PLAYLIST FOR THE WINNERS : https://old.dallassongwriters.org/album/2017-song-contest-finalists/
1. I’m Finally Going Home by Kevin Hale, Brentwood, Tn
2. Are There Hillbilly Bands In Heaven by Kevin Hale, Brentwood, TN
3. It’s Hard To Let You Go by Nancy Line, Clifton, Virginia
1. Give Me Grace by Jane Fallon, Brookline, NH
2. If Heaven Had A Phone by Louie Cate, Alexandria, VA
3. Butterfly by Shonna Stallworth, Dallas,TX
HM Come Unto Me by Kevin Hale, Brentwood, TN
HM Our Time by Debra M Gussin, Los Angeles CA
1. Hearts The Speaks by Jayne Sachs, Trotwood, OH
2. When Horses Were Better Than Boys by Jeff Moxcey, Waterville, ME
3. Behind Bars by T. Edwin Doss, Silver Springs, MD
1. Putting Together by Roy Ash , Canton, TX
2. Going To Dallas by Franz Groll, Cologne, Germany
3. Treacherous Trip To The Top by Alexis Tapp, Wylie, Texas
1. You’re Wrong by T. Edwin Doss, Silver Springs, MD
2. Just A Summer Fling, by Louie Cate, Alexandria, VA
3. Let’s all In Lovesick by Ross Miller, Newton, MA
1. Tamborine Star by Randy Sauer, Hays, KS
2. Muddin In A Truck by Randy Sauer, Hays, KS
3. Texas Crude by Ross Miller, Randy Crenshaw, Newton, MA
1. Freedom by Robb Smith, Laguna Beach, CA
2. Waiting on a Train by Renee Safier, Andy Hill & Hard Rain, Los Angeles, CA
3. Only Once by Ireland Casteel, Grapevine,TX
1. Dear Me by Hayley McDaniel, Jody Stewart Regner, Denton,TX
2. Say Anything by Megan Sullivan, Arlington, Tx
3. Fais Do Do by Mike P Ryan, Clifton, VA
1. Fais Do Do by Mike P Ryan, Clifton, VA
2. If Heaven Had A Phone by Louie Cate, Alexandria, VA
3. Behind Bars by T. Edwin Doss, Silver Springs, MD
GRAND PRIZE JUDGE ROY ELKINS’ COMMENTS
I spend of lot time lecturing to musicians about their careers and songwriting. One of the topics that we often discuss is how to capture a song when times are tough, especially when the emotions are flowing and raw. If we as artistic souls can learn to seize the opportunity of a tough situation and the creative benefits that come with it, some of our best material may come out of it. We have to learn that trees don’t grow on mountain tops, they grow in valleys. If we can document our actions and feelings while in these difficult growth stages, we win. Not only as writers, but more importantly as an outlet to express the feelings and soothe our mind and heart. This year’s DSA contest included many songs that were inspired by difficult personal experiences and also a few that were simply written for the sake of writing.
The winner of this year’s contest is FAIS DO DO. This is a perfect example of a writer capturing those challenging circumstances and channeling them into a great song. HEAVEN HAD A PHONE is second. This is one of the most unique concepts I have heard in a long time and was probably inspired by a personal event in the writer’s life. Third place is BEHIND BARS. I am not sure if this song was triggered by an event in the writer’s life, but it is very clever and well written. Like I mentioned, life events can launch great creativity but it’s not a requirement to generate good art.
I wish I could comment on every song, but time just doesn’t permit. I gave Seems Like Yesterday the strongest score in the Truth category, Let’s Call In Lovesick was one of the most original and Are There Hillbilly Bands In Heaven was one of the songs that made me smile a lot. Every song has a reason it’s written and that’s what I like to try and discover. I wish I had the time to comment on each one at length – they all had some great strengths. I especially look for that personal inspiration or that brilliant songwriting shining through in both the lyrics and the music.
Thanks for including me again in this great contest. And thanks to the Dallas Songwriters Association for what you do for songwriters.
Founder of Broadjam
Founder of Between The Waves Madison Music Festival and Conference
Fais Do Do
This is a sad song about a woman who’s in a relationship with a drunk; the only thing keeping her sane is their baby. When listening to this lyric, I hoped the writers made it up and created the story, but my guess is this was probably motivated by a personal experience or someone they know. Either way, I found it moving. Probably not a new concept for a song, but an innovative take on one that’s been used many times before.
