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Co-Writes Can End With Two Versions Of A Song

Co-Writes Can End With Two Versions Of A Song

Whenever you go into a co-write, you’re usually thinking “OK – we’re going to write a song.” And usually, you’re thinking it’s one song. You contribute your ideas and lines, and whatever comes out of the day is the song.

But, some co-writes end with a partial song, and if you’re a singer-songwriter, you probably want to finish it since you invested the time in the co-write and need material.

It’s decision time!

You have to decide if the song will remain a partial song until you get together again, or you’re going to finish it for your catalogue.

In the case of our example, both songwriters finished it.  And yes, while very similar, the songs are different! I would argue, unique to each.

Partial co-writes are also a great way to get out of your melody rut, because there’s likely a starter that’s had some input from someone else who doesn’t write your melodies!

Let’s take a look at the two song that resulted from a co-write between Ray Wylie Hubbard and Hayes Carll.  They started the song together, and each completed a version.

You’ll notice they both list the other as a co-writer on the song. If you start a song with someone, they’re credited as a co-writer on the song regardless of what you do.  Make sure you give credit where credit is due – because you don’t want it happening to you!


The Song: Drunken Poet’s Dream


Ray Wylie Hubbard “Drunken Poet’s Dream”

Lyrics To The Song


Hayes Carll “Drunken Poet’s Dream”

Lyrics To The Song


What’s The Same
  • Lyrics in the first verse is exactly the same
  • Melody is the same for both
  • Tempo is close, with Hubbard’s being a tad slower – but essentially they’re both ballads
  • General feel is Americana with country/blues influence
  • Similar lines are used by Carll but arranged differently
What’s Different


The Structure
  • Hubbard: V | CH | V | V | CH | V | CH | 2 line tag (unconventional middle section)
  • Carll:        V | V | CH | V | CH | V | CH

Carll brings the woman into the conversation quicker by following a V | V | CH structure

The Chorus

Sets the message of the song, making the two different:

  • Carll’s lyric is more grounded in reality with imagery in the chorus that speaks to the woman’s role: “She brings me roses and a place to lean”
  • Hubbard’s chorus has almost a nonsense (dream like), throw away third line: “And then I’m gonna rhyme that with gasoline.”
After First Chorus
  • Both start with imagery related to the setting
  • Hubbard third verse is a little more specific to him personally with the harmonica reference and he has the woman tell a story about dancing with the dead at the pyramids – again taking you into what seems to be an actual dream.
Woman's Message

Carll gets this into the verse right after his first chorus, and the line is significantly different in his song vs. Hubbard’s. And, Carll quotes her as if it’s happening.

Hubbard makes this the crux of the song by putting it into the last verse just before his last chorus. Hubbard recants the story as if he’s telling what happened in a dream.


She says, “Honey don’t worry ’bout Judgement Day.

All these people goin’ to heaven, they’re just in our way.”


She tells me don’t worry about Judgement Day

She says dyin’ to get into heaven’s just not our way.

Do The Differences Change The Message?

For me – absolutely!

Hubbard’s seems to be an actual dream he’s telling the listener about.  While the woman may refer to a woman he knows, indicated by him coming back to the first two lines of the song to frame it, it’s clearly a dream he had.

Carll’s lyrics lend themselves to talking about a life/situation that is a “drunken poet’s dream” rather than emulating an actual dream. His imagery is much more concrete, with things like “dominoes” rather than “Oreos” – just a weird detail, an something you would see in a dream.


The Take Away

A co-write shouldn’t restrict your ability to leverage a great collaboration!

Make sure the other person(s) know what you’re doing with the song, and always give them credit on it unless they tell you otherwise.