An effective and inspiring guide to songwriting by prolific, iconic singer-songwriter Dar Williams.
How to Write a Song That Matters is an invaluable guide to writing music by a woman who knows how to do it and do it well: iconic singer-songwriter, Dar Williams. For years now, Williams has led songwriting retreats for musicians, from beginners to professionals, in which she elevates the process of songwriting over the assessment of the product. This book makes those intimate experiences accessible for songwriters across the globe, gifting them with the insight Williams has gleaned from her decades of experience. First, it encourages songwriters to find something that inspires them and then to follow that inspiration, letting the clues of those first few notes or lines lead their narrative. Soon, the initial rhythms, the unique sounds of the melody, and/or specific vocabulary emerge, giving birth to a "voice" or a "world" that the song can exist in. As the writer proceeds, Williams encourages them to ask themselves: "Where did I go? Where did I REALLY go? What happened? What REALLY happened? What am I bringing back?"
There are many other songwriting guides that hint to the reader that writing a "hit song" may be on the horizon if only the reader correctly follows the guide or program. In this book, however, Williams shows readers how to tap into their OWN creative process, using their psyches, their unique life experiences, and their muses to write the songs that they are meant to write. By focusing on the process of creating a song that matters, as opposed to producing a well-constructed "widget from a song factory," songwriters will be able to establish their own voice and use it to make meaningful music.
Perfect for music lovers of all sorts who want to write songs, How to Write a Song That Matters is a one-of-a-kind-book that readers will turn to for guidance time and time again.
About the Author
Dar Williams is a critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter and musician. She is also the author of What I Found in a Thousand Towns.
“Long ago on a hot, late summer night I was driving alone on a beach road, the shadows of my headlights slicing the humid air amidst a million bugs in V formation, while the local radio station played a song called ‘Are You Out There’ by Dar Williams. It was one of those startling, magical instances where the song I was hearing made me feel more alive and less alone, the way the best songs do. And I felt connected to something invisible and mysterious—that whoever wrote that song knew what I was feeling. When Dar and I became friends years later, that was the first thing I wanted to share and to thank her for—for writing a song that mattered to me. In this beautiful and wise book, she explores how a song can matter in many different ways, to different people, for different reasons. The wisdom and the lessons she shares will illuminate not only the world of songwriters but anyone who seeks the sustenance of a creative life and practice.” —Mary Chapin Carpenter, Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter
“There are songs that have changed my life, described my life, upped my life, saved my life. I wear those songs like charms on a bracelet. Several of those charms were written by the glorious Dar Williams. As Dar says in this gem of a book, How To Write A Song That Matters, “When I hear a song that I love, something catches and holds me the way gravity holds us to the ground.” And then she takes us deep into the process of creating a song (or a poem, a book, a pot of soup) so that we too can offer others the charms they need to ground their lives with meaning...a healing charm, a power charm, a beauty charm. Thank you, Dar. I’ll keep coming back to this book for inspiration and direction.”—Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder, Omega Institute, and author of bestselling books including Broken Open and Cassandra Speaks
"Williams smoothly describes the process of 'listening for cues and clues' to discover the focus of the song... Even those with no musical experience or aspirations will appreciate the author’s illumination of the mechanics of songcraft, and she is consistently encouraging."—Kirkus
"How to Write a Song That Matters takes its place next to Tweedy’s, Gauthier’s, and other books from respected roots musicians as yet another approach to songwriting. Williams invites readers into her reflections on songwriting and her own practices, and she offers encouragement for taking risks with writing and with exploring the many suggestions she makes for opening up the mysteries of songwriting."—No Depression
"Intended for songwriters of all levels and backgrounds, the book combines tips, tools and encouragement that anyone can use to get started with or to keep momentum alive in their creative process. Dar Williams fans will also enjoy anecdotes and origin stories about songs they know and love."—Broadway World
"How to Write a Song That Matters is thick with advice, ideas, prompts, and solid intro-to-music-theory education... Indeed, permission and trust and taking thing step by step are useful in all creative processes, whether someone is putting pen to paper for the first time in this way, or whether someone is a seasoned, professional songwriter whose time-tested process has begun to feel monotonous. Both—and everyone in between—will find incredibly useful guidance here."—Folk Alley
"A must-read for aspiring songwriters or for anyone who has ever listened to a song that matters to us."—QueerForty