Award Winner Songwriter,
Kevin Beadles Interviewed
The Story Behind the Song
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Shouldn' do that..."
Shouldn' is your latest song on YouTube. I like this little bit country song. It's the humor and beat which is addictive. How did you come up with the story for this song?
A. My wife, Wendy, heard someone say that when you beat yourself up over things you shouldn't have done, all you're doing is shouldn' [sh*ttin'] on yourself.
I thought that was pretty funny... sounded like something straight out of a country song. So I started imagining what sort of character might talk this way. A ne'er-do-well, hard-drinking, hard-living kind seemed to fit the bill. What I really like about this character is that everyone else wants him to change but he's perfectly happy with himself:
"When I wake up dead I won't regret a single thing I've done
I always listen to my conscience, it tells me, 'Boy, have some fun!'"
Once that was settled, the story came quickly.
Q: I know I shouldn't ask, but have you "shouldn'" a lot in life?
A. Sadly, no. But I'm sure my kids will make up for it!
Q. How important is story when writing lyrics?
A. With a story-telling song, it's vital of course, and it's hard to beat a really good story song. But story songs are tricky. You usually only get two 4-line verses and a 2-or 4-line bridge to tell the story. The chorus can't change too much or it won't be catchy. So when you only get 10-12 lines to tell your story, every line has to count.
But there are several types of lyrics. Songs like "Shouldn'" are character-driven. The goal is simply to bring a person to life. Others like "This Might Get Loud" are about capturing a feeling. Instead of story, you depict a situation. The singer has decided to risk everything and tell his best friend he's fallen in love with her. We're not given much back story and we don't learn what happens next (though we're pretty sure it's going to work out and get "really loud"). So instead of story, the focus is on internal dialogue, the hopes & fears that have led up to this decision.
Regardless of the lyric type, point-of-view is a critical decision. Once I know who the singer is and who he's singing to, I feel pretty confident that a song's going to come together.
Q. "This Might Get Loud" won the Grand Prize for the Great American Song Contest. Again, the lyrics are very playful. In fact, a great many of your lyrics have a humorous nature. How important is humor in song writing?
"We might whisper what we're feeling
And let our bodies shout"
A. Humor is definitely a key part of my tool kit. It keeps things from getting too heavy even when you're dealing with hard subjects. I used a lot of dark humor on my last album. For instance, "Mrs. Jones' Cadillac" is about a rather bitter woman who drives a hearse and literally drags her past around with her:
"And every grievance that she's nursed
Rides behind her in the hearse
What you don't bury, you carry along
But the stench gets a little strong
Yeah, the stench gets a little strong"
Q. Is winning contests a great advantage to a musician or lyricist?
A. It has been for me. Recent contests have led to a licensing deal with Triple Scoop Music, the chance to work with a music supervisor for Sony Pictures, and the chance to perform at the West Coast Songwriters Annual Conference in front of industry guests and some of my songwriting heroes.
Q. "Like atoms smashed together, we'll explode into forever---and we'll shine." "Shine" and "This Might Get Loud" both offer message over story. "Shine," especially. Which moves you more to write, story or message?
It's really song-by-song for me. Of late, I've been focusing on songs that capture a particular emotion or message because that's what works in film. The scene already has dialogue & story, so the music is there strictly to enhance the mood. Story songs usually have a hard time getting placed in films except for the occasional montage scene or opening/closing credit.
Q. Want to give us a peek into your creative process?
I'm a real grinder. Usually something captures my interest--a bit of melody, guitar riff, story idea--and the first draft gets written in a great initial burst of energy. But then I revise and re-write until I feel everything is as good as I can make it. That may happen over weeks or years.
Getting feedback from my songwriting group is also invaluable. And a song isn't finished until I run it by my songwriting gurus. I've been fortunate to study with writers like Steve Seskin (Grammy-nominated, seven #1 hits) and Bonnie Hayes (top 40 hits, Berklee College Songwriting Dept Chair).
Q. What new work is coming out? Where is Kevin Beadles Band playing next?
I'm planning to release a new single/video this summer and another in the fall. The singles are already recorded but the videos are only at the pre-production stage.
And I'm working hard to get my new album ready for release in early 2017. Just mixed another song yesterday.
With all that going on, my band's been on hiatus but we've committed to playing a benefit concert at Berkeley's storied Freight & Salvage sometime in the fall so I'm sure we'll start booking shows again soon. My upright bass player is a 747 pilot and he keeps twisting my arm to do an international tour. He does a lot of Southeast Asian routes so maybe we'll pull a SpinalTap and make it big in Japan!