songs

I Wish I Wrote That: “Signed, Sober You” by HARDY

I love it when a song just levels me with sheer craft. Like… it’s so good, it makes me mad. But it also makes me smile. And I can’t decide whether I want to pick up a guitar or throw in the towel once and for all. Yes, when that happens you know you’ve stumbled across a winner. And HARDY’s “Signed, Sober You” is one such tune:

There are a million things to love about this tune but let me just share a few thoughts on why it’s such a fine piece of songwriting.

1. We’re in the scene from line one

Third shot down, I’m in trouble

I love this opening line. “Third shot down, I’m in trouble”. Bang! Right away, we’re thrust into a bar scene with our hero. You don’t need to be watching the video to see the flickering neon beer signs, sense the pool table off in the corner, and practically feel the chunky wooden bar underneath your forearms. From the first six words we’re sucked into the world of this character. It’s instant drama—and we want to know what happens next.

2. A healthy dose of suspense

Stumble through the front door, gone as it gets

Flip the kitchen light on, there it it

On the fridge, just my luck

“Read this if you’re drunk”

Something is unfolding. We know that much. But what exactly is this all about? The details are coming slow and steady but we still don’t quite have the full picture. Even as the note on the fridge appears, we don’t know who it’s from. And if you’re like me, you might assume it’s from the lover who recently left him. But like me, you’d be wrong.

3. An original idea, expressed simply

Don’t think about it, mister

Don’t even touch your phone

I know you think you miss her

But I promise you, you don’t

There’s healing in the lonely

Sit back, kick off your boots

And you’ll thank me in the morning

Like you always do

Signed, sober you

Arrgggghhhhhhh!! So. So. So. Good. Now we finally understand what this song is all about. I love the plain-speak, “Don’t think about it mister, don’t even touch your phone.” It’s a great example of how you to don’t need big words to convey big ideas. As Mark Twain put it, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”

4. Playing with language

There’s healing in the lonely

I particularly love this line in the chorus. What an original expression. He transforms the word “lonely” from an adjective into a noun—if not a proper noun: The Lonely, capital L, right? A lesser writer might have said, “There’s healing in feeling lonely,” or “There’s healing in the lonely times.” But as writers we’re free to bend, twist, push, and break the language. Whatever it takes to get the message across.

5. Making every word count

P.S., there’s pizza in the freezer, Dumb and Dumber on the TV

It’s so stupid, that’s what you’d be

To go diggin’ through her Instagram

If you’re thinkin’ ’bout that, read this again

Pizza, freezer, Dumb and Dumber, TV—the details continue to paint the picture. We’re back at our hero’s apartment. Look at how Hardy uses the word “diggin’”. He could have said “lookin’” or “checkin’ out.” But he found a far more visceral word, far more active and emotionally charged. It perfectly reflects the desperation of the narrator.

6. Zooming in, zooming out

Yeah, well remember last time that you hit her up

You heard some other guy, how much does that suck?

That set you back a month, yeah, trust me, old friend

You don’t wanna go down that road again

In movie-making, an actor’s performance will feel very different when it’s shot close and tight, versus far and wide. We have the same perspective tools available to us in writing. Thus far, we’ve been zoomed in on the details of a single night. Here in the bridge Hardy zooms out to give us the bird’s eye view to help us better understand what’s at stake for our character.

7. A twist at the end

Don’t think about it, mister

Don’t even touch your phone

I know you wanna kiss her

But I promise you, you don’t

It’s always a nice stroke of craft to give the listener a little something extra at the end of a song. Hardy swaps “miss” for “kiss” here, just to put a cherry on top.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. Well done compadre!

Hope you enjoyed this breakdown and if you’d like to book an online songwriting lesson, grab a freebie right here.

Want to burn down your whole life and start all over again? I got a song for that.

BORN TO RUN

(my version)

1st verse

you and me baby we just got to get away

cos the people round here don’t see it our way

got the car all packed, no time to waste

if we leave right now we could make it by daybreak

i never needed anyone but you

and i know sometimes it don’t seem like i do

but the fire in my heart, well it burns real true

i just can’t sleep on a dream i’m due

and the truth it hurts

and the lies don’t work

and the good goes bad

and the bad comes back

and the kids grow old

and the old folks pass

if you’re born to run

better do it fast

FULL RECORDED VERSION TO COME SOON!

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SNEAK PEAK: New Artwork for forthcoming collection, Strange vol. 2

Dear friend and quality music enthusiast,

It’s been about a year since I put out Strange vol 1, and since then I’ve collected another batch of home recordings and little demos to share with you.

Some were made with a 4-track cassette recorder, others were played and sung directly into an iPhone.

I am intrigued by this raw and unfiltered approach. These tracks are more like field recordings, capturing an artist in the wild. There’s no studio polish, no producer to interfere, and no second guessing on behalf of the performer. It is what it is, they are what they are… and they are for you.

I’ll post the collection next week for download, but for now you can explore Strange vol 1 and enjoy another mad, brilliant illustration from my friend AstroMonkey.

Yrs,

Paul

P.S. As always, if you’d like to receive updates like these sent directly to your inbox on a weekly-ish basis, sign up for my newsletter here.

strange vol 2 artwork

How To Kill A Country Song In 2 Steps (And 3 Years)

Country music is so pure. Somebody called it the white man’s blues, I forget who though. It’s hard to write. You have to be simple and sincere.

This one took me about 3 years to write. “Go on and be with him”… that line came easy. BANG. The rest was a long and frustrating hunt. But she’s dead now, mounted on my wall with the rest. Goodnight old girl. I love you.

BUY NOW

Two Sides Of The Same Coin (An Experiment)

As a musician, there is always a balancing act. You want to make the music that makes you feel good, but you also want to create stuff that other people can enjoy.

So along those lines, I’m posting two versions of the same song here. It’s called “Baby Be Mine”.

These were both recorded on my 4 track cassette recorder. The first version is a simple take of me playing guitar and singing the song. When you see me perform live, this is what you get.

Then I went ahead and did 3 more takes on each of the remaining tracks. These were also all spontaneous, single-take performances. Whatever came out, just came out. There are additional vocals, guitars, a harp, and various other noises. Together they change the song into something a bit different, but that I also happen to like just as much.

Which of these versions do you prefer? Is one definitely better than the other? I can’t really tell. Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think.