Dan Reifsnyder recently won 1st prize as a co-writer in the Country category of the USA Songwriting Competition. The song “If You Drink” was written by Dan, John Cirillo and Sarah Spencer from Nashville, TN. We thought we would dig a little deeper into this songwriter’s approach…
[GTR] What are your 3 tips for writing great lyrics?
[Dan Reifsnyder] Be conversational – if it doesn’t sound like it would come out of somebody’s mouth, it’s gonna sound cheesy in a song. Make the most out of every line. Take out filler words that are just there for phrasing and replace them with something more powerful. Make sure everything in the song – verses especially – are setting up the chorus!
[GTR] What about coming up with catchy hooks (lyrical and/or musical)?
[Dan] Ideally, a hook should be no more than three words long… the shorter it is, the better. If your hook was a book or a movie title, would it make you want to find out more? If yes, it’s a good hook. It should be simple too. That doesn’t mean it can’t have multiple meanings or different layers to it… just clear and not convoluted.
[GTR] Tell us your thoughts about wrapping up unfinished songs?
[Dan] Keep pecking away… it isn’t done until it “feels” done. At the same time, be cautious about over-writing, you can wring all the emotion out of it. Every song is different. Some are a breeze to write and some are just like hammering rocks with a ten-pound hammer. Usually, even if a song isn’t “worth it” in the sense that it feels like a smash, it’s at least worth finishing for the exercise.
[GTR] Do you have any tips on co-writing/collaborations on songs?
[Dan] Be open… don’t shut anything down out of hand. If it’s not something you think can work, counter with something else. Some of the worst writes are where you just hear, “No, I hate it” the entire time! Don’t be afraid to be honest, and don’t take anything personally. Take ego completely out of it… you’re there in service to the song. If it betters the song, it doesn’t matter who came up with the idea.