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Open Mic: Which Songwriter Is Your Biggest Inspiration?


There is no denying that one of the most effective ways to learn as a songwriter is to study methods and techniques used by previous masters. Be it lyrics, song form, melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, or any other important aspect of songwriting, examining the finished works of a master songwriter that can give you invaluable insight into their process.

So just who exactly are these master songwriters?

Well, that is up to you to let us know in this week’s Open Mic discussion!

Songwriters from all around the world have come together to celebrate the gifts of many masterful songwriters, each with their own unique way of approaching songwriting. We’ve started the list below with a few of the more ‘classic’ choices. However, we are open to any and all suggestions! Be it someone in the mainstream, someone totally obscure, someone from 100 years ago or someone who just put an album out last week.

Let us know which songwriter is your biggest inspiration and why in the form of a comment below! Ready? Go!

1. Bob Dylan

Considered to be the quintessential voice of his generation, Bob Dylan used his lyrics and songwriting to speak about the times, both politically and sociologically. Dylan’s music was often fairly simple, but it was the message within the lyrics that spoke to listeners around the world for generations to come.

2. John Lennon

After breaking from his pop-star shell, the co-writer of most of the songs by The Beatles showed his true colors as an artist and a poet, focusing on imaginative song form and highly introspective lyrics. John Lennon’s songs have become the model for creative, artistic song form spanning all genres.

3. Woody Guthrie

An early American folk songwriter made popular in the 1940s, Woody Guthrie has become a hero in the folk world, with songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger all citing his work as an important influence. Gurthie, similar to Bob Dylan, used his songwriting to weave stories of both political and sociological significance.

4. Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson was an early delta-blues musician that became the quintessential blues-man. He died at the age of 27, but his virtuosity was so great that he managed to make 49 recordings in only two studio sessions, many of which have been cited as an important influence by some of the greatest musicians and bands of all time, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Which Songwriter Is Your Biggest Inspiration?

We want to hear from you! Let us know which songwriter is your biggest inspiration and why in the form of a comment below.

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30 thoughts on “Open Mic: Which Songwriter Is Your Biggest Inspiration?

  1. My biggest inspiration is Thom Yorke. OK Computer shaped my teen years and lyrics like ‘you kicking squealing Gucci little piggy’ will never grow tired.

    1. I’ve recently become a HUGE Radiohead fan myself. Still exploring all of their past works and letting it sink in!

  2. Rob Thomas, James Taylor, Ryan Tedder and of course John and Paul (but those last two are givens). 

  3. Johnny Cash holds a soft spot in my heart, his versatility is unmatched in his genre. His covers and co-writes are great too, particularly “hurt”, “Girl from the North Country”, and “Highwayman”.

  4. Some really great contemporary artists populate my biggest inspirations: Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco), Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, and oh, so many more.

    1. Love Jeff Tweedy and Andrew Bird myself! 

  5. Ron Sexsmith is such a wonderfully inspirational songwriter.  Blue Boy is a simple album full of wonderfully unforgettable songs that are quirky and beautiful.
    Suzanne Vega is my female influence. Her songwriting style is so individual and she really thinks about her lyrics. I would die happy if I could have written just one of the songs on Song in Red and Gray. It’s a perfect album.

  6. All the obvious big guns have already been mentioned, but I’ll throw in some lesser-known 

    1. Please do! I just wanted to get the ball rolling with the classics, but if you’ve got anyone at all that you’d like to add, we would really appreciate it!

  7. I should probably post my own inspirations as a songwriter as well 🙂

    Trey Anastasio (Phish), David Bowie, David Byrne (Talking Heads), and my most recent obsession who has been a huge inspiration to me is Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

  8. Patti Griffin!! Shes amazing, long ride home gets ya in the gut everytime 🙂

  9. sorry to be a bit obvious… Joni Mitchell. She taught me a lot about scanning.

    1. Her version of The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines is actually what I consider to be one the greatest songs of all time. The way she uses her voice as an instrument is absolute perfection.

  10. I’m more a of a soul guy….Donny Hathaway

  11. Arjen Anthony Lucassen is my favorite song writer. You should check out his many musical projects. Ayreon, Star One, Guilt Machine, and Stream of Passion are just some of them.

  12. Great post, Jon.

    I’ll toss in my 2 cents for the slightly less often thought of, but my personal favorite:

    Jackson Browne
    Anyone who can write “These Days” at the age of 16 and consistently stay topical as a Songwriter throughout his career gets my vote 🙂

    1. Jackson Browne! Great choice – love his work as well! Thanks for reading and contributing Michael!

  13. If I had to go for all time biggest influence, I might have to lean towards Paul Simon, but I hate doing that.  So as of late, I’ve been a huge fan of James Blake’s stuff, super bad…

  14. Got two here. Mariah Carey and Gwen Stefani. They are like my two idols, totally different polarities too….luv em both the same though. Follow me @katskan

  15. The big gun names are already listed here, but I’ll throw in some lesser-known ones who inspired me, and a particular song of theirs: Marc Cohn (True Companion), Neil Finn (Fall at your Feet), Martin Sexton (Glory Bound) and Chris Whitley (anything from Living with the Law).

  16. I really like Patterson Hood from The Drive-By Truckers. It is really just awesome to see someone so comfortable in their own skin and not afraid to be themselves. I think that allows them to relate to a lot more fans as well…I recommend their new documentary out The Secret To a Happy Ending

  17. Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel!

  18. Always loved Jeff Buckley,but Chris Rene is my biggest New Music inspiration because he writes Lyrics that touch the heart..make you feel,and inspires you to be a better person #LoveLife<3

  19. mccartney/lennon

    1. I’ve always been a sucker for the great songwriting duo’s of times past. There always seems to be some tension between the two that leads to great music.

  20. billy joel and neyo

  21. Neil Young paints a song like know one else.

  22. Ryan Adams, for his great way of expression of every single kind of emotion

  23. Ryan Adams, for his great way of expression of every single kind of emotion

  24. The great John Hiatt

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