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Songwriting: Start to Finish

Brian Johnson

00:28:19 · Songwriting

"God co-labors with us. In our natural lives, spiritual lives, and even songwriting. We are given a seed, we plant it, and watch it grow. "

Songwriting: Start To Finish

Brian Johnson


“I am convinced there is more power in songs than we realize.”


  • Our faith is completely wrapped around songs and we proclaim them to God
  • God gives us such a gift to sing songs to him
  • Songs open doors to invisible realities, whether evil or good
  • You can see the power of music with the right heart behind it. You can see what happens when you stick an anointed group of worshipers in a dark area. The battle between dark and light becomes so real


Romans 1: We are without excuse when it comes to our belief in God, when we see all the visible around us it points to the invisible. 


Music is cross-cultural

  • In a dark place, the light makes a huge difference
  • Words are limited, but music can reach
  • “I’m a melody guy.”
  • We can be so persuaded by music. You can sing something happy and play something sad. amazing conflict.
  • Our bodies are like salt and sweet. There is a conflict and it causes our brains to ignite. This is what can happen in a great song. Some songs are more powerful when you have a happy lyric with a somber melody.
  • We are ambassadors with a message. We have the privilege of putting the songs of God into the mouths of the people of God.


Don't settle.

  • God wants us to write lifelines for people
  • There is something about certain songs that just works. We try to teach and explain but sometimes they just work. We write lifelines for people. People are drowning and we are throwing them lifelines.
  • Write what you want to see the church look like in 5, 10, and 15 years. We are prophetic people. Music is prophetic. We are all vibrations at our core. Matter is held together by vibration.


Some Background

Brian was tormented as a kid and he knew that when he wrote a song that countered that torment, he knew that the song can help pull you out of the torment. It’s “their only hope. Its an anchor to a greater reality than what I was feeling. It prophesied me into a new season. Songs start awakenings and revivals.”

  • Songs can sing what God is doing in a room or change what is happening in a room
  • We can ride a wave or create a wave
  • A worship song should be defined by its result
  • “Some of the best worship songs are started in worship.” Matt Redman


Examples of Where Some of Brian’s Songs Were Birthed

  • Brian tells a story about an altar call where he began spontaneously singing his song Have it All. It was birthed in a moment. 
  • Leeland found the chorus of Lion and the Lamb came during a kids camp
  • Brian wrote the chorus of Your Love Never Fails seven years ago and it was finished three years ago. Don't hate the grueling process of finding a song. 


Writing Good Songs/ Good Songwriting Habits and Thoughts

  • God co-labors with us. In our natural lives, spiritual lives, and even songwriting. We are given a seed, we plant it, and watch it grow. 
  • Music is about tension and release. When helping to write Lion and the Lamb, the bridge needed tension. It aided and supported the original idea and made it better. It didn't steal. Try not to write disconnected songs. Don’t get impatient! Make it count. 
  • Sometimes your ideas can lead you to other songs. Bad ideas can get you to good ideas. Don’t be afraid to throw away bad ideas or use those ideas elsewhere. There’s no such thing as a bad idea if it leads you to a good one.
  • Writing a good song is about what you put in as well as what you take from the song.
  • I can get really emotionally attached to songs, so i surround myself with people to help me make decisions about what is good for the song


Everyone likes a simple melody

  • Be sure you have a release from music too. 
  • We are writing for the common man. Melody is most precious. He won’t recite your lyrics while he mows the lawn, he will hum the tune.
  • It is important to have the taste of the “common man,” being too deep and complicated can be confusing
  • Not every idea can bear the weight of a song.
  • Does it work on an acoustic? Big Band? Sped up? Slowed down?
  •  Some songs are for a certain group, time, or place.
  • Amazing grace is an example of a song that is supposed to be passed down from generations. 
  • Capture the moment. Sometimes the beginning nugget is found in a spontaneous moment (always be ready to capture moments)
  • Always have your antenna up ready to receive like we do with god’s voice. Some of the best ideas come when you can't take credit for them.


Be humble. Put the right part in songs. Stay open handed before the Lord and honor people 

  • Match the same melody with different chord structures. Play around with progression. Sometimes you will find the perfect marriage.
  • The right amount of tension and release is crucial. Use your melodies and progressions to build these moments.


Collaborations. Sometimes it is important to generate forced collisions. 

  • U2’s producer would bring together a very different group of musicians who have never worked together and are from very different backgrounds to create new sounds 
  • Find people that fill in poor aspects of your songwriting 
  • Brian finds melodies and sends them to lyric guys like Jeremy Riddle or Joel Taylor. They take these melodies and love it because they are doing what they are good at