Tim Tunes

3-7 Songwriting - East Tennessee Valley - Part 1

December 23, 2022 Tim Rose Season 3 Episode 7
Tim Tunes
3-7 Songwriting - East Tennessee Valley - Part 1
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

For me Songwriting is never the same twice. Different parts of the song come to me at different times and in different ways.  In this episode you’ll follow along as I reveal my process for writing the song – East Tennessee Valley. 

Support the show

Please consider making a one time donation via the Paypal link above

Or, consider becoming a monthly subscribing patron of the show here:
https://www.patreon.com/timtunes
And get lots of extra documentation and music associated with the show.

3-7 Songwriting – East Tennessee Valley – Part 1

[Intro]
[Intro Theme – Motor]


For me Songwriting is never the same twice. Different parts of the song come to me at different times and in different ways. In this episode we’ll explore a new song that I am in the process of writing and, hopefully, will finish writing by the end of this podcast which will be recorded over several days, if not over several episodes. We’ll just see how it goes.

The song is titled, “East Tennessee Valley”, I’ll get into the specifics as we go along. This isn’t intended to be a lesson in how to write a song, but rather how I write songs, or more specifically, how I wrote this particular song.  As I said before, each song has its own evolution, its own path to creation. However, there are some general elements that come in to play when I write a song. At least I like to think there are. Sometimes it seems like the song is writing me.

[Pod Lick]

Hi. I’m Tim Rose and this is the Tim Tunes pod cast. In this episode you’ll follow along as I reveal my process for writing the song – East Tennessee Valley. So assume your favorite podcast listening position or activity as we dive right in.

[Pod Lick – Big D]

[The Inspiration]

Part 1 - The Inspiration

Every song begins somewhere. It could be almost anything that inspires a song. As a writer I need something to care about when I write so that I can get through the process. That includes the writing and recording of the song, but it also includes the presentation and performance of the song. If I don’t think the song has value, not just as music and notes, but also as emotions and ideas I can’t release it. Most likely, I’ll never even finish it. If I don’t think it’s important, most likely nobody else will either.

The initial inspiration for a song doesn’t always wind up as being part of the final version. Sometimes the song takes over, and in the process of writing the song, I make some discovery that hadn’t occurred to me when I started the song and then that’s what the song becomes about, not my original inspiration. So, let’s start this song and see what the inspiration was and where it takes us.

[Pod lick]

Last year I was driving from my cousin Patti’s place in Vidalia Georgia to my birthplace in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was enjoying the drive, the beautiful scenery and such, when I suddenly realized that I felt really good. I was filled with the anticipation of arriving there and I wasn’t sure why.

I left Knoxville when I was 10 years old, but something was imprinted on me from that time. I still have a few relatives there, my cousin Billy and my great cousin Bill both of whose company I enjoy very much (by the way my first name is William, welcome to East Tennessee). None of the other people that I grew up with are there anymore. Most of the buildings have changed or at least changed hands. Nobody lives where they did almost 60 years ago when I left.

Yet, I still felt this joyous swell the closer I got to Knoxville. I don’t know what I expected when I got there, but I couldn’t deny that I had this feeling. And it wasn’t the first time. I remember having the same feeling on many previous trips.

Once I got there, I made the usual pilgrimage to all the old places where I grew up – the house on Pinehurst Drive - my grandparents on the Dyke side of the family Popaw and Sissy’s old house – Popaw Rose and Marnie’s old house where my cousin Tony and Aunt Alice also lived – My old Elementary school and my old churches. But at all these places I felt nothing. It was as if the past had just evaporated away. There weren’t even any ghosts, just old places with new, unfamiliar people in them.

And yet, none of this dampened the happiness I felt here. I was still walking around with a smile on my face, and I have no idea why. So, instead of just enjoying the memory of that feeling what did I do? I decided this phenomenon was a good inspiration for a song.

[Pod Lick]

[The Hook]

Part 2 – The Hook

Traditionally the hook of a song is an infectious melody bit that you can’t get out of your head (One eight 77 cars for kids or Flintstones, Meet the Flintstones, or I did it my way or a million other hooky melodies that are out there.) But for me the hook is anything that draws the listener in to the song, that makes the listener want to listen to it. It could be a beat or a lick or an idea or a feeling or a melody or a phrase.

