Musicians: Please write songs!

I remember the shock when I heard this talented young musician say he doesn’t have any interest in writing music. I didn’t even play an instrument yet, but I’d been writing songs since childhood, and it felt almost offensive that someone so gifted would have no interest in playing songs of his own. It felt like a betrayal. I was in mourning.

Twenty years into my musical career, the only thing that’s ever mattered to me as a musician was writing and playing my own songs. I’ll do covers. But when I really come alive is when I use music as the medium to express the depths of my soul.

If you aren’t writing your own stuff yet,
I hope I can convince you to try

I assume I’m writing to someone who can play but hasn’t yet broken into the songwriting stage. I figure anyone who’s ready to try has already made it this far. So let me share some of the hard skills you need to take your songs out of your heart and into the air.

Breaking through: Your first whole song

I’ll never forget the first whole song I wrote in my head (“Angie,” couldn’t yet play). I’ll also never forget the first whole song I wrote with my guitar: “Washed Away,” which I bizarrely wrote using an electric guitar with headphones plugged into the amp. I’m still proud of it. It’s my keepsake from when I broke into songwriting. I felt so wealthy, having this whole entire song in my possession that belonged to no one but me.

Your first whole song should probably be one that comes together quickly. That’s rude to say, I know, but here’s why: Any time you’re working on a song that takes a lot of time, you have to be working on other songs too. Eventually you’ll find a whole song ready to go. The odds are you’ll find one this way – by accident, when you aren’t even trying to write, long before you finish that frustrating masterpiece of yours.

This is not about finishing a song. You don’t have to finish anything! You just need something to show for your work. Something you created, and maye something that makes you feel wealthy to have.

Which comes first: The lyrics or the melody?

I do believe this is the most common songwriting question people ask me. The answer is both and more. As you get more into songwriting, a chord progression might hit you in the shower. You’ll rush to play it (and invariably change it, because it’s impossible not to), and before long you’ve got lyrics. Or you’ll be in the shower and a set of lyrics with a melody are right there. You’re singing it and feeling really good about it, so you hit record on your phone and then you’re off.

(Just know this: all songs are partially written in showers.)

When am I ready to share my song?

Ah, this one’s tricky. You’ve got to factor in your own bias, the supportiveness of the people who’ll hear it, and more. Record yourself and listen honestly. Don’t be too harsh or too generous. Be honest. Will sharing this song give you what you’re looking for?

The biggest “when” question comes down to the biggest “how” question.

How will you be sharing?
— Live on stage at an open mic?
— On a chair with a loved one?
— Strictly digital, with a video or audio clip you post online?

Each venue has different standards, but I recommend you aim for an in-person performance with someone who respects you. Someone who can be genuine and encouraging, who will keep teasing to a minimum.

Or consider this. One of the scariest performances of my life was when I went to a public park to sing and play. It was so thrilling! For a guy who doesn’t like rollercoasters, I loved the rush I got from putting myself out there like that. It worked for me, so if that’s what you need, go for it!

Promise me you’ll try it!

Actually, don’t promise me anything. Promise you.

Promise you that you will take all of your musical talent and at least try to write a song of your own, with or without lyrics.

When you feel what it’s like to play your own song, you’ll be so glad you did.

And don’t worry about your age. Songwriting feels great at first, and it keeps feeling great for as long as you do it. No one is too old or too young to write a great song.

The happiest person on earth is the writer of songs.

— J. Rogue

Musicians: Please write songs!

The Bridge (Music Video)

Here’s a song written quite a while ago; and this particular recording is fairly old as well. Most Like A Road songs have little to do with any particular people. This is an exception.

the bridge will take you somewhere different
but the place looks the same


The target of my frustration here has no idea I ever felt this way. I felt angry and disappointed about a recent life choice he had made, and how it impacted the world we both inhabited. I’ve since made my peace, but I happen to like the song, especially since the phrase about “The Bridge” is self-referential:

  • The absurdly formulaic ubiquity of the musical bridge, which often returns us to a familiar melody from earlier in the song.
  • Cycles of relationships, where we tend to relive experiences in function, flexible in form.
  • The lyrics themselves, which are nearly identical to the opening verse, but different enough to change the meaning entirely.

I wrote this entire song in one mental sitting (or standing, actually) – and raced to my guitar to record this exact piece fairly close to how I imagined it. Some songs are lucky like that.

Although I did try to record it at least 10 times in one day under a bridge in Ojai, and I wasn’t happy with any of them, so here’s the original.

