It seems that every single songwriter I’ve come across has a lot of difficulty in writing happy songs—myself included! There’s something about them that doesn’t always feel authentic to us. I was well along my songwriting journey until I started to feel comfortable with writing them.
This is the key, if you really think about it. It’s not about being really happy, which is what I thought. It’s not forcing yourself to do it until you can churn them out. It’s about growing comfortable with the nature of happier songs and understanding the kind of happy songs you like to write. Here’s my process, and hopefully it helps you, too.
Make a Playlist of Happy Songs
Don’t just cobble together all these happy songs you know and hate. Take your time, search your song library and find songs that you really like. They don’t have to be the most cheerful, they can be a range of emotions and have real depth. Try to get at least fifteen songs on there that you study, immerse yourself in and can refer back to as needed.
Understand Your Brand of Happy
Whatever you think happy might be? Scrap that and listen to your playlist. What elements strike you about the happy songs you like? Are they a little more melancholy, more hopeful? Are they jumping up and down with joy? What kind of happy do you feel like represents you?
Think of Rhythm
As you write, try to focus on the rhythm, which is the key element in many happy songs. How can you change your chords into a riff? Can you use a faster tempo? How can you make your melodic rhythm sound a bit more exciting?
Yes, It Might Be Cheesy
Change your mind set about your happy songs. Accept that a few lines might be cheesy, and that’s okay. Cheesy does not equal bad lyricism. Become comfortable with how cheesy you’re willing to get.
Don’t Think “Happy”
Maybe it’s the mental block of writing a “happy” song that’s the problem. What if you changed it into an “inspiring”, “hopeful”, “driving” or “relaxed” song? What would that sound like?
Write a Deceptive Happy Song
Another type of happy song is the deceptive one. Think of “Hard Times” by Paramore and how happy it sounds, only to realize how sad the lyrics are. You could also write satire, where it sounds happy but the lyrics are dripping with sarcasm. Billie Eilish does this a lot, for example in her song “party favor”.
Use a Ukulele
If all else fails, just pick up a ukulele. It’s a very easy instrument and no matter what you write, it’s going to sound happy.
Rinse and Repeat
If I went through this process when I first started writing, my songs would sound much different than they do now. As you progress on your writing journey and the years go by, try doing this again. Try listening to happy songs and notice which ones you like. Eventually, something will click.