Music, Lyrics, and Life is the songwriting class you always wish you'd taken, taught by the professor you always wish you'd had. It's a deep dive into the heart of questions asked by songwriters of all levels, from how to begin journaling to when you know that a song is finished. With humor and empathy, acclaimed singer-songwriter Mike Errico unravels both the mystery of songwriting and the logistics of life as a songwriter. For years, this set of tools, prompts, and ideas has inspired students on campuses including Yale, Wesleyan, Berklee, Oberlin, and NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
Alongside his own lessons, Errico interviews the writers, producers, and A&R executives behind today's biggest hits and investigates the larger questions of creativity through lively conversations with a wide range of innovative thinkers: astrophysicist Janna Levin explains the importance of repetition, both in choruses and in the exploration of the universe; renowned painter John Currin praises the constraints of form, whether it's within a right-angled canvas or a three-minute pop song; bestselling author George Saunders unpacks the hidden benefit of writing, and revising, authentically; and much more. The result is that Music, Lyrics, and Life ends up revealing as much about the art of songwriting as it does about who we are, and where we may be going.
This is a book for songwriters, future content creators, music lovers, and anyone who wants to understand how popular art forms are able to touch us so deeply. Mike Errico has honed these lessons over years of writing, performing, teaching, and mentoring, and no matter where you are on your songwriting journey, Music, Lyrics, and Life will help you build a creative world that's both intrinsic to who you are, and undeniable to whoever is listening.
New York–based recording artist, writer, and lecturing professor Mike Errico has built his name on the strength of critically acclaimed releases and extensive composition for film and TV. Live, Errico has toured internationally, playing major music festivals and sharing stages with top artists and songwriters. In addition to his recording career, Errico's opinions and insights have appeared in publications including the New York Times, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, the UK Independent, and the Observer. He teaches songwriting at universities including Yale, Wesleyan, and NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
"Mike Errico’s book is a manual for better living through creativity, and vice versa: playful, rigorous, challenging, inviting, weird, practical, mind-expanding, focused, and truly kind. It’s a genuinely loving book that overflows with soul and vital wisdom from a wonderful teacher and artist. I’m really blown away."
— Paul Giamatti
“Mike Errico changed my life. He has an unwavering belief in his students’ ability to succeed in whatever they set their minds to. This belief and support, along with his holistic approach to songwriting and dedication to helping students find their voice, made it possible for me to take leaps of faith that otherwise felt impossible. Buy this book!”
— Hana Elion, writer, producer, co-lead singer, Overcoats
“What a glorious life raft of a book. No matter what creative seas you may be adrift upon, the advice and guidance here will both keep you afloat and offer you a way to find your own North Star. Songwriters, artists, anyone working in any creative arena will be inspired and lovingly stripped of their own art-killing excuses.”
— Emily Flake, New Yorker cartoonist, author, essayist
“Others may have written Bibles on songwriting. This is the Talmud.”
— Eric Bazilian, writer, “One of Us” (Joan Osborne); founding member of the Hooters; collaborator, Cyndi Lauper, Ricky Martin, Bon Jovi, LeeAnn Rimes, Jonatha Brooke
“Mike Errico has written some of my favorite lyrics ever. So, yes, I would say his take on songwriting is well worth our full attention, highlighter in hand.”
— Kelly Corrigan, NYT bestselling author and host of the Kelly Corrigan Wonders podcast
“Songwriting is a mystical art, and Mike Errico joins all the dots, helping us visualize the process as well as igniting our passion for the ultimate freedom of creativity.”
— Martin Page, cowriter, “We Built This City” (Starship); “King of Wishful Thinking” (Go West); writer, “In the House of Stone and Light”; collaborator, Chaka Khan, Heart, Earth, Wind & Fire, Robbie Williams, Josh Groban
“This is my kind of book: It’s analytical, but it’s also abstract. It takes the mystery out of songwriting but it also puts it back in. Great, entertaining writing style, too!”— Matt Beck, songwriter; multi-instrumentalist, Roseanne Cash, Miley Cyrus, Rod Stewart, Rob Thomas, Matchbox Twenty
“Mike Errico’s book on songwriting (and more) is an inspirational tool and a wonderful reference for artists and musicians involved in a creative effort. Highly recommended.”
— Patricia Barber, composer, songwriter; Guggenheim Fellow, Composition; American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2019)
“This is my kind of book: It’s analytical, but it’s also abstract. It takes the mystery out of songwriting but it also puts it back in. Great, entertaining writing style, too!”
