Wordsmithing ‘Whiskey Road’

Welcome back, this is the second blog where I describe writing the lyrics to a song called ‘Whiskey Road’.  The first part of the blog is here, if you haven’t read it.

Part 2 – the 2nd draft

Having a structure and some idea of the story in the first draft, my next pass is to try to tighten things up. At this point I am experimenting with different melodies, chord changes and rhythm. I try this in different time signatures, at several tempos, and with rhythms that are closer to spoken rhythms as well as some that are more syncopated. For this song I am not trying to write the melody and chords yet, but it helps me feel how well the words will sing and get a feel for the number of syllables I have to work with. Any given line can be sung with more or fewer syllables by changing the rhythm of the words.
That is the sort of thing I am brainstorming on now.

I also look at each line – the main change comes in the chorus, where I took two lines from the second chorus and added two new lines, throwing away the first draft. This puts the moral of the story firmly in the chorus. I also dropped the bridge, as it wasn’t really adding anything to the story. I will need to put something else in to add contrast in the song, but I feel like this draft improved the quality of the lines while simplifying the song at the same time. There are two lines I feel are placeholder – ‘It’s time I see, I’m in too deep’, but I decide to leave those until the final draft, which I will do with Mark.

Here is the 2nd draft.  At this point, I felt pretty good about the lyrics:

I’ve been living in hell for a year or so
Ever since I watched my baby go
But I found a new home
On Whiskey Road

Now I don’t feel no pain, I don’t feel a thing
And when I get to remembering
I can always go
To Whiskey Road

It’s my own damned fault, that’s for sure
My heart would mend if I let her go
But I’m hanging on, even though I know
I’ll probably die on Whiskey Road

You know they write the blues for fools like me
Who turn their love into misery
And won’t let go
Of this lonesome road

I don’t remember what I did today
I smell like something I don’t want to say
It’s time I see
I’m in too deep

[chorus]

Why am I’m still walkin’
I’m not even tryin’
I guess I gave up fightin’
Whiskey Road

Why am I still walking Whiskey Road

Final Draft

The final step for this song was to take it to Mark Riddick, who is my songwriting coach and co-writer.  I find collaboration invaluable.  It gives me feedback on which ideas are working and which aren’t, and when we get creative together I get to see and hear other ways to approach the subject matter.  It is also just fun.

Mark is always positive when I first play him something, but we quickly get down to business.  I won’t get into his techniques here, but I would recommend that every aspiring songwriter find a good coach or co-writer.  Having other people’s input is invaluable.

The hardest change at this point was dropping the line ‘I smell like something I don’t want to say’.  I thought it was a funny line, but it was out of character with the rest of the song. It is important that lines don’t stick out in ways that draw the wrong sort of attention to the lyrics.  You want to draw them in with each line, and not jar the listener.

You can read the changes below.  These are the lyrics that we are taking into the recording session:

I’ve been living in hell for a year or so
Ever since I watched my baby go
But I found a new home
On Whiskey Road

Now I don’t feel no pain, I don’t feel a thing
And when I get to remembering
I can always go home
To Whiskey Road

It’s my own damned fault, that’s for sure
I drink to forget about her
But the alcohol ain’t strong enough to make her memory go
So one day soon I’ll drown on Whiskey road

You know they write the blues for fools like me
Who let their love turn to misery
And wander alone
Down this lonesome road

[Solo]

I’m in too deep, I’m over my head
I can’t forget the last words she said
Before she slipped away she whispered
I love you so

[chorus]

But the alcohol ain’t strong enough, to make her memory go
So why do I keep walkin’ down Whiskey road
Why am I still walkin’ Whiskey road

I will post the song, and maybe even the work tape (the recording I do before the session so the musicians can hear the song), after the recording session next month.  Work tapes will get a blog just about them, as will the recording session.

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