For this song I envision the hook being this feeling, this experience I had of being happy without knowing why. I want the song to draw the listener in, to funnel them into a place where they can’t help but feel happy. I want the song to recreate and share my experience with the listener whether they want it or not.

I need a lot of energy and movement in this song to get the listener to the edge of the funnel where I can push them in and watch them swirl around as they helplessly get sucked into the flask of happiness, as it were.

The tools that I’ll use to achieve this are a fast tempo, a catchy, moving melody and, hopefully, clever lyrics. Now, I don’t normally, consciously, think like this I just sort of do it. But for you, my dear listeners, I’m slowing down and dissecting the process.

Now that we have the scheme for our hook let’s start the actual writing and composition.

[Pod Lick]

[The Body]


Part 3 – The Body

Everybody needs somebody and every song needs a body, too. The body of the song are the verses and choruses and bridges of the song. Usually, but not always, of course, the beginning and ending of the song are the last things written. So, I don’t think of them as the body, so much. Now, let’s break out the tools and start writing.

When people ask what comes first the music or the lyrics, I always answer “both”. Sometimes it’s the lyrics and sometimes it’s the music. In this case our inspiration for the song has provided us with the initial lyrics. At the same time, I kind of have an idea of what the music, that is the melody , rhythm, and chords will be as well. Let’s start with the music although in this case they both happened simultaneously.

Let’s start with the speed or tempo – So we want the tempo to be fast but not crazy say 135 to 140 beats per minute. That sounds like this…

[Play Tempo]

That tempo keeps us really moving forward without sounding frantic.

Now let’s add guitar to see if we can come up with a nice groove.

[Play Guitar with tempo]

A C chord to an F chord. That’s too vanilla. Let’s put some travelling character into the rhythm pattern

[Play travelling Guitar with tempo]

Yeah, that’s more like it.  So, now that we’ve established a little groove let’s add the lyrics inspired by my drive up from Vidalia to Knoxville. Here is the first line I came up with:

Driving over the mountain or coming up from the plain
I start feeling happy. I just can’t explain


The C and F Chords repeated twice are good for the “Driving up from the mountain or coming up from the plain” But we need to change the chords and the melody as we try to avoid doing the same thing 3 times in a row. And, I want to keep the song moving so that you have a real sense of the excitement of travelling and anticipation.

After repeating the C and F chords, I go back to the C chord and then I walk it down to F and then F wants me to go to G there, so I do. Played slowly that sounds like this [play along] C C/B Am Am/G F and then G. Can you hear how the F wants me to go back to the G?  Because I sure can.
This is how it sounds at full speed.

[Play on guitar]    C     F   C   F   C  G/B Am Am/G  F  G

Hear how the descending base line adds movement to the song?

Before we put the chords, rhythm and words together, “What about the melody?”, you ask. Well for me, a melody suggests itself as I write the words. It kind of has too so that the verses line up. I don’t know where the melodies come from I just hear them in my head…all the time…they never stop. Sometimes, someone will say something to me and my head will sing it to me like a melody.

Funny story, years ago when my son, Josh was still in high school, his friend Mike Foley had come over to have dinner with us. As per usual we are all trying to make each other laugh and top each other with different stories and such. At one point Mike remarks “Wow! Everything is a song with you guys.” At which my son, Josh, grins and replies [sung] “Everything is a song!” It must be genetic. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that the melody is intimately tied to the lyrics and is influenced by the chords. But, I have no idea where the melodies come from or how to explain to you how to come up with a melody. Sorry, you’re on your own there. I would suggest that you start melody-fying the words and phrases that come up in your life. After all [sung] “Everything is a song!”

Now, let’s put all the parts together and see what we’ve got, so far.

C                           F                      C                                F
Driving over the mountain or coming up from the plain
C         G/B        Am       Am/G   F                          G
I start feeling happy.                     I just can’t explain


Hmmm. I like it. Now what? Well, that one phrase is too short for a whole verse, so let’s repeat everything but the lyrics for the second phrase of the verse.  Here they are:

I’ve got no reason to be joyful, but I cannot escape
This flying footloose feeling and the smile upon my face


So I’m rhyming the word escape with face, or not rhyming depending on your point of view. These two words don’t really rhyme but the do share the same a sound and both of them have a soft c in them. Good enough for me.

