Updated: Nov 29, 2019
If you are a songwriter, then you are also a storyteller. Every story has a backstory and so should your song. When I was vocal coaching I would ask my students to write down the lyrics to the song that we were working on (whether it was an original or cover). Then I would ask them to describe what the song meant to them based on the lyrics on the page. I believe that you connect differently to a song when you know what that song means to you, and you also present or perform it with more passion when your words have intention behind them.
While I was researching in order to write this post, I came across a very interesting post on Loudersound.com that was exploring the backstory of Elton John's smash hit 'Your Song.' Bernie Taupin penned the lyrics and Sir Elton wrote the music. A version of how this song came to be is featured in the biopic Rocketman, but here's the backstory:
“The original lyric was written very rapidly on the kitchen table of Elton’s mother’s [house] in Northwood Hills in the suburbs of London, if I recall, on a particularly grubby piece of exercise paper,” Taupin told The Independent in 2018.
“I remember writing it at my parents' apartment in North London and Bernie giving me the lyrics,” John told Rolling Stone in 2013. “[I sat] down at the piano and looked at it, going, ‘Oh, my God, this is such a great lyric, I can't f*ck this one up’. It came out in about 20 minutes, and when I was done, I called him in and we both knew.”
Taupin was only 17 years old when he wrote this lyric, and had never experienced romantic love, so his lyrics were a reflection of what he imagined romantic love to be like. "It's got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music," Taupin told Music Connection in 1989. "But I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve."
So, Taupin's backstory for the song was that he didn't no much about love, but maybe it's like this ... I believe it's the 'truth' of the song that has resonated with fans worldwide and why it continues to mean something to us today.
What's the story behind your songs? I just released my latest single, Who Do You Love, and right after I finished the lyrics, I typed them out and wrote the backstory for the song ... the motivation behind the words I chose to include. Having this backstory allowed me to deliver an impassioned vocal performance in the studio, infusing intention into every word, and I hope this is resonating with my listeners.
Having a backstory for my song is also helping me market the tune. Instead of my posts consisting of 'hey, check out my latest single on Spotify' I am including elements of the the songs story in my social media posts, and seeing increased engagement.
Now that the song is out and receiving some streams and downloads, I am looking at my demographic. Who's listening and buying my music. If you're on Spotify and Apple Music and have claimed your Artist pages, you can see your listener data and fine tune your song's backstory in order to engage more with the listeners who will dig your tune. Today, I have gone through and refined my songs backstory based on the fact that at the moment the majority of my listeners are female and aged between 28 and 59. So, I write my social media posts with them in mind.
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