Hold Back the River – James Bay

James Bay“Hold Back the River” became a huge international hit soon after its release in late 2014. Universal themes of nostalgia, regret, and lost innocence are conveyed in conversational yet evocative language. The chorus melody is memorable and has a folksy authenticity that adds to the singer’s credibility.

There are many simple songwriting techniques here that you can use in songs of your own: a family of related images, words that have emotional associations, varied phrase lengths in the melody, and an easy trick for catching the listener’s attention with your chorus. Let’s take a look at how these work together to create a hit song.

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:

• Use images to intensify emotion.

• Create contrast between sections with phrase lengths.

• Add an octave to lift the energy.

Read the lyrics here: Hold Back the River – James Bay

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.)

Watch on YouTube.

Recorded by James Bay
Writers: James Bay & Iain Archer

GENRE/STYLE  (What is a genre?)
I’m going with Folk/Rock on this one. The lyric palette features images of nature and rural life. The melody is fairly straight ahead, closer to the Indie Folk style of “Gone Gone Gone” by Phillip Phillips than to the quirky, unpredictable melodies of Alt Pop or Alt Rock, where it is sometimes classified. The track relies on acoustic guitar-style melody lines and strumming (although played on electric guitar), there’s not a whiff of synthesizer or electro anywhere around. The drums are live (and great). Folk/Rock has made a very successful comeback after being out of fashion for the last few decades.

SONG STRUCTURE
This structure looks complicated but sounds cohesive and natural when you listen to the track. The verse melody functions as both an instrumental and vocal hook. The bridge reappears at the end of the song as a tag, after which we hear the hook one more time. Every melody is used and reused. There are, in fact, only three different melodies: 1) verse and hook, 2) chorus, and 3) bridge. Continue reading

July/August 2015 Songwriting Newsletter is out!

Songwriting TipsMy July/August newsletter is fresh off the cyber-press. I’ve got a songwriting tip for you that’s practically a whole eBook. I got so excited about it that I just couldn’t stop writing.

Song Tip: “Write a Song in Four Drafts” – In this article I’ll walk you through a songwriting process that will take you from initial melody or lyric idea to completed song. You’ll be doing it in four drafts, each one laid out for you step by step. In each draft, you’ll blend your inspiration with rewriting techniques that add plenty of listener appeal. It’s  not the only way to write a song, but it sure works. Plus, you can apply these ideas to any songwriting process in any genre.

James BayStudy the Hits“Hold Back the River” recorded by James Bay. This gorgeous Folk/Rock hit uses some simple songwriting techniques to work its magic. Imagery in the title and octaves in the melody create a powerful blend of emotion and energy. You can apply these ideas in many of your own songs. I’ll show you how.

If you didn’t get your newsletter, sign up in the EMAIL FORM at the upper right. You’ll receive a Confirmation email. Click on the link in the email to confirm your subscription, then look for a “Thank You” email with the latest newsletter included. Your email is always private.