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The Art of Writing Love Songs
The Art of Writing Love Songs
Pamela Phillips Oland
Reviewed by Jace Carlton
Originally published in
The Songwriter's Connection  -  July  2003



WOW!  What a rush!  I've never read a book dealing with the craft of songwriting that is so emotionally intense!  But that's EXACTLY what its author, Pamela Phillips Oland, intended.  She lets us know right up front that we're in for quite an emotional roller coaster as she guides us through the development of ideas for songs that come from deep within our heart and soul.

In Pamela's own words, "The book is designed to engage you in the rewarding quest to make writing about love - whether love found or love lost - a truly uplifting, gratifying, and releasing experience."

Now, I know, writing "love" songs may not be your specialty, but admit it, don't you sometimes feel that powerful desire to write what you feel in your heart?  OK, we're all suppose to write FROM the heart, but I'm talking about real matters OF the heart.  Love ... that real, incredible, seemingly indescribable emotion that hits you, grabs you, knocks you silly, makes you say and do some pretty crazy things to win the heart of someone else, and then, if it doesn't work out, it can also knock you flat on your face, making you wish you could just die.  What a roller coaster!  What an emotion!  AND … what a book!

"Music is Love in search of a word"
Author unknown

So begins the Preface of Pamela Phillips Oland's, "The Art of Writing Love Songs".  When I first laid my hands on this book I knew I was in for a really great time.  Last fall I reviewed Pamela's "The Art of Writing Great Lyrics" for The Songwriter's Connection and I've also met this wonderful lady when she was a guest at the Northern California Songwriter's Association Annual Conference a couple of years ago.  Total quality all the way.  Whether you read her books or attend her seminars, you'll gain a world of knowledge and learn how you can immediately apply that knowledge to whatever kind of songs you write.  While "The Art of Writing Love Songs" does focus on the creation of "love" songs, you can still use the same basic principles in writing for other genres.  (By the way, as of last month the NCSA has now expanded to become the West Coast Songwriter's Association!)

I became so involved with the exercises in this book that it was hard to put it down, like a great mystery novel.  Of course, love songs are my particular favorite to write (I have a card in my wallet that identifies me as the "World's ORIGINAL Card-Carrying Incurable Romantic"), so it was easy to get completely absorbed.  Pamela shares so many wonderful ideas and ways of saying "I love you" that she's done more than written a book on songwriting.  She's created a workbook for those serious enough about the craft that they'll use it over and over.  And each time it's used (and not just read), new insight and fresh new ideas will evolve.

"I'm In The Mood For Love!"

What does love mean to you?  Take a moment ... a L-O-N-G moment ... and really think about that single, simple word.  How many times have you tried to say "I love you" and felt those three simple words just aren't enough and you keep searching for a better way to describe how you feel.  Thank goodness we have the love song!

Now, think again.  What does love mean to you?  Think of someone you love right now with complete abandon and passion, giving your whole heart and soul to this person, nothing held back in reserve.  Or, if you're currently not involved, think of someone you once loved that way.  Think about how you love (or loved) them.  Think about why you love (or loved) them.  You feel that emotion?  That indescribable feeling?

Keeping It Real

OK, now TRY to put yourself in the other person's shoes ... why do they love you (or did, as the case may be)?  How do they love you?  Pamela helps us to try and see love through another's eyes ... not an easy task.  We've just touched on two of the many approaches a songwriter can take to explore the emotions of love and we can go on exploring a whole array of angles to express these feelings.  The more ways you can see love, the more ways you have open to you to write about love.  If we're cynical about love, and we write only from our own experiences and viewpoint, we'll only be capable of writing cynical love songs.  If love has never treated us wrong (yeah, right!), then all of our love songs will be happy, uplifting songs.  Either way (or, for that matter, any way in between) it spells out just one thing ... B-O-R-I-N-G!  As songwriters we can't afford to let that happen to us!

No one says we have to use our own real life experiences for our lyrics, but that's nothing knew.  We use our imagination, fantasy, even other people's imaginations.  We watch other people who are in love (or perhaps breaking up), even total strangers, and try to create lyrical love stories (mini soap operas, perhaps?).

"All you need is love"
Lennon - McCartney

There's no two ways about it, "The Art of Writing Love Songs" by Pamela Phillips Oland is the real thing ... it's I-N-T-E-N-S-E!  It's a heavyweight workout.  In my opinion it's "just what the doctored ordered".  It's what we need as songwriters to help us understand a nearly impossible to understand emotion that's just too big for words.  But words are our stock in trade, so we better have all the help we can get on our side to get the job done.  And ... to do it well.

Here's a promise from Pamela to each of us, "This book is designed to engage you in the rewarding quest to make writing about love – whether love found or love lost – a truly uplifting, gratifying, and releasing experience."  She also promises that through her book we'll also discover new ways to enhance our own love for others, especially that certain someone special.  (And you thought you couldn't love them anymore than you do right this minute?  HA!)

Get it.  Read it.  And see for yourself ... this lady is a lady of her word.

A promise made ... a promise kept.

Copyright © 2003 by Jace Carlton

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Jace Carlton is a Nashville based songwriter, music publisher, artist manager, and freelance writer.  As a songwriter and collaborator much in demand in the Country market, he also enjoys writing for A/C, Pop, R&B, Smooth Jazz, Contemporary Christian, and Cabaret.  As a Freelance Writer he has contributed reviews on new CD's to online newsletters and artist websites, and occasionally  ontributes book and concert reviews along with personal commentary on the music industry to Nashville's Songwriter's Connection e-Zine.

He was recently honored by being selected to be a part of Nashville's Shine On Foundation, assisting talented songwriters, artists and musicians.

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