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Setting A Scene With A Moment

Setting A Scene With A Moment

In addition to co-writing Trace Adkins hits “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” Jamey Johnson won a CMA Award for co-writing George Strait’s “Give It Away.”

His song “In Color” is a great example of setting a scene within a moment of time without going overboard on the detail. Since songwriters are always told to describe the detail, there’s an inclination to describe everything – often to the point of boring the listener with details that add nothing to the emotional need of the song, or the storyline – which should be linked.



“In Color” is a nice example of a single moment in time that gives the most relevant information for making an emotional connection with the listener. In the first verse the focus is on a photograph. It’s clear there’s a child, probably about the same age as the grandfather in the photo, creating a common bond for the conversation (neat trick).

The line “ain’t real clear” takes on a double meaning by commenting on the immediate moment of the fuzzy photograph, as well as commenting on the child not understanding the grandfather’s life. This is so well done, it’s subtle and gives even more power to the later line “that’s the story of my life.”

From the questions and the telling throughout the song, it’s clear there’s a need for the grandfather to tell the story, and the grandchild to hear it. It’s also clear the grandfather has never spoken about it to the grandchild. He’s telling his story for the first time – again tying to the “that’s the story of my life” line in the bridge. Pretty cool idea.


In Color Lyrics

I said, Grandpa what’s this picture here
It’s all black and white and ain’t real clear.
Is that you there, he said, yeah I was eleven
Times were tough back in thirty-five.
That’s me and Uncle Joe just tryin’ to survive
A cotton farm in the Great Depression.

And if it looks like we were scared to death,
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other;
You should have seen it in color.

The key is using the right elements to give the scene an emotional back drop, while placing the listener in the moment. And, taking a lesson from Jamey on simple hook development is not a bad idea.


How To Play It!



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