The Heart Of An Artist – “Anyone Can Write A Song!” Review

Keaton Shaffer, Staff Writer

Chris Paul Overall and Martin Brown’s Anyone Can Write A Song! is an incredible and inspiring account of what it means to be a songwriter, crafted by a creator with an unending love for music. If you’re interested in singing, playing songs, songwriting, or really any other creative passion, you should check it out. Here’s why:

Putting first things first, the title “Anyone Can Write A Song!” may be a little misleading. Yes, the book is about songwriting and Overall does teach you the process of writing a song. However, if you’re expecting a music lesson, this book isn’t really that. Overall doesn’t really get technical with you. If you’re completely unfamiliar with playing an instrument or singing, you might have to Google a few things, but even if you have the most basic knowledge of singing, strumming or scoring, you’ll understand every word. So then, if not the staff and notes and chord progressions, what is this book about? Well, let’s come back to that.

In 2020, amid the chaos and fear brought about by a pandemic and widespread civil unrest, Overall wrote a book about something he does that makes him happy. In the introduction, we get a bit of backstory on the songwriter/author. Overall writes that he wanted to make this book so he could share the knowledge he has gained through his career with the community that has supported him through it. Even with all the craziness in the world, Overall chose to share what he knows, what he loves, and who he is. 

In the ensuing 12 chapters, Overall answers many questions a novice songwriter might have, such as “what do you need to write a song?”, “where can inspiration come from?”, and “who are you writing for?” He also discusses topics such as writing music or lyrics first, how to beat writer’s block and the importance of discipline. Throughout these chapters Overall often uses quotations from other musicians he has befriended during his years of performance, his family members also involved in music, and some of the all time great artists like Tom Petty, Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen and Dolly Parton. 

Probably the most encouraging aspects of Overall’s book though are the exercises he offers at the end of each chapter. At the end of the first chapter, Overall challenges the reader to “create a melody”, or to “Just sing. Sing a melody.” This is a simple challenge that anyone can do, and it’s a great way to start out a book with your reader engaged. Another exercise, which he calls “Free Flow”, is offered in chapter 4 and asks the reader to just write words, without thinking about meaning or purpose. This is meant “to get rid of your filters and the barriers that keep you from writing and getting in touch with inspiration.” Other exercises challenge the reader to meditate, think about their favorite songs on a deeper level, and to map song structure. Arguably the best exercise is the 12th and final one, which is titled “Love Yourself”. It acts as a sort of final message from the author, as he recaps every lesson he’s tried to get across in the book to this point. He asks the reader to do 6 things: to “reflect on what you have learned”, “give yourself permission to be a songwriter”, “give yourself space and permission to write [bad] music”, “write music that moves you”, “focus on your accomplishments”, and “don’t take yourself too seriously.”

When it all adds up together, especially with the many touching anecdotes provided by Overall, reading the book is a very heartwarming experience. Even as someone with very little knowledge of the advanced aspects of music, I feel exceptionally inspired to continue my own musical and compositional journey after reading this book. I feel it is very important to get that point across – this book will inspire anyone interested in writing music, whether they are a beginner or an experienced professional.

That’s because this book is not an instructional guide on how to plot notes or what range you should sing in or whatever it literally takes to write music. This book is about what it means to have the heart of an artist. It is inspiring not because it teaches you how to write music, but because it teaches you WHY to write music and what being a songwriter is. 

Overall describes writing as a therapeutic process a number of times in the book. Many of the musicians he quotes say similar things, relating it to necessities like food or oxygen. For these artists, their craft is a need, a requirement. And maybe that’s not you, which is fine. Overall just wants you to find your passion. But if it is you, the stories, the reasoning, and the exercises Overall offers in this book will bring out the songwriter in your heart. 

Overall, I would describe Anyone Can Write A Song! as an electrifying and very memorable read, and I would recommend it to any artist, whether they’re an apprentice or a master. If you’re interested in music, any other artform, or if you just want to hear the wisdom of a man with the heart of an artist, I implore you to check this book out. According to Overall, “Life is beautiful and challenging and depressing and inspiring and really complicated. Songs have room for all that.” And well, anyone can write a song, so give it a try!