When a songwriter nails a melody like this, it’s magical. This song has a great melody that truly reflects the feeling of the song. You can hum this tune and sense the pain of the subject in the song. Clearly there was inspiration, but wherever it came from, I would like a drink from that creative well…..of course without the pain associated with it.
“Instead of his lips, she gets the back of his hand”, “the truth is there is nowhere to go” and so many other lines in this song are examples of excellent lyric writing. When a song has so many lines, like the aforementioned, that could actually be the hook, one knows that there was a lot of time put into the crafting of this lyric. On top of that, the lyrics work very well with the melody and progression. I believe this was an inspired melody and that lots of work was put into the lyric. If it wasn’t, then these writers have a gift — this song was unique, different and perfectly crafted. Lyrics at this level usually don’t come easily and have to be worked on and worked on. It’s a song that could be an instrumental, because of the melody, or a poem, because of the lyrics. Excellent songwriting! I would hope that these writers have more songs like one this up their sleeve. On a production note: If a tempo was ever perfectly matched to melody and lyric, this is it.
Heaven Had A Phone
This may be the best concept for a song in the competition. This grew on me the more I heard it. This leaves you wondering who has departed that the singer wants to talk to. Was it a parent, a partner, a child, etc.? It is an interesting upbeat melody with a somewhat sad lyric. If a group of songwriters were asked to write a song to this lyric without hearing this melody, I bet you would get diverse melodic and stylistic takes on this from every writer who attempted. That’s what makes it great. This could be interpreted by other writers and artist alike in so many styles. With that said, I think the lyric is perfect for the current country market and if it was my song, I would get it produced in that style and shop it. It has huge crossover potential and I would follow up the country demo with versions in as many genres as possible. I love this song and would love to hear more from these writers.
This is a very well-crafted song with a great concept and hook, “Behind Bars.” The title itself makes the listener think one thing, but actually the lyrics mean something different, and it’s done very tastefully. This is a hit waiting for someone to cut it. I could hear Josh Turner, Tim McGraw, etc. knock this out of the park. I wish there was a category on my judging scoresheet for pre-chorus, because this song has an awesome set-up at 1:08, By far the best in this contest – “He can’t let her see him again messed up that way…..”. It simply pulls the listener in further. This is a good song with an outstanding set-up and hook and I would bet a pretty experienced writer wrote it. Excellent song structure and lyrics! My only criticism is that the lyric feels a bit contrived and lacking a sense of authenticity. I didn’t spend a lot of time on this thought — songs don’t necessarily need a sense of realism to be good. This is a brilliant song and I think it could be a hit right now in the current form if the right artist heard it. I would bet there are a lot more good songs in this writer’s catalogue. This is very strong and polished work.
Heart That Speaks
This song is written about a partner that apparently did something the singer didn’t like. If you hum this melody without the words, you almost know what the song is about. Like Fais DoDo in this contest, the melody really reflects the lyric. This is a very good melody and an interesting twist on a common topic in song…. “I know your mouth is moving, but I can’t hear a thing.” I love this line and was thinking, “Man, I wish I would’ve written this.” The opening line to the chorus is “Words are just words,” a very strong line that sets up the chorus nicely. This line is probably stronger and more memorable than the hook. As it is, I like this song and believe it is very well written. The song didn’t jump out at me early on, but as I listened more, it grew on me, especially the melody. This is really good stuff.
Treacherous Trip to the Top
It’s a song that pulled me in at first through the production: Subtle beginning, very tame. Then at 27 seconds there is a quick piano lick that enters and becomes a de facto hook throughout the song. I love this. Very original. At 43 seconds, an interesting gallop-like percussion track begins and adds mystery to the piece. The understated synth swells in the piece are very tasteful like the one at 1:06 and again at 1:18. At 1:24, some congas enter and continue to build the song. What’s interesting about this piece is there really isn’t this melodic “thing” you can hum, but the entire piece is crafted so well that it’s memorable without a musical hook (other than the aforementioned piano part.) At 3:18, another nice piano lick enters the song and again, it’s very tasteful. In a song contest, a judge is supposed to ignore the production. But in this case, the production is a crucial element in the composition. Without several of these parts, the song falls apart. I am assuming one person wrote and played all the parts while creating it as they work so well together and without each other, there is no song.
