A Q&A with May/June 2024 Lyric Contest Winner Susan Rose Simms

Look Before You Leave
Written by Susan Rose Simms
Interview by American Songwriter

Susan Rose Simms scored 1st place in the May/June 2024 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for her song “Look Before You Leave.” American Songwriter caught up with Simms 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?

I saw a notice on Facebook, and since I grew up with the “It never hurts to ask” attitude, I thought it also never hurts to try. You can’t ever win if you don’t at least try.

How did you feel when you learned you won?

I was SO excited. My brain couldn’t even sort out what I was feeling. My face was flushed and I’m sure I didn’t say anything relatively coherent. It was so validating. I often question my ability. I wonder if something is good or not and I wrote this song by myself—I usually co-write—so it was even more fulfilling.

What was the inspiration for your submission? Why did you want to write it?

Honestly, I’m a word person. I love puns and sayings. So, when I was thinking about some common sayings and idioms, “Look before you leap” came into my mind. I wondered if I could write a song around it, changing the word “leap” to “leave.” And I did.

What’s the story behind the song “Look Before You Leave”?

What I mentioned above. I thought, “What could I write around that saying?” Then I thought about what it means: you shouldn’t just act out without thinking. You should look around and think about what you’ve had and what you can still have. You have to consider the consequences of your actions and cherish the love you have and the love for your family.

Have you written music for this lyric? If so, how would you describe it?

Yes, I have. It’s kind of slow and flowing, and I hope there’s some “longing” and positive vibes in it.

How long have you been writing lyrics?

I’ve been writing lyrics since around 1996. It started when a relationship went south—I know—so cliché. I didn’t know what to do with all my feelings, frustration and my sadness. I joined a group of songwriters, and we started doing some cowrites. I’ve learned A LOT since then. I’m mostly a children’s book writer now but I still enjoy writing lyrics.

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter the 2024 Lyric Contest today before the deadline:

What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?

My heart. I have friends who are songwriters, and they keep me motivated. We bounce ideas back and forth, and hopefully, a song will come out of it. I grew up in a musical family. My stepsister is a professional singer, and my late mother and stepfather were both singers. I feel I’m carrying on the family legacy in my way.

Who are your all-time favorite songwriters and why?

Well, Dolly Parton of course. Her songs are real, with so much feeling behind them. She’s a wonderful storyteller. I like Billy Joel. Alanis Morisette’s songs are so different and quirky. Probably my first influence was Steve Seskin and “Life’s a Dance.” Honestly, there are too many to list.

What’s next for you?

I’ll continue writing. I can’t imagine a day where writing won’t be important for me. I need to write. It’s such a part of me. I have a few children’s books coming out, so I’ll be working on those, and I hope to write another song. Or two.

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

“It never hurts to ask,” or in this case, “enter.” Do it. If you have any doubts or you don’t think you have a chance, guess what…neither did I. And it happened. It’s so easy, and the rewards personally and professionally are the best prize! THANK YOU, American Songwriter. You have given me more than you know.

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter the 2024 Lyric Contest today before the deadline:

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