This song resulted from a webinar with songwriting coach Alex Forbes. Alex presented a method for writing, and attendees were supposed to follow her step-by-step instructions to formulate their own song.
Her method centered around taking a stand on something you believe in, have a deep thought about, or a topic or phrase upon which you have something meaningful to say. For me, the idea I found compelling was that as we go through our lives, everything has to be right just to be content, but if you make one grave error, your life can change in an instant. An accident, a bad decision, or saying the wrong thing in a high-profile public context were some examples I wanted to use.
Alex’s next step was to formulate a title that encapsulated your central idea. For me, it was “One Great Mistake.”
She then continued with tips on marrying the main lyric (chorus) with a melody that brings out the meaning of the words in the best way. Song form was discussed, as well as the idea of daring to suck as a songwriter. Meaning, write, write and write. Be prolific. Finish songs. Many of them will suck, and that’s OK – you’re learning something with each one.
Suffice to say, following a prescriptive method such as this tends to churn out fairly conventional song structures. Focusing on the clarity of expressing your idea makes for a very straight forward lyric and delivery. At least that’s what I found.
After writing the lyric, the music came to me fairly easily. I knew I wanted to make the music just as straight forward as the lyric, which for me, meant a straight up the middle rocker. I also talked about this song on an episode of Song Talk Radio.
Walk your whole damn life
Never give it a second thought
But take just one misstep
And you’re bedridden for months
It’s become second nature
You take the wheel most every day
But one distraction later
Twisted metal, body decay
One great mistake
That’s all it takes
You gotta be careful
To not bend, twist or break
Meet the girl of your dreams
Maybe your dreams were wrong
Spend your life in regret
It doesn’t have to be so long
It’s a game of subtle speech
Be careful what you say
You can fold under the pressure
And kiss your future away
But that’s the way we’re made
It’s a delicate precarious balance
Don’t take it for granted
Falter once and all will vanish