete riverbeds
Rolling with the flow
Of the currents of the walking deads
Five comes and you’re a rolling stone

Days like these
I’ve got nothing to sing about
Days like these
I don’t know what I think about
Day like these
Who would’ve known
Days like these
I don’t know what I think about
Days like these
I’ve got nothing to sing about
Day like these
Who would’ve known

8. Philidelphia

You step through me
And the screen door hits the wood
And your packing all your things
You say your moving out to there to Hollywood
And I can’t do a thing
You say there’s nothing for you
In this cardboard town
And every bridge you cross
Your gonna burn it to the ground
You wont listen to a word that I’m telling ya

So who’s running through the halls
In the houses of pain
That are staring back at me
Like the ocean from a plane
I swear I’ve seen your eyes
in the ghost of Philadelphia

I think about you late at night sometimes
When I can’t sleep
Cause I can hear the train
It’s always there
You just don’t know it
Till a quarter to three
You just can’t hear it in the day
When every body’s got your number
In a plexy glass town
Where the birds ain’t got wings
But no one makes a sound
Cause they all know how to fly
Just I wouldn’t buy what they’re selling ya

So who’s running through the halls
In the houses of pain
That are staring back at me
Like the ocean from a plane
I swear I’ve seen your eyes
in the ghost of Philadelphia

I run into your old man every once and again
Mostly in the spring
Reminds me of our younger and more genuine days when
You weren’t so out of reach
Still for all your running
You just can’t change a mile
Of the things you carry around
In the closet of your mind
And the days keep coming man
They never fail ya

Your never gonna run away
From what your hanging round your head
Your never gonna run away
From what your hanging round your head
Your never gonna run away
From what your hanging round your head
Your never gonna run away
From what your hanging round your head
And I’m never gonna run away
From what you said

9. Out of the Ground
The lights come out
And follow you around the block
Where the freight train stopped
For you

Cause I can hear you walking in
The city till the pavement ends
With houses crumbling
For you

Cause I’m
Coming up from out of the ground
Coming up from out of the ground
Coming up from out of the ground
For you, for you, for you

Coming up from out of the ground
Coming up from out of the ground
Coming up from out of the ground
For you

We’ve run from it
But it sleeps like the current quits
And would’ve stained my lips
But not for you

We fall apart
at the seems
From day to dark
But its seeping into our sleep
For you

Cause I’m
Coming up from out of the ground
Coming up from out of the ground
Coming up from out of the ground
For you, for you, for you

One by one
Come undone
Come alive
Come alive

10. Ten Thousand

Ten thousand glimmering like coals in our chest
Ball bearings drawn to the magnetic breath
Of ten thousand weeping with wings on their tears
Amidst ten thousand voices for ten thousand years
For ten thousand graves yawning unlocked and unlatched
Now ten thousand holes with rocks on their backs
Ten thousand tombs gaping wide singing the praise
Of ten thousand bodies unlaced and unlaid

As the ten thousand highways unfold their doors
For the ten thousand standing on Nineveh’s shores
Where the blood of a husband silences wars
For the girl who rises to meet him
And she sings

World, I have overcome you
World, I have overcome you
World, I have overcome
By my song and the blood of a son

Ten thousand rivers
Run red like my veins
Where the bones of men hum
Like a rattling cage
For sinew to cling to
And wind to remain
In ten thousand lungs
For ten thousand days
Breathing like a choir
Of holes in the ground
Where the cynical have lain
Where the cynical go down
Save the gravity of time
Lets go of her drowned
Like ten thousand sparrows
Unlocked and unwound

As the ten thousand highways unfold their doors
For the ten thousand standing on Nineveh’s shores
Where the blood of a husband silences wars
For the girl who rises to meet him
And she sings

World, I have overcome you
World, I have overcome you
World, I have overcome
By my song and the blood of a son

This blog is for artists, musicians, and worship leaders who are interested in the “what, why, and how” of what we do. 

People often request charts and lyrics to reproduce our songs within their own communities. Here we’ll post charts, lyrics as well as little tips and tricks etc. to help you play the songs. However I will also be posting my opinions and theories on songwriting, music worship and art. 
Opinion # 1:
Whether your Bob Dylan or Lil Wayne, if your a songwriter your job is to help us SAY something. Songwriters help us say the things that we really want to say but may not be articulate enough to say or may be too polite to say. Often songwriters say things for us so that we don’t feel like we have to say them. However you want to look at it a worship leader is certainly no different. Actually the concept is actually quite a bit more obvious when it comes to church music.  So all this to say that my goal is to help people say the things they need to say. 
Bottom line: I love the idea that you want to use our music in your community. I see nothing wrong with it and completely encourage it. But if you really want to do what we do, then please also write music for your own community. Few things are more powerful than when a group of people feel like they own a song. This is when people are vocalizing things they really feel inside of themselves and not just uttering the tired religious cliches they feel obligated to repeat.
So please enjoy the charts  but don’t just cover our music. Find your own sound. It’s just as good as anything we do.
John Mark