Song Writing Quick Tips 7 – More Cowbell, More Backstory

If you’re anything like me, you love song lyrics.  More than ‘higher, fire, desire’, you want the story to take you somewhere.  You want to be moved, inspired, and maybe a few lyrical gymnastics.  I can guarantee you that the people who write these great songs develop their backstory.  Assemble, my flock, and let’s meditate on this antidote to triteness. 

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We Need An Alibi

Have you ever come home late at night only to find your parents waiting for you?  You didn’t expect them to be up but now they’re here and you are slack-jawed and drawing a blank.  Of course you knew where you were, and it wasn’t at Tony’s, but the truth just will not suffice.  Why didn’t you think of an alibi ahead of time?

The more you stammer and avoid eye contact, the longer you’ll be grounded.  Similarly, when writing songs, you need to hit them with your fully-fleshed out story before they can ask where you’ve been.  Wouldn’t it be better to say something like, “Oh, I’M SO GLAD you’re awake!  Let me tell you what happened!” 

Just like that, you’ve got 15 seconds to hook a listener.  Better than hooking them is where you reel them in.  You wanna filet these motherfuckers!  No more nibbles, write backstory so you can eat your fill.

 Porcelain Christ Salvation

Before you get home, vomit as much as possible.  Puke your guts out while you’re still at the kegger so you won’t make a mess in the bathroom.  What I’m saying here is to write down every possible idea before you try to serenade your object of affection. 

People try to edit as they go.  That’s really a lot like trying to fuck a ghost.  It’s way better to stick a flesh light on a box fan, set ‘er to MAX and white knuckle it ’till the end – believe me!

This relates to songwriting, if it’s not abundantly clear, in how you can make it easier on yourself by stealing your own ideas.  Copying is easy yet creating is hard.  Therefore, lower the bar, brainstorm the crap out of your idea so, later when you need to start writing lines, you have something tangible to work with.  This here is how you begin developing your backstory.  

Cool, Brah.  Go with Christ.

Everyone Has a Backstory

Songwriting is storytelling.  It’s not a thesis or an argument but an appeal to the emotions.  While your debate coach might take issue with this, I say, “Fuck your debate coach.”  Unless you’re under 18 in which case, say 15 hail Marys and close this tab. 

Where there’s a story, there’s a backstory.  Everyone comes from somewhere and not just their genitals.  You’ve got a past, however debatable its existence  may be, and its had a lot to do with how you’ve turned out.  Characters in your song are no different than you, my storied friend. 

Developing your backstory lets you do cool writer shit like using:

  • Themes
  • Relevant Metaphors
  • Motifs
  • Dramatic Arc

In addition, there are behind-the-scenes things you can do like asking yourself the Six Questions: ‘WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, and HOW’.  The final bone I’ll throw you is the advice of writing down 25 phrases your main character would say.  Don’t use rhyme or meter when you do this.  Just imagine you’re talking among your friends about a buddy that died and you’re all imitating the shit he used to say.  Phrases like, “That was some shit!” count whereas “You could have left some greens inside the pipe,” don’t unless you were friends with stoner Shakespeare. 

Backing Out

Alright, homies, that’s all I got for you this week.  Develop your characters, m’kay?  Join the Hexie Dose Newsletter for updates and free music.  I publish every Monday 4PM, PST and I expect you to refresh your browser incessantly until my grand masterpieces go live.  See you next week.


Michael Carrillo aka Hexspa is a misunderstood genius of the highest caliber.  While his backstory is somewhat obscure, you can be sure he’s an expert at everything.  You don’t… Wanna fuck with Hexspa… Cause Hexspa… Will Fuckin’ Kill U… 

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