How do you write a love song?
Easy. Fall in love. And be willing to share your revelations about it.
Of course, you might well ask, “How do I know that I’m falling in love?” Well, there are certain clues:
If any of the above apply, start scribbling. What are you waiting for? Writing about something in real time will capture its essence with way more clarity than writing from the memory of it.
If the object of your affection is someone you’ve loved for awhile — whether a romantic partner or a family member who’s been in your life since the day you were born — you might want to look at photos of them, revisit music you’ve listened to together, reread letters, texts or emails they’ve written. All will connect you with the words to express why they matter. Don’t be surprised if you’re overwhelmed and frozen with love at first … especially if your thoughts wander to the idea of living without them. But if you want to write a compelling love song, those are the feelings you must be brave enough to face and share.
As for the one that got away — well, this could be the most challenging and gut-wrenching of all categories. It requires reliving painful memories and of course the letting go. But it has to be done in order to move on and to honor that love is love whether it loved you back or not. Who knows? Maybe your song will serve to help someone else find the strength to get through a similar situation.
So get busy. No matter where you are on your love timeline, write as much as you can possibly put into words. Then put down your pen and let the feelings marinate. In a few days, reread your scribblings and highlight the bits that resonate most profoundly.
When you feel ready, get with your instrument of choice (or a co-writer) and marry the words to melodies and textures that organically call to your fingers and your voice. As you do so, close your eyes and picture the person you love. Most of all, trust the vibes. There’s no magic crystal ball that will deliver a better love song than the honest-to-goodness vibrations in your heart. I hope your heart — and the heart of the one you love — lets you in.
Here’s a conversation between producer Eve Nelson and myself about how we approached recording my one-that-got-away love song “Almost Doesn’t Count,” covered by Brandy back in 2000.