For Augusta-based songwriter Ken Stephens, writing a great tune means striking a balance between being earnest and not being obvious.
Mr. Stephens, best known for his work with local acts Livingroom Legends and Dew Hickies, said his secret is to always tell, or at least sing, the truth.
"A song always has to be true," he said during a recent telephone interview. "That doesn't mean nonfiction, but from a true place. If it's true it will work.
"It might not be everyone's thing, but it won't be hokey."
A musician admittedly more comfortable with forming melody and arrangement than penning lyrics, he said that some songs gestate for a long time before he feels comfortable with singing the sentiment.
He said a progression of chords nearly always comes far more quickly than the accompanying couplets.
"Those words," he said with a laugh. "That can be the hardest part. I've got a song I've probably been working on for 20 years. I'm just not satisfied with the lyrics."
Mr. Stephens said there are times when inspiration hits and a song comes to him nearly fully formed.
"A song like Whitney Larue writes itself," he said, referring to a song dedicated to his niece. "You are playing something and it just suggests what it should be. That was a sweet song and it sounded like it should be about a little girl."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.