SongTown USA: Write About Just ONE Thing

I work with a lot of songwriters on through SongTown USA that are trying to turn their hobby into a profession. The most common mistake I see in those aspiring songwriters is that their songs tend to wander around.

They start strong with the first verse. It tends to stay on topic. By the time they get to the chorus, they are chasing a couple of rabbits down different trails. The second verse is where it usually falls apart. By the time they get to the bridge, there are rabbits running everywhere.

A song that started off talking about how many things irritate you about your partner gets turned into a song about unconditional love and winds up saying, “I’ll leave you if you don’t change.” The listener walks away dazed and confused.

I often challenge writers to pick ONE thing. If it’s how much your partner irritates you, then talk about that for the WHOLE song. If it’s about unconditional love, stay right there for the duration. If you can’t do that, your topic may not be strong enough to carry an entire song. But, if you focus on one thing and you make sure that every section supports that one thing, you are much more likely to have a strong, commercial song. At the very least, you should have a song that supports your idea well.

When I work with writers that really have trouble with this, I encourage them to try writing one-word titles. I wrote a song with Jimmy Yeary and Dean Brody called “Dirt.” It was very easy to write, because everything in the song was about, well, dirt. Any time we started to get off topic, we brought it back to dirt. Sometimes, concept titles (unconditional love) are harder to keep on topic. One-word titles can help “wandering” writers stay on track.

So, if you have ever wondered what is keeping you out of the “#1 Club,” give your songs a checkup. See if you are wandering all over the place, or if you are staying very focused on the “one thing” your song is about. If you have an interesting melody and you craft a great lyric around ONE thing, you increase your chances of success immensely.

There could just be “one thing” standing between you and your goals. Write On.

Oh, and here's the video for "Dirt."

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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