September/October 2020 Lyric Contest Winner Mark Miller Talks “This Long Life”

Arvada, Colorado-based Mark Miller scored top honors for the September/October 2020 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for his song “This Long Life.” American Songwriter caught up with the golf course architect by-day to get the scoop on the lyric’s inspiration and see what he’s been up to lately.

What was the inspiration for “This Long Life?”

Life is filled with great moments, milestones, traditions and lessons along the way. It also seems to go by in a flash. I was definitely thinking about my Dad and Mom when I wrote this. Together my parents were the happiest, most fun-loving couple I’ve ever known. Taking life head on, keeping a youthful spirit, embracing all the moments and loving family, friends and your fellow man were lessons my folks taught by example, and are the inspiration for “This Long Life.”

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

Yes, I have music to these lyrics.  I would describe the music as a singer/songwriter folksy blues style.

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

All of them come to life differently. With a good idea or a great “hook” they can be written in a matter of hours. Others are more complicated and need more time to marinate. The fun part is working and reworking the rhymes and metaphors in a concise, creative, clever or humorous way that tells a captivating story.  The original lyrics to This Long Life took a couple days to write. Then I put it in the storage shed for a couple weeks. When I came back and shook the dust off, I thought it was even better. I spent a few more hours doing final tweaks to the lyrics, chords and melody to finish it up.

What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?

If you are a creative person, you need a creative outlet. Songwriting is my favorite outlet. I like conjuring up lyrics that twist a specific topic into an interesting song. It has to be fun to listen to. I also like to show up to a jam or a practice session with a new song that other musicians get jazzed about learning and performing together. Whether you look at it as the art of songwriting, or just making up a tune, I love it when a new one comes to life. That’s what keeps me motivated.

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

I have always been a huge John Prine fan. I was deeply saddened when I heard that he was sick with Covid 19, and passed a couple weeks later. It was very personal to me, as it was to many others. He was a beloved soul with a quirky, humorous, unique outlook and an incredible ability to convey a feeling or paint a picture with just a few words. He could have you laughing and crying in a single line of a song. He has always inspired me to write songs, but this event really pushed me to put this song out there.

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

I started writing songs when I was in high school, and have kept it up throughout my life. Lyrics have always been my forte. As far as songwriting goals, I think I’m like many other songwriters out there. I would love to be part of songwriting at the highest level, collaborating with talented artists on anything from individual songs to musical productions.

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

I will scratch out quick, rough ideas in notebooks when something out of the ordinary pops into my brain. Then I try to find chunks of time to devote to writing.  I like to write in the morning with coffee, when I’m most alert, or write at night with a couple drinks, when I’m most relaxed.

What is your idea of a perfect song?

That’s a difficult question because there is so much great music out there. I’m most attracted to tunes with a great beat that gets you moving. The lyrics need to paint a clear picture, with a memorable line that sparks an emotion, and the melody and musical phrases need to be catchy and stick in your head. When I walk around singing or humming a tune over and over again, I know it has got something special.

Who are your all-time favorite songwriters and why? 

I’m a fan of many songwriters or songwriting teams, so it’s hard to pick a favorite or pinpoint why they are my favorites. Artists or bands that have captured my attention to the point where I buy almost every album or CD by them would include The Beatles, Elton John, John Fogerty (CCR), Jimmy Buffett, John Prine, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Tom Petty, The Who and ZZ Top to name a few. I’m also a big fan of writing teams such as Jagger and Richards, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Arlen and Harburg, The Sherman Brothers, and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

Enter the current Lyric Contest HERE

1st Place

“This Long Life”
by Mark Miller
(Arvada, CO)
 
Life is short, with a few long stretches
A few dropped calls, ‘til you get the message
A few dropped balls, and a few great catches
This long life is way too short
 
Life is hard, but it’s soft in places
A few tight spots, and some open spaces
Some big ol’ smiles, on familiar faces
This long life is way too short
 
(Chorus)
Life is sweet, when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat
Blazing down the trails that come your way
Life flows by, like a rolling river
This long life is way too short
 
This long life
Yeah, this long life
This long life is way too short
 
Life is tough, when you’re in the trenches
A bumper crop, and some mended fences
Some all-star dreams, when you’re on the benches
This long life is way too short
 
(Chorus)
Life is sweet, when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat
Winding down the roads that come your way
Life flows by, like a rolling river
This long life is way too short
 
Right here, this time, this place
We all should embrace
Cause this long life is way too short
 
This long life
Yeah, this long life
This long life is way too short
 

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