by Clay Mills
Dec 14, 2021
Clay here, coming to you with a video this week because there’s something that’s been on my heart. A couple of days ago, Songtown member Andrew Cavanaugh sent me a link to a video, a Lady A video. It was a song that I had wrote for their first album that I wrote with the band. And he said in his email, you should really check out the comments.
There were so many comments from people talking about how this song had touched their lives, had changed their lives. He said he had even stopped counting after three of those comments said that the song had actually kept them from committing suicide. And it just hit me really hard, that our words are powerful.
The words that we write in our songs and the words that we put out into the universe are extremely powerful. And it just reminds me that even when I’m writing a sad song, how I like to always weave a thread of hope into it, because I think that’s how you can really make a difference in the world.
I wrote this song probably seven or eight years ago with Lady A, and I had not gone back and listened to the song since I heard it when the album came out. When I heard it, I got chills, I got choked up. That’s what you want to happen when you write a song; you want the audience to feel that way. It did a lot of things different than what typically happens in commercial songs, but it still had a big emotional impact.
And what I mean by different is that it had eight or nine chords in it; it wasn’t your simple, harmonic song. It had some pretty intricate stuff going on, but we kept the melody very conversational. So it allowed for what felt like key changes; it allowed us to do a modulation in the song and still make the song believable, still make it impact the listener.
So I thought I’d go over some of the writing process with you and break it down.
How I Wrote The Song With Lady A
My publisher set me up to write with Lady A. At that time, they weren’t big stars. They had never recorded an album. So I sat down to write with them, and it was kind of the first time I’d ever met them. So driving to work that day, I didn’t particularly have an idea that I wanted to write that day.
So I got to my publishing company, Still Working Music, and the first thing that happened when I walked through the door, my song plugger says to me, I was just over at Byron Gallimore’s office and I played them a song for Tim McGraw, and Missi passed. (Missi was Byron’s wife, who listened to songs for Tim McGraw).
And he said, man, I don’t know what to do. I’ve played her so many songs and she never likes anything. And I said, don’t worry, one day she will. And that kind of stuck into my head – one day she will. And so I went back into my writing office and I wrote it down on a piece of paper, and to make it more personal I changed it to One Day You Will.
The Guitar Lick For One Day You Will
Lady A shows up, they introduced themselves, and, we’re talking, and I threw out the title. I’m kind of playing this little vibey lick on my guitar. And the guitar player in the band says, wow, that’s cool. How are you getting that sound? It almost sounds like a 12 string. I was playing in DADGAD, I’m playing with two fingers and I’m kind of doing this octave thing. And he thought that was really cool. And he’s like, let’s use that in the song. That’s kind of random event #2 that happened – I had this riff and I kind of took something that my song plugger said that morning.
The Heart of the Song
So I’m playing, and I remembered something the week before that a friend had said to me. This is random thing #3. I was talking to a friend that was in the music business, and he goes, I wake up every morning feeling like I could leave this town and never come back and no one would know. For some reason, that just stuck with me, because cause I’ve had that feeling. Sometimes we all feel invisible at times. So I threw that out as a first line to the song, and I think it just kind of happened. The first few lines of the song kind of just came out, and they loved it.
But we wanted to turn that around and offer some hope in the song, but you can’t just go, boom. You feel bad, well here’s some hope. You need some time to bridge up to that hope. So I felt like it would be a good idea at that point to kind of take a pre-chorus and build the chords up step-by-step, and catapult you into that chorus.
So the key we wrote it in is D. I went to an A chord in the pre-chorus, A sus to A, then up a whole step to B minor, up a half step to C, and then the chorus goes up a whole step to D. That kind of gives you this transitional thing so that it feels real. So how we built that pre-chorus melody and chords gave the listener a chance to emotionally make the transition from feeling really low to having hope.
So when we hit the chorus, it was a lot more believable. To me, when you’re writing music and lyrics, the number one thing is to be believable, because that’s going to make people feel something. You want to have the listener transported. If they’re not feeling down, you want them to feel like they could be transported into that person’s shoes. They could feel empathy for the person you are singing to. It just makes the song more universal.
Make It Universal
You’ll notice that we’ve gone from three chords in the verse to three chords in the pre-chorus, and then four different chords in the chorus. So it came time to do the second verse. I’m a big believer that often in second verses, you want to carry the emotion a little deeper. And since this is kind of a song where I’m singing about someone else’s pain, I felt like a good place for me to go emotionally was to bring in my own feelings, just writing from that point of view.
And to me, when I wrote the words “with the weight of all those disappointments whispering in your ear”, I have this constant voice inside my head where I always feel, in the back of my head, that I’m disappointing people. And it took a lot for me to admit it to myself, first of all, and then to put it in a song for the whole world to see. But that’s what songwriting is about. A friend of mine said, you gotta be willing to cut your wrist for a good song to bleed on.
And so writing those words felt really close and personal to me. And I think that added in that second verse, that little, extra, deeper emotional kind of feeling. And whether you have that voice in your head that you feel like you’re disappointing people, it doesn’t really matter. We all have a voice in our head telling us something that is painful from time to time. That’s what made it universal.
The last thing I want to talk about is the bridge. As if all those chords weren’t enough, we decided to add a new chord progression and go way out there on a limb. It was really different, from anything that you would have heard on country radio at that time, but it was really cool.
Why It Matters
I’s really interesting how when you’re in the writing session, you’ve got to pull from all these different directions. I took a random title that morning, just out of conversation with my song plugger. I took that one day she will, what I said to my song plugger, and I changed it to One Day You Will and made it a more personal song. Lady A shows up, and I’m doing that little guitar riff in DADGAD that created a vibe for the music. We wanted to write a song of hope; that was their big thing that day. And I brought up the story of my friend that was struggling in the music business.
And we took that and we went, let’s write this song for that person that’s kind of feeling hopeless, and let’s give them hope. And when I heard this song the other day, when Andrew sent me that YouTube link, it really hit me. There are hundreds of comments of how this song affected people, and that’s what we want. That’s why we want to share how we feel inside. If we share it with the world, we can make a difference in the world.
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