— Matt Beck, songwriter; multi-instrumentalist, Roseanne Cash, Miley Cyrus, Rod Stewart, Rob Thomas, Matchbox Twenty
“Mike Errico is a brilliant artist who is fluent in both the language of music and the music of language. I’m an actor-director, and this book about songwriting made me want to create, to explore, and to deepen my own work.”—Carrie Preston, director, Emmy Award–winning actor, The Good Wife, True Blood, Claws
NetGalley Review: 4 stars
Last updated on 01 Sep 2021
"What a great read! This book was informative and applicable to subjects beyond music and lyrics. I learned a lot about the music community and creative approaches to writing. The voice of the author was entertaining and makes me wish I had a course like this in college. Highly recommend!
Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for the ARC."—H Paige, consumer reviewer
"Mike Errico has written a lovely book loaded with information and good advice, not only from the author, but from a wonderful cast of interviewees. Very readable and fun—a great addition to any writer's bookshelf."—Pat Pattison, Berklee College of Music, author, Writing Better Lyrics
"Mike Errico’s book is a wise, helpful, and often funny study of songwriting—and more than that, it’s an invaluable resource for anyone engaged in a creative endeavor. He tackles the big questions, like “How do I get a fresh idea?” “How do I keep going when things get hard?” “How do I deal with criticism?” It’s packed with real-life examples, practical solutions, and deep insights into how art is made."—Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, host of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast
"With insights from creative minds engaged in a variety of endeavors—from music to cosmology to someone literally re-inventing wheels— “Music, Lyrics, and Life” is a fresh and engaging exploration of the creative process."—Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, author, Sounds Like Titanic, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, 2019
“Mike is the rare combination of artist, performer, educator, marketer, artisan and normal, relatable person. This well-crafted work offers up his many years of hard-won experience in a clear, practical way. If you’re a songwriter, read this book and keep it handy and you’ll become a better songwriter. If you’re not a songwriter but you love music, read this book and keep it handy and you'll deepen your appreciation for and understanding of the songs you love (and the ones you don’t). And if you’re not a songwriter and you don’t love music … then our condolences.”—Greg Scholl, Executive Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center
“Mike Errico opened my eyes to what songwriting could be. His methods took any fear I had of writing and turned it to fun and joy. He is the perfect guide to finding your voice.”
—Blu DeTiger, recording artist
"Mike Errico possesses a keen understanding of how to teach something that simply cannot be taught. This is the book we’re all in need of."
—Madison Cunningham, recording artist
“A page-turning guide for creative problem entrepreneurs in any field, no matter the stage of their journey.”
—Jake Schwartz, co-founder, General Assembly
“Mike Errico can inspire the most timid songwriter and invigorate the most tired. Using curiosity and practicality as tools of equal weight, he challenges readers to create without self-judgment. It was through his class that I started to think of songwriting as a practice.”
—Mia Berrin, Pom Pom Squad
"In this generous and brilliant book, Mike Errico speaks to the unspeakable. Few could seamlessly tie insight into the elusive magic of creativity to lessons on the practical ins and outs of what it means to be a songwriter, but Mike has done so beautifully. This book is a gift to songwriters everywhere."
—Eva Grace Hendricks, Charly Bliss
“While some guides will instruct us from on high, Mike is at our side, filled with passion and curiosity as well as instructive insights.”
—Dar Williams, recording artist, author
“Mike knows what’s up because he listens to songwriters and not only lives in, but also studies, the lifestyle. Within the first three or four chapters, I felt free to flex my artistic muscles, which led me to make some pretty significant life changes. This book is a foolproof way to beat stagnancy and achieve a truer form of self.”
—Khaya Cohen, Moon Kissed
“Drawing upon sources as diverse as visual art, theater, literature, design and even science, Mike Errico not only brings fresh perspectives on songwriting, but illuminates the whole creative process. He vividly illustrates the mix of craft and inspiration that lies behind the best popular music. Music, Lyrics, and Life lives up to its title, and brings insights into each of those subjects, letting each elevate and enrich the other.”
—Eric Beall, author, A&R, songwriter
“Brilliant. I didn’t even get to page twenty before I wanted to send it to every songwriter and songwriting student I have and scream from the rooftops to read it—again and again—until it sinks in. This is the book I didn’t know I needed to read—and I SO needed to read it.”
—Kat Reinhert, singer, songwriter, president, Association for Popular Music Education, co-founder, Songwriting for Music Educators
“Mike has crafted an in-depth, soulful compass guidebook that informs the reader not merely about comprehensive songwriting, but about personal direction and living with dignified intention. It’s cooly instructive, providing a natural “sidecar ride” throughout. (With a couple of chords and a backbeat you could probably craft a song based on the contents of any random chapter). Above all, the book inspires through genuine instruction and wisdom.
I no longer have to worry about what holiday present to buy most everyone I know this year.
Beautifully done, Mike…”
—Ben Mink, producer/songwriter/instrumentalist, k.d. lang, Rush, Heart, Feist, Elton John, Rolling Stones, Method Man