SongTown USA: The Power of Simplicity

  • "I can't make you love me if you don't
  • You can't make your heart feel something it won't
  • Here in the dark, in this final hour
  • I will lay down my heart and I will feel the power
  • But you won't, no you won't
  • Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
  • And you don't"

Mike Reid and Allen Shamblen, two masterful writers wrote this monster song that has been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Adele, Bon Iver and many more artists.

The melody is haunting. The lyric is simple.

There is power in simplicity. When you write something in simple, conversational language that nails people right in the heart, the listeners have this "aha" moment where they slap their head and say "That's exactly how I felt when..."

You can't really get that response from clever, poetic lyrics. People may admire a unique twist of the language, a double entendre, or a phrase that they've never heard before. They may be impressed with your craftiness or your wit. But all of that is different than connecting to people on a heart level.

Bonnie Raitt's powerful version of "I Can't Make You Love Me."

Admiring someone's skill is not on the same level as believing that the writer of a song has been reading your mail. Noting a clever wordplay is not the same as FEELING a song and feeling that the writer of the song KNOWS what your life is like. That's the grand slam of writing. Connecting to listeners in a powerful, heartfelt way.

I'm not suggesting that every song should connect in that way. I am suggesting that we, as writers shoot for that. That we set the bar there. I want to write songs as powerful as "I Can't Make You Love Me" or "The House That Built Me" (another Shamblen song by the way).

My goal is not to make lots of money by writing goofy songs that people will have forgotten next year. My goal is to write songs that will live on when I am gone.

I believe that simplicity and baring my soul in my writing are the best ways to achieve that goal. I aim to touch people's hearts. That's not easy. It's easier to write "Get Off The Oven, Granny, You're Too Old To Ride The Range" than it is to write something that touches people and MOVES them.

Never underestimate the power of simplicity.

Sometimes, instead of figuring out a clever way to say something, the answer is just to say it. Simply. Honestly. From the heart.

Write on.

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here:, at and at Twitter @SongTownUSA or visit

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