How to Find That Next Killer Song Idea

How to Find That Next Killer Song Idea

song contest overviews

What do the songs The Gambler (Kenny Rogers), Sold (John Michael Montgomery), Hillbilly Bone (Trace Adkins/Blake Shelton), Amazed (Lonestar), Dirt (Florida Georgia Line), and What Hurts the Most (Rascal Flatts) have in common?

In terms of tempo, melody, lyric, and concept, they have very little in common with each other. However, they were all based on killer song ideas that were then executed with precision.

You’ll notice that the core ideas of these songs vary pretty dramatically, showing that there is flexibility in concept when it comes to writing a hit song.

How can you as a songwriter find a song idea worth developing and turning into a hit song? Here are some ideas and examples from some of country music’s most successful artists to get you started.

Classic Themes

Let’s face it, most songs draw us into the world of love. Whether it’s sensual songs, finding that right partner songs, breakup songs, marriage songs, relationship problems songs…long story short, if your song is about love, it’s instantly relatable to pretty much everyone. But don’t lose sight of other classic themes such as family, God, country, friendship, etc.

EXAMPLES: Then (Brad Paisley), God Gave Me You (Blake Shelton), Just to See You Smile (Tim McGraw), Please Remember Me (Tim McGraw), Find Out Who Your Friends Are (Tracy Lawrence), Only in America (Brooks & Dunn), Summer Nights (Rascal Flatts), Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood), Carrying Your Love With Me (George Strait), Dirt Road Anthem (Jason Aldean), Amarillo Sky (Jason Aldean), Time Is Love (Josh Turner), No Hurry (Zac Brown Band)

Funny Concepts

If you can find a song that gets people laughing, you likely have a hit. People like to laugh and smile, which is why funny songs often find success.

EXAMPLES: Ticks (Brad Paisley), Boys ‘Round Here (Blake Shelton), Neon Light (Blake Shelton), My Next Thirty Years (Tim McGraw), Banjo (Rascall Flatts), Big Green Tractor (Jason Aldean), Drunk on a Plane (Dierks Bentley), What Was I Thinkin’ (Dierks Bentley), Ladies Love Country Boys (Trace Adkins), Honky Tonk Badonkadonk (Trace Adkins), I Wanna Talk About Me (Toby Keith), You Ain’t Much Fun (Toby Keith)

Rhythm or Melody-Based Concepts

Some songs start with a beat, a guitar lick, or a groove and then develop into a song concept. It’s perfectly ok to write a melody before you even know what the song is about. Then you can write the lyrics to match the jammin’ melody that you wrote.

EXAMPLES: Old Alabama (Brad Paisley), Honey Bee (Blake Shelton), Somebody Like You (Keith Urban), We Were Us (Keith Urban), My Maria (Brooks & Dunn), Life Is a Highway (Rascal Flatts), Why Wait (Rascall Flatts), Cowboy Cassanova (Carrie Underwood), She’s Country (Jason Aldean), 5-1-5-0 (Dierks Bentley), Why Don’t We Just Dance (Josh Turner), Days of Gold (Jake Owen), Cruise (Florida Georgia Line), This Is How We Roll (Florida Georgia Line), Done (The Band Perry)

Clever One-Liners

Oh you cheeky, pun-filled concepts, how the charts love you! So many songs rely on that single hook to draw you in and get you singing along.

EXAMPLES: Mud on the Tires (Brad Paisley), You Look Good in My Shirt (Keith Urban), Shotgun Rider (Tim McGraw), I Like It I Love It (Tim McGraw), How Long Gone (Brooks & Dunn), Beachin’ (Jake Owen), How Do You Like Me Now?! (Toby Keith), Chainsaw (The Band Perry), Chicken Fried (Zac Brown Band), Toes (Zac Brown Band)

Thoughtful, Serious Concepts

Usually in ballad form, these songs are possibly the hardest to pull off. They can’t be preachy in tone and the melody and lyrics have to make it interesting. But if you are brave enough to try a serious concept, you will likely produce a time-tested classic.

EXAMPLES: Whiskey Lullaby (Brad Paisley), This is Country Music (Brad Paisley), Tonight I Wanna Cry (Keith Urban), Stupid Boy (Keith Urban), Raining on Sunday (Keith Urban), Automatic (Miranda Lambert), Live Like You Were Dying (Tim McGraw), Jesus Take the Wheel (Carrie Underwood), I Saw God Today (George Strait), I Hold On (Dierks Bentley), You’re Gonna Miss This (Trace Adkins), If You’re Going Thru Hell (Rodney Atkins), What We Ain’t Got (Jake Owen), Dirt (Florida Georgia Line), Colder Weather (Zac Brown Band)

Oddball Concepts

Some song ideas are a little off the wall. These ideas probably come to you at 1AM when you’re at a party or when you’re in a goofy mood. Don’t dismiss these ideas as garbage just because they are a little out there. Every now and then a hit has had some pretty weird subject matter.

EXAMPLES: Ol’ Red (Blake Shelton), Indian Outlaw (Tim McGraw), Red Solo Cup (Toby Keith), Beer for My Horses (Toby Keith), Better Dig Two (The Band Perry), Goodbye Earl (Dixie Chicks)


Country songs in particular lend themselves well to storytelling, which is why many great songs tell provocative, interesting, or sometimes even hokey stories. Stories draw listeners in and help convey concepts and ideas in a powerful or relatable way.

EXAMPLES: Austin (Blake Shelton),The Devil Went Down to Georgia (Charlie Daniels), Don’t Take the Girl (Tim McGraw), Something Like That (Tim McGraw), Blown Away (Carrie Underwood), Two Black Cadillacs (Carrie Underwood), Check Yes or No (George Strait), Suds in the Bucket (Sara Evans), Fly Over States (Jason Aldean), Farmer’s Daughter (Rodney Atkins), Cleaning This Gun (Rodney Atkins)