RELATED MUSIC TRIVIA: The song Badge (by Cream) was co-written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison. While writing out the lyrics and music, George wrote “Bridge” at the top of the page on that section of the song. Because it was scrawled rather than written neatly, Clapton thought George had titled the song “Badge,” and they decided to keep it that way. 

The Bridge (Music Video)

‘Heart Into Me’ Liner Notes

Here’s a story of love on the road. There’s something unique about the lyrics. Something I’m particularly proud of. Can you figure it out? I did leave you a clue after all…

And here’s a recording in front of an old GMC truck grille.


An allegory of living. Travel together across the miles and watch the love unfold.

trade hopes and curiosity 
in truth and reciprocity
where loss would be atrocity
you’ve got the right velocity

love is luminosity
uncommon virtuosity
unending generosity
you yearn with your ferocity

you’ll get what you got coming
if you’ll only stop your running

Aside from all that, this song is really hard to define. There’s so much openness and adventure, much like love itself. Ride it out and see where love takes you!

Here’s a link to that video performance again.

‘Heart Into Me’ Liner Notes

Better Than That

“Young man, listen. Young woman, take heed.”

The great cave was dark and cold, but at the place of the seer’s teaching the air glowed with warmth and an uncommon light.

“The real weight of your vows is carried in your obedience to the law of love.”

The lovers felt a deep stirring of concurrence. It is easy to agree. The ancient oracle continued.

“Learn the languages of love. Speak them well. Stand by your promises.”

Two hearts made promises. Two hearts beat sincere in their affections. And as the centuries rolled on, a billion more hearts did the same. Many sought the prophet’s wisdom and never once lost their way. Some slipped on their illuminated states and found the path once more. All found truth, whether centered on the road or wandering distant woods.

“And if the flames go cold, stoke the fire and add more fuel. Let your love burn hot again.”

all that really matters
is the essence of love we call desire


Since the grapevine symbolizes abundance and life, the yellowed fruits and barren branches of the vine in this video’s setting show a love that faded through the passing years.

With care and craving, we tend love and vines unto abundance once again.

SOURCE: The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols (2000)



Better Than That

‘Blouse’ Liner Notes

Here’s a song with the code of the trail running through its country western vibe. Continue reading below the lyrics for a few words about the meaning.

Recordings available:


The same story told in three movements: we have great respect for women around these parts. And if you wanna ride with our posse, you’ll step up and do the same.

Up before sunrise…
Establishing the setting; horse ride to Abilene indicates the old American frontier.

She gonna take care of my business
His life partner stays behind and attends to family affairs; he couldn’t be so free to ride the range if she wasn’t there to run the ranch, and her leadership is equal to his own. She, too, has places to go, and when she does, he stays behind if they aren’t riding off together.

When you come in my house
Respect the one in the blouse

Ain’t no room for your sexism here. This woman is a pioneer on the western front, and she is worthy of your respect. We won’t tolerate no lookin’ down on her around these parts.

Don’t rise when she enters
She isn’t interested in your displays of chivalry. What you might consider to be a polite demonstration of respect, she would take as a suggestion she is the “weaker sex.” She don’t want none o’ that.

In vain compliment her
Again, you’re not so big that you need to prop up her feminine ego.

For better, for worse…
Indicates a strong marriage, with mighty vows to unite them.

We don’t know any better way to be
We don’t wanna know any better way to be
Yeah, yeah, yeah; we know all about your genteel customs. Well, you can shove ’em, because we like the way we fit just fine. And if you feel some compulsion to get her on the ladylike path, it’s probably because you’re uncomfortable with equality. Maybe you like it better when she seems subordinate, but she ain’t.

Come in from the trail
Our singer is a host to fellow riders on the range. You’re welcome to warm your boots, eat some grub, and sleep in our shelter from the weather.

But if you treat her like a less-than
And lessen her soul

We don’t cotton to your inflated sense of importance.

I reckon you’re about two steps from hell
Hell isn’t a destination here, it’s a thematic view of a person’s unwillingness to permit another to the full experience of life and liberty. This isn’t a godly way to behave, and it sure don’t belong around here. Again, if you don’t wanna treat my woman like she’s as good and important as me and you, then you can beat it.

Why is this song important?

This song affirms the equality of men and women, but also points to a broader view of equality among all humanity. There’s a lot of derision for people unlike us in this world, and it disrupts the human experience for every one of us.