I really like the phrase “This flying footloose feeling” As it describes the emotion that I’m trying to impart and who can resist the three-letter alliteration. I mean that’s just pure joy, that is. Even if it does sound like a commercial.   Let’s put together the chords and melody and see what it sounds like.

[Play and Sing]

C                           F                      C                                F
I got no reason to be joyful,           but I cannot escape
   
      C       G/B           Am       Am/G              F                          G
This flying footloose feeling          and the smile upon my face

Ooo! I like it. Now, both phrases together sound like this:

C                           F                      C                                F
Driving over the mountains or coming up from the plain
C         G/B        Am       Am/G   F                          G
I start feeling happy.                     I just can’t explain
C                           F                      C                                F
I got no reason to be joyful,           but I cannot escape
          C       G/B           Am       Am/G              F                          G
This flying footloose feeling          and the smile upon my face


I think we got us a song started here. I’m really starting to get excited about this.

Okaaaaaaay. Now what? Well, we can’t repeat the phrase as we’ve already done it twice. Let’s see where the chords want us to go.

Here are the next lyrics to help guide us.

I was born here years ago and left while still a child
Everything has gotten smaller and nothing seems as wild
But for some unknown reason this place lifts my soul
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home


Okay. We wound up on the G chord at the end of last phrase. So, If we want to keep it in the same key and not do anything crazy we have a few obvious choices. The most obvious choice is to return to C. G especially G7 wants you to play a C after it. It just does. But not only is that obvious it makes the song sound too repetitious to my ear. I think we want to use a major chord here. We already have the Am so I think I want to avoid a minor chord here since this is taking on a kind of majory, country/folk rock flavor as we’ve gone along.

But what if we go back to F? We just came from there so nobody will be expecting it. It’s kind of like that murderer hiding out at the crime scene. Plus, it goes well with the melody I hear in my head. Yes, that works.

Now, the melody is urging me to play an E7 next. Wow! That’s a bit of a turn of events. It adds a real modal feel to the whole thing which I like. I mean, if infuses the song with a sense of excitement and exploration.  And I know from experience that I can go from the E7 to an Am and then walk it down like I did before. That way it sounds like the same song and not some off the wall crazy chord. Plus, that little progression ends on F and I can start the same cycle all over again. Let’s see how that sounds:

F                                E7                    Am           Am/G      F
    I was born here years ago and left while still a       child
F                                E7                    Am           Am/G      F
Everything has gotten smaller and nothing seems as wild
F                                E7                    Am           Am/G      D7/F#
But for some unknown reason this place lifts my soul
F                            G                           C              F                    C                 F
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home



That sounds pretty good. Let’s put it all together and see how it sounds.

C                           F                      C                                F
Driving over the mountains or coming up from the plain
C         G/B        Am       Am/G   F                          G
I start feeling happy.                     I just can’t explain
C                           F                      C                                F
I got no reason to be joyful,           but I cannot escape
          C       G/B           Am       Am/G              F                          G
This flying footloose feeling          and the smile upon my face
F                                E7                    Am           Am/G      F
    I was born here years ago and left while still a       child
F                                E7                    Am           Am/G      F
Everything has gotten smaller and nothing seems as wild
F                                E7                      Am           Am/G     D7/F#
      But for some unknown reason this place lifts my soul
F                            G                           C             
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home


Okay, not bad, but now that I hear it all together those last four bars are kind of repetitive and I’m not crazy about the “nothing seems as wild” lyric. Hmmm. So let’s see that makes this verse 32 measures long. 32x4 is 128 beats.  At around 135-140 beats per minute that makes each verse a little less than a minute long. That’s kind of long, so I think I need to shorten the verse a little.

What if I shorten the new section that I just added. My original thought was that maybe those four lines are the chorus. But it’s too long and too repetitious. I’ve already used that Am walkdown twice in the previous phrases. I need to change it. I’m going to eliminate two of the repetitions and use a different line at the end of each verse. I’ll also modify the end of each phrase so that they rhyme with “home”. So instead of four lines that last section will only be two lines long. Like this:

Driving over the mountains or coming up from the plain
I start feeling happy.   I just can’t explain
I got no reason to be joyful, but I cannot escape
This flying footloose feeling  and the smile upon my face
 I was born here years ago and left as a child to roam
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home


Yeah, That’s much better.

In the second verse I’ll be wondering why I feel this way and posing a few possible reasons for my feelings. Let’s see how shortening the end of the verse works with my lyrics for the second verse. By the way, I’ll be rhyming “old” with “home”, relying on the assonance of “o” to hold things together. This is how it goes.

