Why Do I Write All These Sad Songs?

Paperback Theology | 9/11/2017 | Staff
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I cut my vocational teeth as a musician, part of the band Satellite Soul who was signed to Ardent/Forefront. Where label-mates like Skillet, DC Talk, and Newsboys were exceedingly successful, my band was always critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful. I’ve always wondered why.

A few weeks ago I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History. The episode is called “The King of Tears.” In it Gladwell tells the story of Bobby Braddock, a legendary Nashville songwriter. Braddock wrote “He Stopped Loving Her Today” for George Jones. He wrote “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” for Tammy Wynette. This guy is a legend, and he writes one incredibly sad song after another.

Gladwell - Lots - Lines - Music - Genres

Gladwell says that we draw lots of lines as we categorize music, usually between genres. We know the line between pop and rock, country and blues, hip-hop and R&B, but the one line we never talk about is the line between sad and happy. It’s the sad song line.

Gladwell inspired me to look back through the songs I’ve written over the years, and it hit me. I write with both feet firmly planted to the left of the sad song line. I mean, that’s what I do.

Songs - Honestly–are - Music - Songs

What’s more, the happy songs I write–I mean this honestly–are mostly written to try and get you guys to like me and like my music. The sad songs? Those I write just for me.

For example: I once wrote a song about how if my wife ever died, I’d probably just kill myself (Bury Me). It’s a country song–obviously.

Charting - Song - Band - Say - Hook

The highest charting song my band ever recorded was called Say I Am. It topped out at #3. The hook is “I’m not as good as I say I am.” The song is upbeat, but the words are just, well, sad.

The saddest Album I’ve made is Straight Back to Kansas–an alt-country record...
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