With A Song In My Heart

By Renee Grant-Williams

Archibald MacLeish maintained that, “A poem should not mean, but be.” And what is a song but a poem set to music? A story set to sound. But sometimes we get so caught up in trying to sing, that we forget about the song. It’s much more important to live the song and bring a universal human experience to your listeners, than it is to have a perfect voice, or a loud voice, or to be able to sing 57 octaves.


Country music is especially lyric-driven. It must be clear and honest, yet visual and compelling. Think of singing as speaking on organized, rather than random, pitches. Instead of slinging a bunch of loud notes at your audience, speak to them. Make your vocal technique word-based rather than tone-based. If your audience didn’t value the lyrics, they’d be listening to symphonies instead.

Whether you are singing your own material or a cover song, you must live your songs and know what you are singing about and why. This is not as obvious as it may appear to be. I suggest you create a three minute mini-movie for your songs, complete with cast, setting, and dramatic background. Write out a short subtext for each song as you learn it. Try to be as specific as possible.

The subtext should answer these four questions:

  1. Who is singing the song? (Is it you now, or at a younger age, or are you imagining a situation that happened to someone you have known?)
  2. What does the singer of the song hope to accomplish or change? (Tell a lover good-bye? Stop a lover from leaving? Start fresh after a broken heart?)
  3. Who else is actually present? (Is the loved one in the room or is the singer leaving a voicemail message, or perhaps lamenting to a group of best friends?)
  4. When and where is the song being sung? (If it’s past midnight and tempers are flaring, it will feel like a different song from the one you might sing a week later after you’ve both cooled off a little.)

Sample Subtext:
“Joe and I are breaking up for the third and final time. It’s 3 am and he has just come home covered with lipstick smudgesagain. This time we’re really through and I want him to know just how badly he’s blown it.”

Write down the answers to these questions and you will have an emotional context for your song. Be detailed and specific. Your listeners may not know exactly what your subtext is, but if you have one, they’ll know something important is going on and they will relate it to their own experiences.

I would love to hear what you think of  this blog article and if you gave this a try and how did it work out for you.


2017-12-04T15:16:10+00:00April 25th, 2017|


  1. Michael April 28, 2017 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Always able to show me more fuel for my creative fire.

  2. J.P. "WOLFF" May 2, 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you Renee for posting timely articles that seasoned artists as well as up and coming talent can add to their toolbox. Talent without the knowledge base of techniques and abilities required to enhance raw talent is the difference between being average or superior as a performing artist. Renee, as always, you are the best. J.P. “WOLFF”

    • Renee Grant-Williams May 2, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Hi J.P. I’m glad that you are enjoying my blog articles and that even seasoned artists can learn a new trick or two. And,
      you are quite right, even raw talent needs to learn good technique to become the singer they truly wish to be. Thanks so
      much for your comment. I appreciate it. Renee

  3. Thomas Sexton May 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Always love hearing from you and enjoy the blogs. It’s always so insightful.

    • Renee Grant-Williams May 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Tom. I think of you often. I hope you are doing well. We miss you around here.

  4. Jonelle May 2, 2017 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    Love this! I always imagine what the video would be like when writing so it only makes sense to imagine the situation while singing. Thanks for the years of wonderful advice!

    • Renee Grant-Williams May 2, 2017 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      You are more than welcome Jonelle. I’m thrilled that you are enjoying and learning from my blog articles. Renee

  5. Sam May 9, 2017 at 3:32 am - Reply

    If I’m being honest, I didn’t even know you existed until a month ago. But my God, am I glad I found out about you. Your perspective on breath control was an invaluable rung on the singing ladder that I’ve been attempting to climb for almost 3 years now. You should have heard me 3 years ago hahaha, imagine a dying cat scratching its nails down a chalkboard… I sounded worse than that. Bottom line, I just wanted to show you some appreciation and give you the credit you deserve. Oh, especially for your work with consonants, too, it’s like the elusive obvious. You really helped open my eyes with that. Anyway, long story short, thank you and rock on m/

    • Renee Grant-Williams May 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Hi Sam,
      Thank you so much for commenting on my article. It makes my day to have someone tell me that their singing is improving because of my blog and products. I’m thrilled for you. If you can get the breathing right everything else will fall into place. If you learn to sing on the consonants you can have your audience eating out of your hand. Have you considered having me evaluate your voice? The cost is only $75 and you can then apply that to the cost of a private voice lesson if you choose. If you are interested here’s the link https://myvoicecoach.com/product/vocal-evaluation/. Renee

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