The roads and buildings have changed - and the people are all grown
Some moved on and some have gone     to some other home
Maybe it’s the earth or the water - or the night or maybe the sky 
or the spirits of my elders calling me nigh.
Everything large has gotten smaller and everything new seems old
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home.


Let’s add the chords and give a listen to what we have so far:

C                           F                      C                                F
Driving over the mountain or coming up from the plain
C         G/B        Am       Am/G   F                          G
I start feeling happy,                    I just can’t explain
C                                     F                      C                                F
I got no reason to be joyful,                     but I cannot escape
          C       G/B           Am       Am/G              F                          G
This flying footloose feeling          and the smile upon my face
F                           E                        Am        Am/G    D7/F#
I was born here years ago and left as a child to roam
F                           G                           C                F     
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home

       C                                           F                                             C                                       F
The roads and the buildings have all changed - and the people they’ve are all grown
C                      G/B      Am               Am/G   F                         G
Some moved on and some have gone     to some other home
C                                               F                         C                              F
Maybe it’s the earth or the water - or the night or maybe the sky 
            C          G/B    Am    Am/G    F                     G
or the spirits of my elders                  calling me nigh.
F                                   E                                 Am              Am/G          D7/F#
Everything large has gotten smaller and everything new seems old
F                           G                           C          
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home


Well, that sounds pretty good. I think I need to give myself more time between the verses, but I’ll address that later.

[Podlick]

Now we need a bridge.

What is a “bridge”? Well, a bridge is the part of the song that is different from the verse or chorus that literally provides a bridge from one verse or chorus to the next section. It may be sung or it may be an instrumental section. I don’t count stuff like instrumental solos as bridges unless they have some fundamental difference from the verse or chorus. Otherwise, I count them as verses or choruses.

If you’re a frequent listener you’ve heard me say before that I think of my songs as a mini-play. What do I mean by that? For me. There are four main parts to the action of a play. The exposition where we are introduced to the players and the situation. The, so-called, rising action, or complication where some sort of tension or complication is introduced. The climax where the tension or complication comes to a head. And, finally, and the resolution or denouement. I like the term denouement as it literally means the untying of a knot or the unknotting.

So, the first verse is the exposition, the second the complication, and now we need to move to the climax. For that I’ll use a bridge.

[Podlick]

I started asking myself “Why do I care why I feel this way?” And I concluded that I don’t care why. It doesn’t really matter. And with that thought something else occurred to me. This was the first place I ever felt truly loved by my parents and family. Love and acceptance was a given. It just was. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t loved. This place and that feeling are joined, cast in stone in my soul. So, the lyrics for the bridge are:

At the end of the day, I don’t care why this place means so much to me
But I remember living here and being loved unconditionally

I’m not sure I like using the word “unconditionally” but that’s what I want to say. I wish I could say it more artistically, but so be it.

What about the music. I think I’m going to start the bridge on an F Chord but this time instead of following it with an E Chord we’re going to do something a little more off the wall and go to G# major. Here is what F to E7 sounds like [Play it]

and here is what F to G# sounds like:  [Play it]

The F to G# really lifts up the song and gives us another place to go

The G# chord acts as a substitution for the E7 chord. Since we’ve already heard the F to E7 transition the F to G# transition doesn’t seem as strange as if we’d just pulled it out of the air. In fact, the note G# is the only note in the E7 chord that is not found in the C Major scale, the key of our song.  So the G# chord is hanging out there saying, “I’m kind of the same thing you heard before.”

Next, we’ll resolve the G# chord to the C chord as if to assure the listener, “it’s okay, were still in C major”. And then go from the C major chord to the relative minor of C, Am. That sounds like this:  [Play it]

F  G#  C  Am

And that’s the first phrase of the bridge. For the second phrase of the bridge, we repeat the F to G# pattern and then instead of resolving to C, this time we just slide down a fret and resolve to G major. To finish off the phrase we are going to have a little descending line that uses the notes G to F to E to D using the chords G, F, C with an E in the bass, and G7 with a D in the bass. That sounds like this:  [Play it]

F  G#  G  F  C/E  G7/D

And the whole bridge with the melody and lyrics sounds like this:  [Play it]

