July/August 2020 Lyric Contest Winner Shawn Byrne Details “Love Was Just A Word”

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Nashville-based Shawn Byrne scored top honors for the July/August 2020 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for his song “Love Was Just A Word.” American Songwriter caught up with Shawn to get the scoop on the lyric’s inspiration and see what he’s been up to lately.

What was the inspiration for “Love Was Just A Word”?

My son Arlo. I had spent 44 years on this planet before he came into my world. He’s shown me the meaning of unconditional love.

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

Yes I have. It’s a simple chord progression with a couple little twists. Fits the lyrics just right.

Does it take you a long time to finish songs? How long did this one take?

Most great songs take a day or two. This song took 15 years. It was started with my songwriter buddy Chuck McCarthy but I struggled to find a suitable melody for it. It ended up in the unfinished box and that box went into storage with a hundred other unfinished songs. Years later when my son was born I would play him this beautiful little chord progression I made up while he was in his bassinet. I didn’t have any words. One day I was cleaning some junk out of storage and I found the box of unfinished lyrics. I saw “Love Was Just a Word” and it just hit me. I took the lyric sheet, got my guitar and it just fit perfectly with my new progression. I wrote the last few verses, finished the chorus and arranged the whole song one afternoon sitting with baby boy. My heart was exploding with a type of love I had never felt before and I think this song was just waiting on me to be ready to say what it wanted to say.

What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?

The audience. I love it when a listener comes to me and tells me a song I wrote means something special to them. It’s a great feeling.

Are there any songwriters, artists or events that have especially inspired you lately?

For the past six years I’ve been a part of the Dripping Springs Songwriter Festival in Texas. This place loves songwriters and they make us feel so welcome and appreciated. Many people I’ve met at this festival have become like family to me. It’s the event that puts the wind in my sails every year.

How long have you been writing songs, and what are your songwriting goals?

I’ve been writing songs for close to 30 years—the first 15 of that playing in bands where we wrote songs as a unit. Since moving to Nashville in 2003 I’ve focused primarily on the lyrical aspect of song-craft. My goal as a songwriter is to just keep improving. My ultimate dream is to have my songs appreciated by a wider audience and maybe have some level of commercial success.

How do you find time to write amid life’s many demands?

I’m a record producer in Nashville and I spent most of my time working on other people’s music. Between my studio work and my family I don’t have much time to focus on writing. Luckily I do spend some time on the road playing solo gigs and songwriter festivals and that’s when I get inspired to write.

What is your idea of a perfect song?

To me a perfect song is one that makes the listener a better human for having heard that song.

Who are your all-time favorite songwriters and why? 

I admire any songwriter who can create amazing songs in their own unique voice and style. My absolute favorites are: Lennon/McCartney, Hank Williams, Brian Wilson, Jagger/Richards, Ray Wiley Hubbard, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison, Dylan, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Robert Hunter, Steve Earle, John Prine, Brandy Clark, Darrell Scott and Todd Snider just to name way more than a few. Some close songwriter friends I admire greatly are Brian Sutherland, Michael Prysock, Abe Partridge, Sarah Peacock and Chris Moyse. Y’all go check them out!

Are you are songwriter? Enter the American Songwriter Lyric Contest. 

Find out more about the 35th Anniversary Song Contest. 

1st Place

“Love Was Just a Word” by Shawn Byrne (Nashville, TN)

A guitar’s just wood and wire 'til it's played
A prayer’s just print on paper 'til it's prayed
I was just a dreamer until your love came shining through
Love was just a word 'till I found you
A songbird’s just a bird until it sings
A church bell’s just cold steel until it rings
My heart was just flesh and blood until your love came shining through
Love was just a word till I found you
 You're the light that lights my way
You're the perfect in a perfect day it's true
When hard times paint my poor heart blue
You're the saving grace that pulls me through
It's all the little things you do
You made my heart shine like new
 A house was not a home 'till you got here
A room was just a place to place a chair
Now your little touch is showing me
Something I never knew
Love was just a word 'till I found you
 You're the light that lights my way
You're the perfect in a perfect day it's true
When hard times paint my poor heart blue
You're the saving grace that pulls me through
It's all the little things you do
You made my heart shine like new
 A fire won't burn long without some coal
My body's a bag of bones without my soul
I spent so many years living like a fool
Love was just a word 'till I found you
Love was just a word 'till I found you

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