November/December 2015 Lyric Contest Spotlight: Winner Mike Guiney

1st Place
“Tomorrow’s Just A Promise”
Written by Mike Guiney
Interview by Caine O’Rear

Where did you get the idea for this song, and when did you write it? 

I believe I wrote this song a couple of years back. Like most of my work, and I suspect like a lot of writers, it draws on what I see around me and what is swimming around in my head. When you see a couple part company and go their separate ways, even if it is for the best, you sometimes cannot help but think that no one is totally immune. Those are doubts I am sure many of us feel on occasion. So that was the starting point and then, unintentionally, it became a kind of sideways glance at mortality.

Are all your songs so dark?

No. I try to play around with different themes and composition styles. I have written quite a few love songs for my wife Suzanne. A couple actually were honorable mentions in past American Songwritercontests. I also like the sort of tongue in cheek pieces, with a country or blues feel. I think “Tomorrow Is Just A Promise” does touch on that old clichéthat essentially says: Time is short, make the most it; which I guess is a little less dark. But, now I just sound like I am trying to defend myself —ha!

Did you flesh out a melody for this and did you record it?

This song has not been recorded, but I have tinkered with a melody. I am pretty new to the music side of songwriting, especially when you compare it to how long I have been writing lyrics. So, in the end, I have trouble creating melodies I have confidence in. Maybe if I knew a few more chords.

Are you a performer as well?

Not unless you count campfire performances. As I said I am playing catch-up with my guitar playing, but I am working on it. And, my wife bought me a mandolin. So lessons and practice are next.

Do you do any other kinds of writing?

These days I stick almost solely to lyric writing. Though in the past I have published some poetry and a number of personal essays. And I also spent several years writing a book and music reviews for a couple of local papers.

Do you have a line or couplet from the song that you’re especially proud of?

Hmm … Maybe “Even if you walk with Jesus, the devil’s never far behind.”I like lyrics with a blues feel.

What are your goals for your songwriting?

My goal is to get better. And to keep looking for like-minded people to collaborate with. Expand my horizons.

What is one thing you’ve learned about songwriting that you wish you’d known when you got started?

I am sure there are many things. But one thing I would say I have learned is the ability to continuously edit my work, and try to be as succinct as possible. For a time, I never liked to change a song once I felt it was finished. Now, I never feel like it is done. I am always trying to make them better. Switching up verses. Adding. Subtracting. Letting songs cannibalize one another. Whatever it takes to be happier with the result.

Who are your favorite songwriters?

Well, I guess my list would contain all the usual suspects. Those I have grown to admire and those I listened to when I first tried my hand at writing —Bob Dylan, of course, Tom Waits, Nick Lowe, Lucinda Williams, Warren Zevon, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Light-foot, John Hiatt, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Ray Davies, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, Roger Waters & David Gilmour, and cast of others. And, then there are the blues artists —Son House, Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Johnston and, and, of course, Robert Johnson, just to name a few. They had no template real-ly. They were hammering one out for the future. And their lyrics could be pretty sublime. What writer today would not like to come up with the Robert Johnson line: “When the train it left the station with two lights on behind. Well, the blue light was my blues and the red light was my mind.”

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