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Songwriting process

Understanding song form

Adapted from The Complete Singer-Songwriter (Backbeat Books). Click the cover for more info. Beneath all the nuances of melodies and lyrics, most songs are built from the same basic parts—some kind of sequence of verse, chorus, bridge, and so on. For writing a song, learning to play someone else’s song, or communicating with other musicians,...

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Inside the song: “The Story” by Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile's breakthrough song "The Story," the title track of her 2007 album, sounds intensely personal, even cathartic. Carlile must be singing from raw experience, right? Actually, no. Her bandmate Phil Hanseroth wrote "The Story" before they even started playing together. Since her debut, all of the music appearing under the name Brandi Carlile has...

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Jason Mraz Acoustic Guitar magazine

Inside the song: “Lucky” by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat

"Lucky," the sweet, swaying duet written by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat with Tim Fagan, was originally released on Jason Mraz's 2008 album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.  During an interview for Acoustic Guitar magazine (published in the October 2010 issue), Mraz told me that "Lucky"—like six of the tracks on the We Sing album—originated...

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Inside the song: “When the Master Calls the Roll” by Rosanne Cash

"When the Master Calls the Roll," a brilliant story song from Rosanne Cash's triple-Grammy-winning album The River and the Thread, has a back story that must be a rarity in the annals of songwriting: an artist co-wrote it with her husband and ex-husband. In the case of this song, Cash's collaborators were producer/guitarist John Leventhal...

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Inside the song: “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin

“Sunny Came Home,” Shawn Colvin’s bright-sounding but lyrically dark song that scored Grammies in 1998 for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year, has a highly unlikely origin story. In 2017, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary release of the album A Few Small Repairs, Colvin shared the recollections below about...

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