A Great Song Feels Like a Great Suit

Question: What mistakes\r\nor clichés do you try to avoid when writing songs?


Josh Ritter:\r\nWell, I think—I have lots of like, tics, that I think that—or lots of \r\nthings\r\nthat bug me.  I sort of think about\r\nit, it’s kind of like fashion.  A\r\nsong has to feel good when you’re singing it.  It \r\nhas to feel like somebody will put on a suit.  You\r\n have people that you know that put\r\non clothes and they look effortlessly good in them and it’s like, there \r\nwas no\r\nwork.  And whether or not that’s\r\nthe case, the fact is that you have to feel comfortable singing what \r\nyou’re\r\nsinging and so some things that make me feel uncomfortable are rhymes \r\nthat seem\r\na little too obvious.  Rhymes that\r\nseem a little too—rhymes that are overused: “girl/world,” girl/world \r\nsyndrome,\r\n“knife/strife,” “shelf/myself,” you know, I stay away from all of those.  I don’t like autobiographical\r\nsongs.  I don’t think that\r\nthey’re—and I don’t like autobiographical singing.  I\r\n don’t want to think about the person singing the song on\r\nstage.  Like I feel like the song\r\nis your chance to like—like a short story, or anything is a chance to \r\nlive\r\ninside a character that’s been given to you.  You \r\nare being given this character and then you can live\r\ninside it, not a chance to see inside somebody else’s private life.  You know, I don’t like that, and I\r\ndon’t think it leads to very original songwriting.  You\r\n know?  Those are some things that bug me.  And \r\ngood songs, they’re just things that\r\nyou can sing in the car, on the way home without a guitar, that you can \r\nplay\r\nyourself and learn how to do.

Recorded April 5, 2010
Interviewed by Austin \r\nAllen

Avoiding the dreaded "girl/world" rhyme, and other songwriting tips.

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