“Writing Better Songs: The Songwriter’s Secret Sauce”



Any time people complain to me that they aren’t having the success that they want with their songs, I tell them to “write better song”.  I’m not trying to be cute or clever when I say that, either.  Writing better songs is the ONLY answer I know to lack of success as a songwriter.

Whenever I’m frustrated with my own lack of activity with my songs, I remind myself that I need to buckle down and write better songs.

I recently found out that I had a song recorded by The Texas Tenors.  I didn’t try to write a song for them.  I had honestly never heard of them.  And, no one I knew had a connection to them at the time.  The day I wrote “I Don’t Want To Let You Go” with Jennifer Hanson and Andreas Stone Johansson, we were just trying to write a great song.  We didn’t worry whether or not it was country or pop.  We didn’t agonize over who might record it.  We just wrote the best song we could write that day.

Fast forward about two years.  Jennifer’s dad got hired as the guitar player for the Tenors.  And, he happened to mention that his daughter wrote songs.  They asked to hear some and Jennifer wound up with the title cut, “Rise” and our cut.  The cut had nothing to do with having a publisher.  It didn’t matter that we had previous hits.  They just liked the songs and cut them.

Numerous times in my career, I got a cut “out of the blue” just by focusing on writing better songs and showing up to write day after day after day.  That’s the ticket.

Do you want to enjoy songwriting more? –

Are people not jumping up and down over your songs?  – Write better songs

Are you STILL trying to get that first cut? – Write better songs

Do you pay to pitch to publishers over and over without getting anywhere? – Write better songs

Did you ALMOST get that big cut you were after? – Write better songs

The answer to almost every complaint in the music business for a songwriter is “Write better songs”.  If I write better songs than the ones the artist has, I’ll eventually get some of them cut.  If I’m not getting them cut, it’s because mine are NOT better than the ones the artist has.  Mine might be as good or almost as good, but they have to be BETTER to get cut.

When you get frustrated, don’t complain.  Don’t blame it on your connections.  Just write better songs.  If you keep doing that over time, you will see better results with your music.

Write better songs.  And write on!


Marty Dodson
Co-Founder SongTown/Multi-hit Songwriter/Producer

20 thoughts on ““Writing Better Songs: The Songwriter’s Secret Sauce”

  1. Didn’t your publishing class teach us not to do that? We were told you should do research on singers and write songs specifically for them or you’ll never get anywhere.

    1. The point from that class was that you are much more likely to get a Kenny Chesney cut if you have researched Kenny Chesney very well and you can write something that you KNOW he would say. So, that was about learning how to write for a specific artist if you want to do that. In this instance, we did talk about several specific artists that could and would sing what we were writing. It just turned out that an artist I had never heard of thought it was perfect. In either case, writing a better song is the secret to getting any cut.

      1. I have so many lyrics i can hear the tempo etc in my head,but cant seem to find great muscians in my area who know how to write music.

  2. So, I think I see where you’re going with this. What you’re saying is, sort of, like…write better Songs. LOL

    Whether you’re writing for a specific artist or writing to specifications of a known buyer, or just trying to write better Songs, there has to be both inspiration and craft.

    Inspiration is whatever pops into your head. Craft is applying some ‘rules’ and intent to Lyrical content, structure, tempo, etcetera. Applying some critical thinking to those components can help you write… what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah! Better Songs.

    Have you started another plodding beat ‘sittin’-here-with-this-old-guitar’ Song? Well STOP it! Up the tempo! Was it going to be a ‘woe-is-me’ story of a drunken down-and-out love lost? Well STOP it! Can’t you find a love story where things are working out? You know. Before your dumb ass lost the love of your life because you’re such a…(Insert self-denigrating word of choice here.) “But that’s the truth!”, you argue? Well then don’t tell me the truth. Tell me the way it went when it went well and suffer in silence about how you blew it. And don’t tell me about that DAMNED OLD GUITAR! OR YOUR SKOAL RING!

    Write! Better! Songs!

    And then get them to Market where some ‘Consumer’ can hear them and take them on to the mass Market.

    1. The writing better songs is the hard part! Getting them to market is much easier than most people think it is, IF they are great.

  3. Always known that i think sometimes songwriters just want to finish a song and are not willing to dig in dig deeper to write that really tasty song.

  4. I agree with the write a better song reality but within your story is another reality. Her dad was hired as a guitarist with them and mentioned his daughter wrote songs. That connection created the possibility. A good song may have closed the deal but the connection opened it.

    1. Robert C… you are correct. You STILL have to have a connection. I understand what bro Dodson is saying, but let’s not forget that connections will have to be made somewhere and somehow. But I do hope and pray the best songs win. But boy, the masses are clunkers.

    2. That’s really my point. It doesn’t matter what connections you have or what doors you can open. If you don’t have that hit song, you can’t close the deal. Most people get it backwards. They worry more about their connections than they do writing a great song. Then, when the door opens for them, they don’t have the goods and they burn a bridge. You have to have the great song FIRST, then when opportunities come along, you can take advantage of them.

      1. MD you are on point about most people having it backwards… Seems like such a simple concept, and yet the same person who scoffs at paying for a mentoring session, or crash course, will shovel cash on a 90’s hit publisher’s bar tab.
        Common sense appears to be in much shorter supply than it used to be.🤔😬😏😉

  5. Working on writing better songs every day, Marty. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement. That’s the only thing that is fully in my control. And that’s where I put the majority of my effort.

    1. Exactly, Bill. Everything else in the process is out of my control. Being someone who tends toward liking control, I like to focus on what I know I can improve.

  6. Your title to this blog made me smile and shows how creative you are:) I would love to spend a week writing with you!! I know I should concern myself with connections etc more, but I just love to learn and write and that is how I spend most of my time! I do entertain often and I love love love playing music. However, there is nothing like the feeling of working on a song until you feel it can’t get any better! 🙂

  7. Your point is clear. Even having the connection of her Dad wouldn’t have made the difference if the band didn’t like the song, so connections are nice, but if the song is great it’ll find its way. What you said about getting to market being easier than people realize was especially encouraging to hear. I was thinking that that might be one of the biggest hurdles. Good to know that it’s not as tough as you would think.

    1. Yessir! If David Geffen was my Dad, but my songs sucked, I’d be as out of luck as the next guy with equally crappy songs…😉

  8. Great advice Marty…. I agree with what you are saying!! The songs that we send them has to be better than the songs that they already have… I’ve been watching the show *Nashville* since it aired… I wrote a song for the show pretty early on before I really knew what they were looking for and to no surprise, it was rejected… I kept watching the show over the years and followed the story line paying attention to what sort of songs each artist would sing… Of course the story line in Nashville is all over the board and can change overnight!!! Just wrote another song over the last few months-professionally demoed and had it plugged to the show… Unlike the other song which I heard back fairly quickly that they weren’t interested-this one I’m still waiting… I’m hoping that means there may be a consideration on their part…

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