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Songwriting 101: Dean Brody

Tahiat Mahboob

In this series, we ask songwriters to tell us about their writing process, and what their influences may be. With the Canadian Country Music Association Awards coming up on Sept. 10, we invited Dean Brody — who’s nominated for songwriter of the year, album of the year, single of the year, video of the year, and recording package of the year, as well as being up for Fans' Choice Award — to tell us how he writes. Read about his process, below.

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In general, when I write music, I'm very visual. I see it in my head almost like a movie. And so then I just try and grab what I am seeing and feeling — a lot of it's a feeling for me, too. I'll pick up an instrument and noodle around on it. And sometimes I'll just put down a melody. I'll just get a good melody or hope that it's a good melody and I'll put it on my — I've got a memo system, voice-memo system. So then I'll go back to it a couple of days later and see if it was any good or if it sucked. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you're like, “Oh wow, it's really good and I can build on this.”

Lyrics are always tougher for me. I struggle with lyrics more than melody. Melodies have always been really easy for me. But lyrics is where I spend a lot of my time you know, trying to get it just right. But movies inspire me. People inspire me. My own life I guess, growing up in the country and writing about that, celebrating that way of life.

And as far as this album in particular, I really — like I love writing songs, but I can't sit still. I can't write the same song twice. So that's why, on this record, I jump around a lot. I'm doing a reggae kind of a song. And then we're doing this almost epic old Hollywood kind of feel — we've got a surf guitar in "Beautiful Freakshow" and then a rap, you know. Tried to make it like a Tarantino, ’cause Tarantino doesn't play by any rules, right? I heard someone say this once to me, I think it might have been Vince Gill: "You need to know the rules before you can break them. And once you know them, and then maybe you can break them." And I think that's what we're doing here with "Beautiful Freakshow."

Yeah, I know the rules but they're boring sometimes. So it's like, OK, let’s try something just really "out there" ’cause it's fun. I love new things. They're fun. But I always try and stay true to my lyric being country. Even if we take an off-road, production-wise, and put in another electric guitar, or the hammer dulcimer, we're still gonna keep — like, my lyrics are still country.

In "Beautiful Freakshow," it's about a country boy falling in love with a girl who's a completely different culture than him. Raised completely different side of the tracks, kind of thing. That kind of stuff fascinates me, you know? Love that can cross what some people draw as a line. I love that. [...] You know, two people integrate from different social classes, economic, cultural, whatever. I just think love is beautiful and that's what this song is about — it doesn't always have to be however everybody else wants it to be. Love is, I think, hard to define sometimes. And sometimes you just don't know who is going to end up with somebody. But they love each other and they love being with each other, then who are we to say that they shouldn't be? No matter where they are from or what their background is.

Tune in to the CCMA Awards on Sunday, Sept. 10, on CBC TV at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NT) or watch via

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