My iPhone is my co-writer, or a third for a predictive word

Co-writing songs is more commonplace in bluegrass music than it used to be, but it is by no means new. Some of the best-known songs recorded by the legendary Bill Monroe band of 1946-47 were co-written by Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe, Little Cabin Home on the Hill, for example.

On the less artistically satisfying side of co-writing, almost all current country hits were co-written, often by three or more people, making it almost a committee process. Some of those songs have the sound of a committee compromise at work, too (“are we all in agreement that we want to introduce a truck into the third verse?”). It’s similar to the kind of decision-making process that produced advertising slogans like A&W’s “Good food makes good food.”

From the writer’s point of view, co-writing is a great way to take advantage of another perspective, and it can help you flesh out ideas or help you to get moving again if you find you’re stuck on a line. The down side, of course, is that you’re obliged at that point to give up 50% of the credit to someone else, which includes all future royalties earned from the song. You will likely also have to turn over 50% of the publishing rights as well. In our world of bluegrass music, this financial sacrifice can amount to as much as $65, and in some cases even more.

Is giving up that financial stake in your work really necessary in this era of the smart phone? I don’t know about you, but my phone tells me where to go, has conversations with me, and most importantly, suggests words for me while I’m texting. Couldn’t this technology be used to co-write songs, too?

In a previous column, I had used my phone’s predictive text feature to help write a band’s promotional material. This time I thought I would test its creative capabilities and give it the chance to become a handheld co-writer.

As an experiment, I decided to rewrite some of our best-loved classics using some of the key phrases of the original, but relying on my phone’s suggestions for the rest of the lyrics. I did not prompt my phone in any way once I started departing from the original words. I simply chose one of their three word options it gave me and proceeded from there. I think the results are impressive, or at least striking. Where possible I tried to adhere to the song’s original meter, in case you decide to sing some of these new standards at the next open mic:

Rocky Top

Wish that I was on old Rocky Top
But I’m not really sure
Ain’t no smoggy smoke and I don’t want
You to go to the gym

Once I had a chance to see the game
Then it was a great app
Wild as a good time at the airport
And the plane now is closed

Rocky Top you’ll never know
What you think of your mom
Good old people
You are just so cute
You are just so cute

Blue Moon of Kentucky

Blue moon of Kentucky is my best friend
You know that you’re right about that
Blue moon of Kentucky and Chicago
You can do it all day and you will

It was on a moonlight tour
And it was so much fun
They whispered from her back
To bed she had to run
(lucky rhyme)

Blue moon of Kentucky is my favorite
You know I miss your tweets but I can’t wait

Banks of the Ohio

I asked my love to take a nap
But I’m still not feeling well
And as we speak of our own country
I hope you have an awesome day

Only say that you can think
Of a better place than that
Down beside the house of course
On the banks of the world trade organization

(this one has some meter issues)

Fox on the Run

She walks through the door and she walks through the room
To get to the point where she walks through the door
She took all the time off my phone and she had to
You know that I’m not feeling good about this

Like a fox (like a fox, like a fox) on the air

Everybody knows how much I miss my life
And I’m just letting go and I never thought I’d see
This woman just landed on the road for me
She walks into a bar with my mom and my friend

Finally . . .

Hot Corn Cold Corn

Hot corn cold corn bring along your demijohn
Hot corn cold corn bring along your demijohn
Hot corn cold corn bring along your demijohn
Fare you well Uncle Bill see you in the morning yes sir

Oh wait . . .

  • FreeWilly Band

    Hillarious, John!. Very creative, and it certainly pertains to all of us; thanks for sharing. WBJ

  • Dave Russell

    Agreed, that is some very good comedy Chris! I would like to hear a contemporary country song without the feel and theme of, “Sittin on a John Deere diggin up the red dirt…..” Sung, most likely, by someone whose never been on a John Deere in the first place.