The Official Cocktail of “Music, Lyrics, and Life”—With Recipe

The Official Cocktail of “Music, Lyrics, and Life”—With Recipe

Master mixologist Lindsay Merbaum has custom-concocted a ‘booktail’ to aid in your digestion of “Music, Lyrics, and Life.” Here she is, now: “There’s no such thing as being alone while writing,” claims Mike Errico in his newly-released book, Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter. As a reader and a creative, I certainly found pleasant company in Errico’s writing itself, along with doses of humor and the occasional kick in the butt: “Each fear that stops you from writing is a writing prompt,” the author aptly nudges the reader. Cheers to that, as well as gems like these: “What I’ve concluded is that notes are nice and all, but if you don’t have something to say that improves on silence, then don’t say it.” By now you might’ve realized this is more than a book about songwriting, though it is enormously helpful and insightful on that subject: “A song is a conversation between you and history,” Errico tells us when discussing song structure and musical patterns over time. Music, Lyrics, and Life is also a meditation on the creative process that doles out revelations and advice in the way of the very best teachers. There is a whole passage addressing the hypothetical challenge of a hypothetical student who questions the assumption tires must be round. In return, Errico interviews Jennifer Basl, a mechanical engineer at Goodyear whose job is to design tires. The subsequent conversation is fascinating. There are also interviews with people like Eric Bazilian, songwriter and founding member of the Hooters; Grammy-nominee Raul Midón; professor, author, Guggenheim Fellow, and cosmologist Janna Levin; actor...
Excerpt in American Songwriter: Why You Need a Mission Song

Excerpt in American Songwriter: Why You Need a Mission Song

Excerpted from Music, Lyrics, and Life: Signed copies: Bandcamp If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, you know that he’s from New Jersey. If you’ve ever listened to Eminem, chances are excellent that you know he’s from Detroit. You may know Kendrick Lamar is from Compton, Jennifer Lopez is from the Bronx, Pitbull is from Miami, and the North Mississippi Allstars are from . . . you get it. How do you know where they’re from? Because they told you—a million times. In song after song, they’ve created a world by planting signifying flags, both literal and metaphorical, in the hopes that you will identify with their artistic journey and want to be a part of it. Let’s call these musical flag plantings Mission Songs. If you’ve ever had to write a topic sentence for a paper or read the mission statement of a school or company, you’re familiar with the concept. Mission Songs lay out the story of the artist—what they believe in, where they’re from, what they want. They’re decoding glasses. Here’s an example of a Mission Song success story, ripped from the pages of music history. You’ve heard of Kiss? With the makeup, the dragon boots, the breathing fire, and all that? Of course you have. Picture this as a songwriting challenge: bassist Gene Simmons was a kabuki-inspired demon who’d pop blood capsules in his mouth and “bleed” all over his ax-shaped bass; guitarist Ace Frehley was “from space”; singer/guitarist Paul Stanley was vaguely described as a “star-child”; and drummer Peter Criss was (checks notes) a cat? This was a band that needed a musical decoder ring....
Excerpt: What the Brain Likes

Excerpt: What the Brain Likes

ASCAP songwriter Mike Errico is an accomplished recording artist, writer and professor of songwriting. He’s got a brand new book out on November 15, called Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter (Backbeat Books), which every songwriter should read pronto. Here’s an excerpt from it. When you’re done reading, check out Mike’s “What the Brain Likes” playlist, featuring brainy songs from his former songwriting students.  Full article: LINK ******** Our audience is the human brain. Apologies to those who feel I’m giving the heart the short end of the stick here, but what can I tell you? Hearts can be transplanted. You know who figured out how to do that? Brains. I’m not a neurologist, but as a songwriter, I’ve done some tinkering and a little market research, and here’s what I’ve noticed: The Brain Likes to Be Right When the brain figures something out, it orders the arm to give a victorious little fist pump. We might emit a Yesss or look for some- one to high-five. These gestures are the brain throwing itself a victory parade because that’s how much it likes to be right. Also at the victory parade: dopamine, a neurotransmitter that opens the doors of the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The victory parade runs right through those doors, and it’s a pretty kick-ass after-party. Having gotten a taste of delicious dopamine, the brain becomes restless to repeat the process. Why? Maybe it’s curious about the process, maybe it’s hooked on dopamine—and maybe that’s what curiosity is, which is a little depressing. Entrepreneurs identify the cycle (problem/solution/victory parade/search for more problems)...
Writer’s Block Does Not Exist.

Writer’s Block Does Not Exist.

Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter “The songwriting class you always wish you’d taken, taught by the professor you always wish you’d had.” Coming November 1, 2021 on Backbeat Books PRE-ORDER HERE: Amazon  | Bookshop | Goodreads  |  Books Are Magic View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mike Errico...
What is a song?

What is a song?

Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter “The songwriting class you always wish you’d taken, taught by the professor you always wish you’d had.” Coming November 1, 2021 on Backbeat Books PRE-ORDER HERE: Amazon  | Bookshop | Goodreads  |  Books Are Magic   View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mike Errico...