Just A Summer Fling
This is different and interesting. I am not sure I’ve heard anything like this, but could clearly hear it being sung in the movie Grease by Olivia and John. It has that kind of lyric, but the melody is very sixties, especially at 2:23 when the bridge enters. At 2:42, the vocal turns into a call and response where the female voice sings a line and the male responds. This is very clever and innovative writing. I am not sure if this was the intention while writing or developed in production, but it sounds to me as if it was written for two voices. But…..one could easily put a different production around this and make it very modern sounding. Great chorus and lyrics that support the hook.. Good writing without any wasted words.
I’m Finally Going Home
Great energy and groove in this piece — you can’t listen to this without smiling and tapping your feet. The singer is singing about the celebration of life, and the music reflects that thought. Truly an uplifting song, “I think,” with the perfect tempo to match. The reason I say, “I think”, it’s an upbeat song and it’s a song about dying with an upbeat tempo and major chords. Usually, lyrics about dying and going to heaven aren’t so joyful, but in this case it works. There are lots of good lyrics in this song. One that stands out to me “Lay me in the ground, put a rose on my grave.”
While I was listening to this, I was thinking of another song in the competition it reminded me of, Are There Hillbilly Bands in Heaven? It has the same feel, but different tempos. When a Bluegrass song is done right, it is engaging. I am assuming that the person who wrote this is the performer. If so, I hope they are playing live as it would so enjoyable to see. Great job!
“You haven’t earned your silence yet with me” is a fantastic line. Many of the lyrical phrases in this song have been written before, but not quite this. This is really good lyric writing. Break-up songs are not new, but versions like this one are. This is a well written song, with a great melodic and lyric marriage. Although she doesn’t really say this specifically, the feeling is that the singer sounds like she really wants the guy back, wishes him well, wants him back, doesn’t want him back, loves him, hates him, is hurt, etc…..…which is the magic of this. It’s almost as if the melody and progression have a different meaning than the actual words. Ironically, that’s why it works so well together. If this was my song, I would work out a more definitive and memorable chorus, maybe repeat “Say Anything” or expand on it. I think with a more memorable chorus, this moves up the list and becomes much stronger.
This could be the most unique song in the contest. An AAA, maybe ABAB depending on your opinion, format that while the melody changes slightly, the lyric structure remains the same. The hook, “Dear Me,” is the first line of every phrase and the melody at times almost “spoken-word” like in a few places. It feels as if the singer just wants to talk on and on and on about her pain and eventually scream. It creates a lot of questions and really involves the listener. That could be the performance, but I think listener engagement comes from what the singer says after the words, “Dear Me.” As a listener, you feel like you are waiting for the next set of words. There are points where the lyric is excellent, such as “not every after ends up happy”. But I don’t think overall the lyrics are quite as strong as the title hook. If it was my tune, I would develop the phrases after “Dear Me” to be unique and create images about why he has sent the singer into turmoil. In this context, a song to listen to might be Dear Abby by John Prine. He begins each verse with “Dear Abby, Dear Abby……..” and then follows it up with very specific images. It shouldn’t be comedic like Dear Abby, but with a little imagery added, the writer will have a much stronger song as it is very clever with a great hook.
Going To Dallas
After listening through the songlist the first time, this stuck with me. Reminds me of the instrumentals of yesteryear and it just feels good. Melody is prominent and supported by a progression based around 1-4-5. Nice melody leads throughout especially at 1:46. This part sounded like something Dickey Betts might have written. Good work!
I admire writers like this, where the rhymes are not typical and still make sense. This is difficult to do and it seems so natural to the writer. I assume the writer is the singer as the lyric is delivered so well. While I love the song, I think the hook could have more presence in the song. There really isn’t a melodic and lyrical passage that sticks with the listener. I would love to hear more from this writer as I love this style.
When Horses Were Better Than Boys
This is a great concept, very original. I bet this was inspired by someone the writer knew, as the idea is so unique. This is one of those songs that is so “close”, I feel it could take many directions and maybe an additional set of ears or a co-writer could really lock it down. In some ways, the title/hook is comedic and the lyric is very serious. If this was my song, I think I would re-write with tasteful, but serious humour. Maybe poking fun at the subject/person in the song. But at the same time, a longing is still felt by the singer like it does now. With that said, I love the concept and believe it has potential far beyond this contest with some tweaks. It would be interesting to see other concepts and songs from this writer.