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Surprising Serendipitous Songwriting

How does songwriting happen for you? For me it happens in a couple ways - sometimes I sit down intentionally and think “Ok – let’s write something”. Other times I’m noodling around on the guitar coming up with chord progressions or licks that might one day be a song. But in the sometime surprising, serendipitous moment songwriting just “happens”. The “magic” that happens (mostly) all at once.

Take the example of “Pour Some Whiskey on my Grave” – a release we’re planning with Slade Adams.

We were over at Slade and Julia’s house for dinner. And after dinner just talking and laughing. Slade had gotten out a guitar but was just messing with it. We weren’t there to write a song (or were we?)

Neal Capps (piano) was going on and on about how old he is (again). And my wife Jamie quipped, “Well Neal, if you die, we’ll pour some whiskey on your grave”. Slade immediately takes this up on the guitar and sings “pour some whiskey on my grave” over a chord progression he had been playing and boom – it hits me, and I started writing lyrics on my cell phone. I would write a stanza, then slide the phone over to Slade and he would sing it as a test run. Then as he was singing that stanza again, I started writing the next one… the lyrics for a brief magic moment, came pouring out of me.

Then… I got stuck on the fourth stanza. I also knew that we had something here, but it needed a chorus.

But I have learned not to press when I get stuck. We kicked around a few more ideas, but nothing was clicking. I set it aside to come back to it later. We said our goodbyes and headed home.

The next day my patience was rewarded. Just as I lay down to “check my eyelids for holes” (I had a migraine come up on me), what the chord progression should be for the chorus came to me. Once I had the chord progression, the meter of how the chorus fell right into place. The idea I was trying to express in the fourth stanza I refactored into the bridge, and voila! Song.

But it was the serendipity of the moment that struck me. There are times when an idea will come to me, so it goes into my phone. Or Slade will send me an idea. I have a stack of ideas ready for songs. In fact, when it comes to the time where I sit down to “write a song”, it is never at a blank page – I go through my backlog of ideas and start there.

What was neat about this was the lack of expectation that we would write a song – it just happened because we were in the moment and ready. Sure, it didn’t get finished until the next day – but in that magic moment we knew we had something golden.

And soon (January 6th, 2022), you’ll be able to hear for yourself, how we did.


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