Behind the songwriting process for ‘Spring Rain’ (with lyric video)

Behind the scenes

It might be erroneous to advertise that I can give a full behind-the-scenes tour of the writing of this song, as frankly it has been a couple of years since its genesis, and I can’t remember much of how it started. I don’t know which part was the first idea to come.

It was possibly the bridge. I know the bridge was early. I also knew it should have a gentle ‘swing’ feel rhythmically, which you’ll hear as you listen to the song. But I do also remember struggling to fit that with my chorus idea (‘My soul cries out’) which I would ordinarily have written with a straight rhythm.

Suffice to say, I got used to the lilting rhythm for the chorus, and now I can’t imagine it without it! Funny how these things go. That lilting feel gave the opening guitar figure its distinctiveness, where it swings between G and C over G. (N.B. in capo 2 if you’re playing it according to track! The tutorial video below is in G no capo, which is easier for congregations to sing. I just liked the sound of the key of A for the album, which features more songs in A than in any other key.)

Keep it simple

Lyrically, I kept this one simple. I think that became deliberate after the verse idea I came up with contained an obvious, simple repeated refrain: ‘I will seek you my God’. Each verse only really required two lines, with the other two containing the refrain. It could work as a call-and-response in this way. The ideas came from the opening of Psalm 63 – 63:1 for verse 1, 63:5 for the ideas behind the first line of verse 2 (satisfying our desire). The chorus also gets its content from 63:1.

For verse 2 ‘Only you can satisfy my deep desire’, an obvious rhyme that sprang to mind was ‘fire’. Tempting in a worship song about the Holy Spirit (essentially). But that would highly disrupt the metaphor. You can’t switch to talking about fire in a song about rain and water! So I settled for a half-rhyme and came up with a line that I’m quite pleased with: ‘Pouring out the living waters of revival’. Sometimes these problems create solutions better than what we would have come up with had there not been a problem.

I might have toyed with the chorus melody. It needed to have the sense of crying out, but I think if the melody for the whole thing had been ascending it might have been too much of an effort to sing.

Take it to the bridge

Finally, back to the bridge. It works quietly, it works loud. It works with clapping. It works a cappella a couple of times around. You can plunge into it full-volume or build it up gradually. But the really nice thing about it is those open syllables at the end of each line: ‘sky’ and ‘wide’. Try ending a line on a more closed syllable: ‘Let the spring rain fall on the ground’. Not the same effect. Opening our mouths wide to sing ‘wide’ just feels right. Sure, ‘wide’ has a ‘d’ at the end but it can be so soft as to be unnoticeable; the effect is the same as ‘sky’. Bear in mind when writing lyrics the feel of the syllables in your mouth.

That’s it really. Keep it simple; sometimes, that’s the best.

The album titled Spring Rain is released online 11 Feb, and I’ll be making hard copies available to order then here as well.

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