Here are some suggestions for the best sources for good songs, not in any particular order:
- God himself
There are times when a song just comes to me. Often this happens as I've been mulling over a concept or an idea. Sometimes that idea is musical, other times it's lyrical. Then, suddenly, a song is there in my head. When this happens, I attribute it to God. The best way to make LDS music, is to rely on God, Himself.
Be careful, though. In my life, God inspires lots of creativity, but he still expects me to work it out. Just because he dropped something in my lap doesn't mean he wants me to just have it. I still tweak it and rewrite it, and often that process is just as inspired as the initial idea.
- Reading scriptures
I've written lots of songs inspired by the scriptures. "Martyrs" is a great example, referring not only to the Book of Mormon, but Latter-Day history as well. Surprisingly, my rapped verse in "Shine the Light" is littered with scriptural references. Just jump in and read your scriptures and you'll find lots of things to write about. And not just me, but there are many LDS Musicians that draw from the scriptures. I love Sam Payne's "Brother's Road", for example.
- Living life
Don't just sit in your house and expect songs to come to you. You're out there, you're living your life. You're going to work, meeting people, going to church, doing your things... All of these activities can be sources of ideas for songs. Who are the people you interact with? What are their stories? Adapt those into songs. "Two Houses" is an example of a song I wrote because of an interaction with some friends. "The First Step" was written for the baptism of a friend of mine's daughter.
- Reading the news
The primary song says, "Now we have a world where people are confused/If you don’t believe it, go and watch the news..." My advice is the same, go and watch the news, and you'll see lots of ideas. And don't just watch the news, but be aware of the world around you.
- Interacting with other arts
Other arts can give you ideas as well. Other songs, plays, books, paintings, etc...
- People watching
Sometimes, when I'm bored and waiting in places that are public, I'll people-watch. I'll see what people are doing, and then I'll invent stories about them. I'll imagine who they're waiting for at the airport, or what they're shopping for at the mall. These stories give me ideas for songs.
"Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs..." What's wrong with that? Nothing, I guess, except that there's so much more out there to write about. If you can talk about it, you can sing about it. I once told a student to walk out her back door and tell me the first thing she saw. It was her swimming pool. "How am I going to write a song about my swimming pool?" She was confused.
Well, we talked about ideas. What if she threw a pool party and nobody came? A song about lonliness. A song about having things (the pool) but nobody to share it with. What if it rains while she's swimming? A song about enjoying herself in difficult times (it might be raining, but I'm already wet!). There are a million possibilities.
What will your next song be about?
Come back often to hear about new songs and shows. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including his Dutch Oven blog: Mark's Black Pot and his LDS pop culture blog: MoBoy blog.
Mark's Other Blog Posts: Dutch Oven Split Pea Soup