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Real Life vs Imaginary

Chris King posed the  question below on Twitter and it generated quite the response. We put it on the Galleywinter Facebook page and were inundated with quality, thoughtful responses.  We’ve culled some of the best and added them below.  What do you think?

“Songwriters: I’m curious. How many folks value writing ‘what you know’ (real life) vs. creating something imaginary? Listeners: Do you care?”

“In songwriting, I don’t believe in limits with a genuine thought. As a listener, fake doesn’t groove and that’s the difference for me.”
– Dave Pratka

“I assume Chris Knight hasn’t killed all those people, (But you never know with CK), and his songs are great. Clearly they are not all real life experiences but he sells it in his writing and performance. And that’s the important part. And I know some (probably most) breakup songs or love songs are not real but they can relate to the listener. I love songs that I know are true stories but there is certainly room to be creative and elaborate on real life stories in song. Also there is room to come up with a song that is not true at all but still “hits home” and relates to the listener.”
– Tom Cheatham

“I gravitate to an honest song sung by someone who believes what they are singing, usually the writer themselves. As a writer, I do write what I know but I also write what I see, what I experience as well as what the people around me experience. Sometimes it stays true to the actual story but many times a song is a group of similar experiences rolled into one. I guess I’ll find out this year if my lyrics hold up.” -Brian Nelson

“Both. But where it gets monotonous is just writing for mass appeal. Certain Songwriters write about real life and it tells a story about them, others write of things they dream of and that tells something about them too. It just gets dumb when someone starts writing thinking, what will sell the most records?”
-Aleisha Sunshine

“Lots of great story songs are, I hope, not from real-life experience. There is something to be said for writing what you know, but how much has a 20 or 30-something really lived through? The greats sound to me like they could have been as easily written by a good novelist as a songwriter.”
-Aaron Dabney

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