I Could Never Write Something This Clever

Themes and variation

Themes and Variation

“Clever” is one of the more subjective adjectives we’ve used in one of our show’s episode themes. Although come to think of it, everything about music is subjective — but “clever” is a word that conveys intelligence, wit, and deep understanding. Though what does that really mean in the context of a song?

And how does cleverness translate to a listener, to you for example? Whether it’s demonstrated through the use of acrobatic, flowery word play, or concocted expertly in the mirroring of music, lyric, and imagery, we see it at work in the profound musings of writers who are introspective and empathetic.

In the latest episode of Themes and Variation, the panel discusses songs they feel exemplify that very word. Alongside my colleague and co-host, Mahea Lee, I’m joined by Chris Lindsey, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and extremely insightful individual who hosts the podcast, Pitch List. Chris has written mega hits with the likes of Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, Keith Urban, and The Civil Wars just to name a few. His uniquely deep perspective on songwriting made him the perfect guest for this clever theme.

To see which tracks we’ve chosen as our favorites, listen to Themes and Variation, Episode 15 right here.

To get all of our biweekly episodes right on your phone, click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts, to subscribe and download. *Plus, you know you want to hit us with a five star rating on Apple!

And make sure you check out Chris Lindsey’s podcast, Pitch List here.

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If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, go ahead and visit Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From scale modes to melody-writing and even audio production tips and tricks, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.

Episode 15 Highlights

1. For Carter, one clever line was what sold him on “Hometown Hero.”

Carter: “If I had to pick one line it would be ‘hometown hero flexing his arm, with a five yard pass to the end of the bar’ and just how that one, one simple line totally encapsulates the, to me the image of a hometown hero. They’re not on the hockey rink anymore, they’re not on the football field anymore, they’re in a bar in front of their friends that they’ve had for years, still showing their skills, reliving those old highlights, but they’re throwing a pass to nobody.”

2.  Jimmy Webb will make you weep.

Chris: “The ASCAP Awards one year were at the Ryman, downtown. It’s not big, it’s about 2,500 seats; it’s the place, it’s been there since… they did the original Grand Ole’ Opry there. They had the ASCAP Awards there one time, and we were really close up to the stage and Jimmy Webb was the musical guest, and he did three of his biggest songs in a medley where he played piano and sang, and I’m telling you… That place had two thousand songwriters in there and a thousand of them were grown men and they were crying, the whole place was just weeping, because he was so good.”

3.  “All Star” is so much more than an arena anthem.

Mahea: “This is a song that understood its audience and it understood its intentions. They were looking to write an anthem for their fans. And they received fan mail from these people who felt like outcasts in the world, but really identified with Smash Mouth. You know it seems like just this upbeat sports arena-type song ’cause that’s how we’re used to hearing it. But when you get into it, it’s really cynical at times, it’s purely ‘everything’s great.’ It doesn’t shy away from the fact that some things suck.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Just like we do every time we launch a new episode, we’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the topic. We need your help, we want your help, and we can’t wait to hear the songs you love that are incredibly clever!

Feel free to add your favorite songs to the playlist.

We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

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