Today Mitch and I begin work in the studio – Starting with rewriting the songs. This is the most painful part of the process for me. It begins with painfully honest critique and ends with changing songs I’ve lived with and grown to love just the way they are.
I sent a batch of songs over to a trusted A&R guy I’ve known for years. There’s no one better at dissecting songs and putting the right ones together on an album. He e-mailed me his detailed thoughts. Here are a few examples:
- “whores” on the second line! Got my attention.
- Melody is good in the pre chorus but lyrically needs rhyme and phrasing work.
- Good chorus. Melody is contagious and compelling. Congregational.
- “come and lift our lame” is a bit awkward. It’s hard with worship songs (if that’s what this is… never know anymore) to write that lyric that is familiar sounding, but also tweaks an idea just slightly so it’s not the same phrases they’re always singing. It feels to me that this line is a little too far outside of that slight sort of tweak.
- If you’re committed to using “whores”, for congregational purposes, I think I’d swap the last verse with the first one.
- The last three lines of the bridge seem superfluous.
- Last but not least, the theology of this may be confusing me a little. I’m assuming that we are singing this together somewhere, inviting God to meet us in that moment, but then we are saying if He does, then we’ll weep no more, we’ll limp no more, which obviously isn’t true. I appreciate that I could be taking it all too literally, but, that’s what people tend to do! If the idea is more of an eternal perspective, then the lyric seems a little cloudy in communicating that.
- “crickets sing secret” is a clumsy alliteration to me, especially to be right up in the front of the song.
- Nice chorus. Inside rhymes all over the place! Good crafting. That chord you’re hitting on “soul” at the end of the first line, isn’t quite speaking. You’re sort of playing a 1# diminished, but I think it’s just a 6 maj over a 1# (or whatever… that chord is just not quite fully formed yet, but I hear where it’s going and its cool).
- Love “moment” and “hold it”, and “dear now” and “here now”. Great crafting.
- Call me commercial boy, but I’d change the last line to repeat the hook again. So after “here now”, you’d sing “awake my soul” again, and land the melody on the tonic.
- When I look at assembling songs for a recording, I sort of have two filters. Either the song needs to be a potential hit, or a potential emotional moment. (or both is nice!, but rare). The writing of this song is good and I’d be tempted by that, but I think in the end, its not a hit, or enough of an emotional moment for the basic listener.
- Really like this. Love the hymn-like quality and structure. Love that the lyric is simple yet still challenging and thought-provoking. Hard to do.
- My biggest hitch with this is the “All’s grace” section. I don’t think I see the connection to the rest. On one level, “all’s grace” would connect with just about anything so it’s not like it’s completely disjointed, but I don’t see a strong connection between the two ideas. Important I suppose because musically, the “all’s grace” section is the high point of the song.
- So I think there are two different songs here. I’d push to re-write the chorus of this one and connect it harder to the rest of the lyric. If you didn’t however, I could sure live with it since it’s good as it is.
- I’m having some trouble connecting the dots. It may only be a POV issue.
- 1st vs. – you’re talking to someone who’s said a hurtful thing to someone (a female). And her heart, is “Where every crime comes fromWhere every stumble starts”. I don’t think I get that.
- 2nd verse – you’re telling this guy who has said these hurtful things to this girl to do it to you next, and that that act would be a secret sin. His secret sin? Yours? Hers?
- Love the chorus, but I think the last line (the hook) is weak, and it may be just the phrasing of it is sort of clumsy. Feels like you need a real strong payoff there, and it’s not delivering.
- Don’t know how it ties in to the first two verses, but I LOVE the third verse. Great. And it connects and supports the chorus idea so powerfully.
Before rewriting I’ve had to critique the critique. Line by line, I’ve gone through it and deleted the parts that simply don’t apply. Come By Here, for instance, wasn’t conceived as a congregational worship song and since I’m not selling this album in Christian bookstores I’m not concerned about it containing the word “whore.” The audience and the rules for independent music are a bit different than those of label-based Christian music.
Very little was deleted, however, and that leaves me a great deal to rewrite. And I can’t do it alone. I’ve lived with these songs for so long that I can’t imagine them differently – my perspective is set in stone. And that’s where Mitch comes in. As the producer part of his job is to imagine what I can’t – to suggest a bridge here, rewriting a line there, a change of chord. All in hopes of turning first drafts into the clearest and most beautiful final recordings.
So that’s where we are in the record making process. I’m locked in a room for the next six hours rewriting songs I like just fine. And tomorrow I’ll do it again. And, hopefully, I’ll emerge with songs other people like too.