Sunday, July 10, 2011


Hey 5 followers!

I hope all is well with you.

This week, while in the middle of all manner of financial crises, I've been writing two songs. These songs are making me think a lot about perspective.

Most of the time, I find myself writing in first person. You all remember this from your 5th grade English Class: the narrator uses I to describe things that happen to them. Using first person makes for an intimate, no nonsense kind of feeling.

This week, I've been writing a song in second person, as another exercise to force myself out of the rut I've been in for months. If you remember your 5th grade class again, second person is using the pronoun "you" to advance the storytelling. Naturally, I've been scouring my songwriting library to see what people a lot smarter than me have to say about second person.

Pat Pattison has a lot to say about it in Writing Better Lyrics. Buy it. Read it.

Second person is trickier than you would think. Simply re-writing a first person song in second person introduces certain problems.

Take this example:

I remember when I met you
I was sitting on the stairs
I was finishing my homework
holding my pencil in my hair

If you were to just sort of transpose this into second person, you would get something like this:

You remember when you met her
You were sitting on the stairs
You were finishing your homework
Holding your pencil in your hair's Ok, but it suffers from a logical disconnect--the "You" that you are speaking to already knows all this a lot of the time, in second person songs, you need to introduce some kind of literary device, or twist, to make the obvious exposition make sense in context. So, you'd have to make the "you" have amnesia in this instance, or something to justify telling them things they already know.

This also introduces another problem: as a listener to the second person song, you are always looking for the twist, as if you're watching some terrible M. Night Shyamalan movie-- you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A lot of problems with second person can be fixed with a simple third person rewrite. As you will recall, third person is written from the outsider's point of view:

She remembers when she met him
she was sitting on the stairs
She was finishing her homework
holding a pencil in her hair

Second person is inherently difficult to write, because a lot of the problems that second person can introduce can be fixed by rewriting in third person.

Try it. Try writing in second person so that it sounds the best that way--so that if you rewrite it in third person, it DESTROYS the meaning. It's hard, but fun!

This Week

Lyle Lovett
John Hiatt
James McMurtry
Gretchen Peters

....and looking for a job....still.....

...and if you don't have it yet, you should really buy Jodi Ann's latest album, "A Brief Moment in Time." I co-produced, edited, arranged, mixed, and played all the instruments. You can download the digital version, or you can email her to purchase a physical cd:

...12 years, eh?

Doesn't seem so long when I'm with you...seems like only yesterday you were smiling at me over fajitas!

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