            F                        G#                                  C                                          Am
At the end of the day I don’t care why this place means so much to me
F                           G#                                 G        F          C/E         G7
But I remember living here and being loved unconditionally


Now, my explanation of the bridge section probably sounds like a bunch of goobledy-gook. And, it’s not how I think when I’m actually writing. I mean I don’t think “Jeffery, I think I’ll use the G# as a substitute for the E7. Please pass the grey poupon.” It’s much more animal, feeling my way around more like “ Uh-oh what me do now. Can’t do F to E7, me already done that. How bout F to C? Bleah – that too plain, me spit it out. Let me try bunch of chords, need something up lifting. How about G#, they not expecting that. Hehe. Me really get them there.” Is much more like my actual thought process. In retrospect, what may seem like this well thought out process is actually the desperate act of my primate brain to do something different that doesn’t take us to far off the rails.

[Podlick]

And, finally, we get to the last verse – the denouement, the resolution. In this verse I figure out why I feel this way. So here are the lyrics:

Here I had my first family - learned the meaning of soul and heart
 What it means to be good to each other why we should all do our part.
Home and safe and easy going, friendly people thinking happy thoughts
It’s not so hard to figure out where my heart is caught
Now I guess I know the reason why this place always lifts my soul
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home


And, for the last time this episode, thank goodness, here is everything we have so far:

C                           F                      C                                F
Driving over the mountain or coming up from the plain
C         G/B        Am       Am/G   F                          G
I start feeling happy,                    I just can’t explain
C                                     F                      C                                F
I got no reason to be joyful,                     but I cannot escape
          C       G/B           Am       Am/G              F                          G
This flying footloose feeling          and the smile upon my face
F                           E                        Am        Am/G    D7/F#
I was born here years ago and left as a child to roam
F                           G                           C                F     C      F
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home

       C                                           F                                             C                                       F
The roads and the buildings have all changed - and the people they’ve are all grown
C                      G/B      Am               Am/G   F                         G
Some moved on and some have gone     to some other home
C
                                               F                         C                              F
Maybe it’s the earth or the water - or the night or maybe the sky 
            C          G/B    Am    Am/G    F                     G
or the spirits of my elders                  calling me nigh.
F                                   E                                 Am              Am/G          D7/F#
Everything large has gotten smaller and everything new seems old
F                           G                           C          
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home

   
         F                        G#                                  C                                          Am
At the end of the day I don’t care why this place means so much to me
F                           G#                                 G        F          C/E         G7
But I remember living here and being loved unconditionally

C                               F                                    C                                  F
Here I had my first family - learned the meaning of soul and heart
C               G/B               Am                  Am/G              F                                               G
   what it means to be good to each other               why we should all do our part.
C                               F                                    C                                        F
Home and safe and easy going, friendly people thinking happy thoughts
C                           G/B         Am            Am/G        F                            G                                  
           It’s not so hard to figure out                     where my heart is caught
F                           E                             Am                     Am/G               D7/F#
    Now I guess I know the reason why this place always lifts my soul
F                           G                           C
East Tennessee Valley you’re my home



Ok. Good work, so far. Let’s stop here and continue next episode. We still need to make beginning and an ending or Intro and Outro as I like to call them. And then we need to produce, arrange, and make the recording. But that will have to wait until next time.

[Pod Lick]

[Outro]
I know it’s been a while between episodes, but when you are dealing with third parties as I am in my interview episodes, things are not always under my control. So, I’ve decided in the interim to do something that I can control, hence these songwriting episodes.  I hope you enjoy them. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. I can be reached at the Tim Tunes Podcast group on Facebook or by going to tim-rose.com or by going to timtunes.buzzsprout.com. Or, you can email me at timtunespodcast1@gmail.com.

By the way, I’m working on my Patreon site where you’ll be able to subscribe to the podcast and for a small monthly subscription have access to all kinds of extra content like outtakes and different versions of songs and show scripts and such.

That wraps it up for this episode! Thanks for listening.

[Outro Pod Lick]

[After Outro Pod Lick ends]


Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee killed him a bar’ when he was only three…

Intro
The Inspiration
The Hook
The Body
Tempo
1st Verse Lyrics and Chords
Melody
1st Verse Development
1st Verse 1st Version and Critique
2nd Verse Lyrics
1st and 2nd Verses So Far
Bridge
Last Verse
Entire body so far
Outtro