When is a song a story?


This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

If you listen to as many songs as I do you’ve probably listened to the stories they tell.  The trick is to tell a story in 3 1/2 minutes or less, although established artists can get away with much longer songs.  Some songs don’t tell a story but contain a line that gives a message.  For instance “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” makes you light up when you hear it but doesn’t tell a story like a book.

I’ve written and copywritten at least five hundred or more songs.  Some I didn’t like but figured I could come back later and work on, and some I’m proud of.  Today I’m sharing with you a song I wrote in Mexico.  I made several trips to Tucson by bus or car so am familiar with the city.  When the words came to mind I set this story song in Tucson.  When I write songs I pick up my guitar, start playing and it’s then the magic happens.  My mind starts with something I’ve seen, heard or read.  The music and words always come together when I compose but many people don’t write that way.  It’s a lot like writing books but in this case it has to be as much of a story as you can tell in a very short time.

Today I’d like to share with you “Painted Angel” a song I’ve sung on stage many times and a favorite of my audiences.  Unfortunately, a year ago, after  my concussion, I got really hoarse and can no longer sing.  I’ve been to doctors and am going in for a scope next week.  It hurts not to sing because it’s always been a passion and I’ve sung since I was very little (with my father).  However, I am lucky to have songs I’ve written, published or not, and I am learning to deal with the loss of my voice.  It’s all up to God.  I’ve used my voice for His glory in church all my  life and if this is something I must bear, so be it.

This time I actually have the song to share with you, but the only recording I can find is pretty  basic, so it’s definitely not professional.  But you’ll get the idea.

I almost always write story songs because I enjoy making the characters and settings tell a tale.  I hope you enjoy it too.



 Ridin’ on the rails of sunshineangela

Nothin’ could hold her down

Packed her bags goodbye mom and dad

Kicked the dust out of that town

Ran out of money in Tucson

Things weren’t ain’t been goin’ too well

Instead of the heaven she was dreamin’ about

She’s been out there goin’ through hell



She’s just one more painted angelKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Underneath a desert sky

If she don’t get home she’ll be

A painted angel ‘til she dies


Writes home to her sister

Says things are happy and brighthomeless girl

Her faded tears between the lines

Erase the hungry sleepless nights

Nothin’ left of her pride

It ain’t worth much these

Sleepin’ in a cardboard shelter

With a bottle of cheap rosé




She dreams about the old timesbride

When at last she closes her eyes

The boy she thought she’d

And the wedding she fantasized

She don’t care about tomorrow

Yesterday’s scattered on the ground

But if she had the bus fareOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She’d be on the next Greyhound


©Linda Stewart

Here’s the link to the song.  Hope you enjoy it!


All photos courtesy of Morguefiles.com


Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

INZARED bookcoverkindle







Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)








13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing








13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook








You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews








21 thoughts on “When is a song a story?

  1. Really enjoyed this post, Linda. I love that you shared a sliver of your soul with us. When you get down to it, a good song is a poem sang aloud. I’ve never quite understood music so loud that it drowns out the singer’s words. On PBS last night in Vegas, they featured the Texas Tenors, three singers backed up by a full orchestra. I’d never heard of them, but they’re super-good. And I can hear and appreciate the poetry in the music.


    1. Thanks Mike. You’re right about a song being a poem. Long before I put words and music together I wrote a lot of poetry. I have heard the Texas Tenors and they are awesome! I don’t like loud music either (lol)


  2. I concur with Mike, Linda — this was a wonderful post! You have such heart and soul, and that “sings” through your post! I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost your singing voice — perhaps God has your traveling that trail right now to hear Him more clearly in other aspects of your life; He can restore that particular gift at any time, so continue your persistence in EVERYTHING! Thank you for sharing yourself so honestly and for the wonderful song!


    1. Thank you Gayle. I really was frustrated about my voice when it started and I’m at the point now that I sound like a caterwauling cat. Since I love singing it has really hurt, but one day I put it in God’s hands and I trust Him with it. If it’s not to be I can live with it. He’s given me so many other talents that I thank Him daily for. How could I be “lost” without just one?


  3. How true that story song is. I don’t have the ability to listen to it now, but the words put a pang in the heart. Thank you for sharing your ‘story’ with us. Doris


  4. Thanks Doris. I love songwriting but haven’t done any lately because of the “no voice” thing. The recording I gave was probably one of the first times I put it on tape. I do all my writing first, then editing and when it is right I do just a “me and my guitar” version before I go any further. Thank you for the comments.


  5. Loved the song, the tune, and the message. You have a beautiful singing voice, I love that quality you have. Sometimes what seems to be a bump in the road is a message to detour to something more enjoyable. Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” With all your talents, I agree, while one is lost, at least for now, there are more to discover! Neva


  6. Love this, I couldn’t get column on YouTube, but I’ll try it again. I too am sorry about your voice, I have a terrible so going voice, but I love to sing. I just try to spare peoples ears. Lol Cher’ley


  7. Thanks Cherley. Not sure why you couldn’t get volume but try again. Sometimes the gremlins are at work. Glad you liked the words and thank you for the nice words. I have no idea why my voice went but I see a doctor next week for a scope. Maybe that will help!


  8. I love songs that tell stories, otherwise what’s really the point? This one is so well done, you can imagine the girl, her surroundings, her longings, and where she might end up if she doesn’t make a change. Wish I could hear you perform sometime!


    1. Thank you Erin. I love writing songs. I’ve always performed at bluegrass/folk festivals, coffeehouses and anywhere else I’m invited. It’s never the pay that’s important – it’s getting your stories out to people. I wrote another song called “Will You Come Home From Houston” and it placed in the top ten at the Austin Songwriting contest. I was invited there to perform the song but had just started a new job so I didn’t go. I’ve always been sorry I didn’t go.


  9. Thanks for posting this, Linda. How fun to get to hear you sing–your own song! I’ve never written songs–well, I made up some really bad ones as a kid. I do write poetry, and it seems similar, with the addition of the music. It is kind of amazing, isn’t it, how concise and condensed we can make language, in order to tell a story in 3 1/2 minutes, in just a few well-chosen words and images.


    1. Thank you for the comment Stephanie. Poems are what I wrote before songs. The cadence to a poem lends itself well to songwriting. I have a friend who writes the music to other people’s poems. I’m one who sits with guitar in hand, playing and all of a sudden a phrase and music come to me. It’s really fun to write and edit songs. Of couse, for me it’s been a joy to share my music with others at festivals. I’ve got publishing contracts (that never went anywhere) some songs on local bluegrass musician’s albums, and a pretty good stack of awards for my songwriting. I do it because if gives me happiness, not to make money, so I enjoy it a lot.


  10. Linda- your song is lovely and I’m now going to be singing it up in bed as the refrain is quite addictive. I’ve always had a regret that I’m not musical. I tried to learn the guitar as a teenager but didn’t practise enough and wasn’t a natural. As for your voice now – sometimes a lower register/ hoarse voice can get a message across to more people- Someone like Johnny Cash comes to mind.


    1. Thank you for the comment Nancy. Actually, I have noticed that if I try singing in a lower range it’s a bit easier but still warbly. Since I was in the hospital this week I missed my appointment for the throat specialist but I was happy to get another for this week. I’d like to find out what’s going on.


  11. I think I may have taken my musical talents a little bit for granted. Growing up in a musical family made me think everyone sang and/or played an instrument. It was only later I realized this was not true. What a wonderful world we live in – where different people have a myriad of talents. It’s great to meet others who are passionate about something (even when it’s something you’re not passionate about).


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