Songwriting – It’s not all about ME, it’s all about YOU….


As someone who started out songwriting at 11, not knowing how I was actually doing it, I wrote to make MYSELF feel better, to tell MY stories, to share MY experience!! No, I didn’t accidently leave the caps key on, I wanted you to see that back then it was ALWAYS ALL ABOUT ME!!!!

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an IMRO songwriting afternoon with a hit songwriter called Ralph Murphy. (See links below) Ralph has a very interesting story and some pretty hot credits to his name across many genres with literally a whole life experience in the music industry. Needless to say, he didn’t beat around the bush and he didn’t hold back. In an industry that involves so much ego and b******t, it was refreshing. My hands were shaking as I handed over one of two songs he was going to review from my catalogue. I remember writing in an older post how your songs are like your kids – you create them, you nurture them and then when the time comes, you let them out into the big bad world! So, inevitably you form an attachment to them and as I reflect now, possibly an unhealthy, slightly obsessive attachment to them. I didn’t really want him to find faults in my songs. I really wanted him to love them as much as I did…. But then boom, out of nowhere, a five minute critique suddenly becomes a whole lifetime of “aaahhhhhhh of course, now I understand…”

Whilst it’s a bitter bill to swallow hearing that there is room for improvement to lyrics or melodies that you thought you couldn’t improve on, it was the reasons why they had to be improved that helped me to swallow that big, bitter songwriting pill. There were many reasons, many interesting and “ah of course” reasons but one reason that really stood out to me and made me think from a different side of the coin is the fact that it’s always all about you. (‘you’ being the listener)

In order to fall in love with MY song, YOU must feel like it is all about YOU, that my details are in fact YOUR details, that my melody is in fact YOUR melody. You don’t care about my story or where the song came from or who the guy was that broke my heart or stole my car, why should you? Whatever the time of day, whatever it is you are doing, that song that comes on the radio that you will connect to, tells your story, not mine. I learned so many valuable things over a couple of hours that had me rushing to the piano with a pen to ‘re-write, re-place, re-assemble’ and it actually feels like the wool has been pulled from over my eyes.

From uses of pronouns, to word meters to just getting over myself, that afternoon was without doubt a big learning curve in something I thought I had pretty much perfected. Whilst it was a little shock to all our systems initially, there is a great sense of freedom and excitement in moving on with that knowledge!

“Hits aren’t written, they are re-written” – Raphy Murphy.







‘All we hear is radio gaga’

Queen’s 1984 hit ‘Radio GaGa’  is a song about radio’s loss of importance in people’s lives following the development of video and stations like MTV. They tell the story of how radio “made ’em laugh, made ’em cry, you made us feel like we could fly” and in many ways, mourn the loss of it’s role in everyday life “so don’t become some background noise”.

It’s quite ironic that nearly 30 years later, I am writing a blog post on just how significant radio is in my life and in the lives of original artists, bands and songwriters. In fact I am going to go so far as to say that it is more significant to me right now than any other form of music revenue; gigs, merchandise, music sales. Gigs cost a lot of money to run, travel is expensive and venue hire is costly. Unless you are a well known and established act, money from merchandise will really only serve as pocket money in the early days especially when you have to make back all the money you spent on it. And as for music sales….

For the past 3 years, I have supplemented a proportion of my previous income through cover gigs, piano teaching and performing at weddings, corporate events etc. Outside those income sources and hours worked, I have also worked an additional 30 hours per week without any pay in order to set myself up and dedicate as much time as possible to myself as an artist and songwriter. I knew it was always going to be made up of very long hours, hard graft and a lifetime supply of patience and finger crossing in the early days!

However, I have actually been very lucky in the early years of my career as a songwriter in that every few months or so, a lodgement is made into my account from IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation) with my earnings from radio play and somehow those 30 unpaid hours every week start to feel somewhat worth it. Whilst the amounts are small in proportion to the hours worked, it is a huge reward of spirit, energy and self-esteem. It opens up the possibility and hope that it will amount to a reasonable annual salary one day.

My point of this blog is that the relevance of radio in the life of a songwriter or original act is enormous both financially and emotionally. It is also extremely relevant to the regrowth of the Irish economy, perhaps an income source that the government have overlooked for a long time. If I make a living in this country through the broadcast of my music, I will stay in this country and put that money back into the revenue stream. It’s common sense. Millions of euro leave this country in royalties to overseas artists and their representatives every year. Millions…

(I was delighted to read today that TD’s had met with a delegation of Irish music industry representatives to discuss the possibility of increasing the percentage of Irish music played on Irish radio to 30%)

Whilst I know it may not be as black and white as I make it, I do know that if the government, the BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) and the radio stations witnessed the look of sheer delight that appears on my face every few months when my work is financially rewarded, they wouldn’t think twice about making positive changes as soon as possible to make it happen over and over again all over the country! It seems like a very simple move forward??? Irish people would get the opportunity to hear more music from their own artists, radio stations could capitalise on new business opportunities working with new independent music businesses and labels and more of our songwriters and artists could actually make a living out of their unique trade.

“You had your time, you had the power, you’ve yet to have your finest hour”. For some reason, this quote from Radio GaGa feels very appropriate and true at this very moment in time…
 Radio GaGa, written by Roger Taylor,Queen