A Q&A With July/August 2023 Lyric Contest Winner Christine Merritt

“Painting Pickets”
Written by Christine Merritt, Gregory Becker and Michelle Creber
Interview with Christine Merritt by American Songwriter

Christine Merritt scored 1st Place in the July/August 2023 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for her song “Painting Pickets.” American Songwriter caught up with Christine to get the scoop on the inspiration behind the lyrics and other musings.

What made you decide to enter the American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest?

As soon as I joined American Songwriter in 2022 I started to enter as many contests as I could to give myself specific goals and deadlines to complete songs. 

How did you feel when you learned you won?

Shock and Shake. I was overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude. I have entered the contests many times but I am particularly happy this song is the one that won because of how important and healing the message is.

What was the inspiration for your submission?

I was driving home one day listening to The Marfa Tapes(Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, John Randall), and the song ‘Waxahachie’ came on and I just started imagining a small town and small town thinking and how hard it must be like to find the strength to be so different than the norms as both children and parents in those environments. I was close to home and driving and pulled into the garage and ran into my writing shed and the first draft just came out. 

The next day, I shared it with one of the co-writer, Michelle Creber, and we went back and forth for a few months on the lyrics. I had it reviewed by someone who said, ‘No one in Nashville would ever sing this.’ We didn’t like the answer so we kept working on it. A few weeks later I set up a coaching/co-write with Greg Becker and told him the feedback and he said something like, “That’s not true, there are a lot of people in Nashville that would love this song. (It was a more colorful comment) so let’s work on it some more.”. So the three of us jumped on a zoom and revised the melody and lyrics to be a tighter, more clear story and Greg changed the melody and tempo to be even more emotionally fitting for the story.

I wanted to write it and have a demo made in time to post for Mother’s Day as a way of explaining concepts in unconditional love and forgiveness. Early in our co-writing, Michelle and I spoke about this song starting a movement of parents painting their pickets in any way shape, or form and how cool that would be if it started to happen as a result of this song. 

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter the 2023 Lyric Contest today before the deadline:

What’s the story behind the song “Painting Pickets”? 

I was thinking very specifically about Shane McAnally’s life. He is a talented writer and publisher in Nashville and I remain moved by his personal story of coming out and living his truth. When I heard the song ‘Waxahachie,’ which has nothing to do with this song, it just triggered such a vivid image of a small town. I imagined the story of his life and upbringing and the path to finding peace with his family. This song is the interpreted story of how I imagined his mom feeling so fed up with expectations and judgments and finally putting her son’s feelings first. Painting her perfect white fence a rainbow to just shut down the neighbor’s judgment seemed like such a powerful image and lyrical idea. It was also very deliberate to write about the father, trying, but not being as ready to accept as the mother. I hope this song pushes more people to the edge of acceptance after hearing it.

What’s next for you?

Working every day on songwriting from many angles. I’ll continue studying songwriting at Berklee College of Music Online and continue writing and collaborating. I’m hosting a mini songwriting camp at my house this summer and inviting some of the great new artists in Nashville that I have been co-writing with. I want to continue to help develop younger artists as well. My first co-write, Season with a very talented young singer/songwriter Emma James was just put out on Spotify last week and she has inspired me to lobby Texas SongwriterU to create a teen writing camp in the future. Also, I’m going to help produce a musical with my co-writer of ‘Painting Pickets,’ Greg Becker. He has written and composed an incredible and award-winning show called Wonder Women: The Musicaland we are planning on pitching it on Broadway this fall. Everybody needs that big break and first cut with an established artist so that is my primary goal. I’ll keep co-writing and getting demos on my YouTube Channel like a resume of sorts and just keep trying.

What would you tell other songwriters who are considering entering the Lyric Contest?

Keep entering, keep co-writing, and keep learning and listening to the music that inspires you. The deadlines can help push something close to finishing over that line and nothing feels as good as when you get a new song finished and out to the world.

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter the 2023 Lyric Contest today before the deadline:

Photo courtesy Christine Merritt

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