We say “all men are created equal” and we understand that women and children share in the designation “men.” While some are rich and some are poor, some are healthy and some are sick, some are joyful and some are miserable, all persons deserve to be treated with respect. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • When you go out to dinner, don’t leave a big mess for the busser. Pick your children’s crayons and food scraps off the floor. Maybe even stack some of your plates and return the condiments to the caddy.
  • When you’re on the road, don’t take advantage of merging lanes to cut off dozens of other drivers. Never use your vehicle as a weapon or a way to assert your superiority.
  • In the workplace, don’t oppress or minimize those who report to you. Serve your coworkers and subordinates by affirming them with your words and showing grace in the direction and accountability you offer.
  • In the home, he should be helping with the kids, the laundry, dinner, and the dishes. Your job is more than taking out the trash, mister. Other chores need doing, and she shouldn’t have to carry that weight alone.
  • In our social structures, don’t ridicule, mock, or minimize those who are different than you. Diverse languages and cultures, when expressed in an otherwise homogeneous environment, bring enlightenment and new perspectives. And even if someone of another background is violating your own community’s standards of behavior and speech, their inclusion creates an opportunity for them to learn from you.

Pardon my scolding. I can’t make you do any of this, and I’m not creating a to do list. I’m only uplifting the kind of values we saw in the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, whose ministry is revered around the world, including in non-Christian religions. Let’s create a world of greater love and justice for all. Equality is where it’s at.

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

when you come in my house
respect the one in the blouse

‘Blouse’ Liner Notes

Stay Away From Me

my life is a train
i been movin’ up and down these cars again
can’t find my home
within these crowded cars

A friend of a friend once said “life is nothing but an unending series of disappointments.” If there’s any truth to that, it’s that life is also an unending series of new strengths, hopes, and opportunities.

This is a journey-of-life song, spoken from the heart of one who, along the road, struggles to decide whether to transform life’s disappointments into forward facing energy, or whether it can be done at all. The unresolved questions are a backdrop to our resolve to push forward at any cost, with eternal strength sufficient to fuel to fight.

These lyrics of introspective poetry are included below this embedded video:

i gotta learn to be
before i learn to see


Stay Away From Me

Heart Into Me

Here we have a tune from 2008, written with an intentional peculiarity. Maybe you’ll pick up on it in the embedded video below. (If not, a clue on the lyric page below the video will help you out. Fun riddle!

Herewith we look into life and love on the road: with a metaphor about eternal life in Eternal Love.

take it where you want it to be
let it move you on
breathe your fear away and be free
breathe your heart into me



Heart Into Me

My Favorite Songs, Ranked

Skip straight to the list, or read on…

If you know me well enough to know my secrets, you know songwriting is one of the top three activities I most love doing. I’ve got about 40 songs completed with another 50-60 in the pipeline of creativity. Most are from the prolific period of 2004-2011. One dates to 1991, and a few are much newer (2016-2017). Years for each are on the lyric sheets.

I didn’t learn how to play guitar until 2001. I’m forever grateful to my friends Cindy L. and Nathaniel D., both of whom invested their knowledge into my future. Much enjoyment comes from writing songs that can encourage or reframe the perspective of others.

When I record songs for the Like a Road blog, I prefer to keep it simple, with just an iPhone and no editing of the video or audio. I’m more of a live music player than a studio musician, so there you have it. I’m not all that pleased with any “home studio” demo.

Now, if you wish, you can check out my list of favorite recordings. I’ll add new ones to the list as time goes on, and do my best to keep the full track list updated as well. Enjoy!

My Favorite Songs, Ranked

Got Them Blues

They say you can walk 10,000 miles in the morning
If you got the right shoes
They say you can walk 10,000 miles in the evening
If you got them blues

I’m learning how to do multitrack recording, and this is my first (flawed) attempt, using a song I know very well, having played it probably 10,000 times! For this one I played and sang for the video track, then recorded an accompaniment guitar and a djembe on one additional track each.

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

– Reid Hoffman


Lyrics and imagery for the first verse inspired by the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “Air was cool, like my machines were” references the collapse of the fishing industry throughout the Gulf coast. The oil spill blowout occurred in the Macondo Prospect, releasing 4.9 million barrels of crude into the open sea. At the time, there was significant concern that the spill would never be contained, exacerbated by the several failed efforts to cap the well.

The music and most of the lyrics for this one date back to 2005.


Fishing boat image Designed by Freepik

Got Them Blues