The Meaning Behind My Songs

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Lyrics


A while back on Mastodon a few friends of my entered a discussion about song meanings. Someone said something like "if I learn a song has no meaning behind it, I can no longer listen" and my heart sank.

When I write my songs, I like to think that they're a work of fiction. They're fantasy. I write them as an escape, hoping I can invoke some sort of new reality, mostly for myself. I had put little thought into their actual meanings beyond entertainment.

Or so I thought.

Music is Persuasive

It seemed to me, especially from that discussion, that people want their songs to have a message, to communicate something. To be persuasive. That last one sticks to me the most. It's the sentiment I felt was most common amongst my peers. That if you're not trying to convince someone of something, you're not a talented songwriter.

I don't think that's how they really feel. It's something I've imagined.

'Impostor Syndrome' is the popular word for what I think leads me down that line of thinking.

Music is indeed persuasive, but not necessarily because the words are trying to persuade someone. It's persuasive by nature, simply by the way it makes us feel. How it tickles the monkey part of our brains.

The Meanings Behind My Songs

So do my songs have meaning? I reflected on it for several weeks, feeling like a hack. It should have been obvious to me, but I suppose it was a forest for the trees type situation.

It turns out that my fictional and fun songs have tons of elements that are pulled from my own life experience. Even the silly ones.

So they do have meaning. Lots of it, and some of it is very personal to me. I just wasn't being honest with myself.

This is a comfy place, I think. It lets people relate to them and enables them to find their own meaning.

Ask and I'll Tell

Personally, I like to find my own meanings in the songs I listen to, and sometimes I'm disappointed to learn the truth. But if you're the person who enjoys learning the details, you can always ask me. They're not secrets.

That was a bit of a ramble.