Sunday, May 06, 2007


"I figured I needed a six of Miller
And one of those things so I wouldn't spill 'er"

Miranda, honey, this is everybody! Everybody, meet Miranda! She'll be right next to me for the next few months. Yessirree, we're goin' everywhere and doin' everything Summertime together. This sweet little thing and me are gonna be inseparable. And tell ya what, she's not only easy on the eyes -- there's these things she does with her tongue...

The first warm weekend of every spring for as long as I remember, this young man's fancy has always turned to finding a soundtrack to the pending Summer and all that comes with it. Pressed, I can probably name a half dozen tunes I directly link to each of my Summer's past.

I literally played the grooves off two copies of "Rubber Soul" and "Born in the USA" after their summer arrivals. Past years, the player in the truck has been Summer-stocked with Garth and Wilco and Shaggy. Of late, it's almost all Country and this year, the Number One slot, the disk the system automatically seeks when I turn the ignition will be occupied by Miranda Lambert's spectacular new album "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend".

Miranda had a huge hit last year with her debut album "Kerosene" and her 2nd offering solidifies her place as the new voice of Country. Even the City Slickers at the NY Times are writing stories about her and her songs. Whether you're into Country or not, I can assure you, this is one very special singer and there are songs here that will speak to you.

I should also take this opportunity to say that I've always felt way too many screenwriters get all uppity and sophisticated and Urban about C&W and therefore miss all the screenwriting tips they could pick up listening to Country.

Not for nothin' but you should do yourself a favor.

Country's a musical style that's completely story based. The songs deal in real people, real emotions and the themes other music barely acknowledges in passing. Lines scrawled on washroom walls, napkins and Hallmark cards become doorways to the innermost reaches of the human heart. As one Nashville station used to say, "Listen long enough and somebody sings your life".

My favorite Country lyric belongs to Rhett Atkins (Summer of '95):

"That ain't my truck in her drive
This ain't my day tonight
She's my girl – she’s my whole world
But that ain't my truck"

I mean, just says it all, don't it...and in four lines.

I have this TV dialogue rule that you never get more than four lines -- five in only the tightest pinch and if you want more, you better have something exceptionally important to say.

Script Gurus, Network Execs and Studio Readers all insist you must grab their attention by page 10. Well, that's all very nice -- but -- they're lying. The truth is, a good first page buys you that ten. Keeping page two interesting gets them to read up to twenty and so on. By page ten, if you continue to impress, they're in for the whole ride, no matter how tired their lips are getting.

But grabbing them with those first few lines is the key.

Job interviews come down to the first eight seconds. Scripts you get sixty.

And you gotta put a lot in those first lines.

Similarly, a great Country song is able to set the scene in 4-8 lines, describes the emotional point of view in the chorus and tells Act II and Act III in the next two verses. Trust Me! You become a better writer by listening to Country.

Miranda's album has several songs that tell great stories, beginning with the opening number "Gunpowder and Lead"...

"County road 233 under my feet
Nothin' on this white rock but little ole me
I've got two miles til he makes bail
And if I'm right we're headed straight for hell

I'm goin' home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he's got one
He ain't seen me crazy yet"

To check out the rest, check out Miranda Lambert. I'll bet she turns out to be your summer girlfriend too, as well as an inspiration and perhaps a new muse.


CAROLINE said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Hell, I'm a straight chick and even I think she's hot. She was pretty endearing when she was on Nashville Star ... she didn't win but she sure made an impression and even then you could see she had some strong songwriting chops. Gotta love a girl who can sing, play and write with the best of the boys.

On a side note, I just found out Big and Rich are going to be at Fallsview this summer and I'm seriously tempted. Their music is meh but they put on a hell of a concert. My other glimmer of good news ... an uncomfirmed report that Jimmy Buffett will return to Toronto in September. Sweet. I love the Jimmy.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I love country music, especially old country/western & bluegrass.