The seven truths of songwriting | Tom McRae | TEDxWhitehall

  • Published on Feb 23, 2018
  • With wisdom and wit, acclaimed singer-songwriter Tom McRae shares his seven fundamental truths of songwriting. Includes performances of:

    Lately's all I know;
    Let me grow old with you;
    Hoping against hope Tom McRae is a Mercury and Brit Award nominated singer-songwriter. He has released 8 critically acclaimed albums, as well as writing music for orchestras, and film and television. He has also written songs for artists as diverse as Nadine Coyle (Girls Aloud) and rock legend Marianne Faithfull. He is also a visiting professor at Leeds College of Music. Poet Simon Armitage has called him “one of our greatest living songwriters” while Neil McCormick, chief rock critic for The Telegraph says "McRae's mordant wit & dark romance might make him the perfect songwriter for these fucked up times.” Tom, however, rates his proudest achievement as being an answer on the BBC quiz show, Pointless. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Comments • 47

  • SamjrMusic
    SamjrMusic 9 days ago

    Very important to note. This is mostly lyrical writing. No hook, no real chorus or profound melody

  • Doug Bush
    Doug Bush Month ago +1

    Blake Shelton's little brother that got left in England on the family trip

  • joseph humphrey
    joseph humphrey Month ago

    The first time I heard Tom.....I was gobsmacked; The guy is brilliant.

  • TommyTwobats
    TommyTwobats 2 months ago +5

    5:55 (1) Songwriting is Easy, 6:22 (2) It's Hard , 6:50 (3) You HAVE to finish the song, 10:32 (4) You have to destroy all the past artistic efforts, clean slate, 11:02 (5) Taste, Experience and Craft - pay no mind to them, they are not helpful, 11:30 (6) keep them in mind afterall 13:40 (7) Start, work and finish with HOPE

  • Thomas Andersen
    Thomas Andersen 3 months ago

    Starts at 00:00:55

  • George Marsilio
    George Marsilio 3 months ago

    No one needs to hear this

  • David Kodym
    David Kodym 5 months ago

    So funny. The guy seem to be so wise. And made me happy, there was none of the sticky pathetic self-hypnotizing masturbative voice which I already automatically expect nowadays in singing songs like this. Thank you

  • Camilo
    Camilo 5 months ago

    Ben Howard vibes! Awesome

  • Felipe Abrigo
    Felipe Abrigo 5 months ago

    such a great voice, awesome songs and charming guy. brought tears to my eyes.

  • William Leary
    William Leary 6 months ago

    This was the least valuable songwriting video I’ve seen yet on RU-clip.

    • hobo man
      hobo man 4 months ago +1

      Funny this was the most valuable one for me...

  • SantanaCat
    SantanaCat 6 months ago

    Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, two of the best to live up to. It's your own perception that will be your style. Finishing is important, but Hendrix never played a song live the same way twice, so there's some flexibility in what you call finished.

  • Dan Beabout
    Dan Beabout 6 months ago

    I write songs for a hobby and just recently discovered accidentally how powerful forcing myself to finish is! Loved these lessons from a pro.

  • Psilo Dhi Holmes -
    Psilo Dhi Holmes - 8 months ago

    lyrics saying alot

  • Edgar Ayala
    Edgar Ayala 8 months ago +4

    This guy really looks like Harvey Bullock from Gotham

      LIL X NOCILLE 8 months ago +1

      He sounds like a older Stewie Griffin

  • Peter Wood-Jenkins
    Peter Wood-Jenkins 8 months ago +2

    He has an appealing voice and it all sounds real life

  • TheFeralcatz
    TheFeralcatz 8 months ago +1

    This guy is so corny

  • HairGlitter JessiBlu
    HairGlitter JessiBlu 9 months ago

    Why did I start crying at 20 sec left till the end? Really cool thankyou. Its gonna be ok

  • Stephen Kater
    Stephen Kater 9 months ago

    I dig this !!!

  • Harpazo Restrainer
    Harpazo Restrainer 9 months ago

    Love those songs!

  • Jameson Duncan
    Jameson Duncan 10 months ago


  • devilhand
    devilhand 10 months ago +5

    Writing songs is easy as he mentioned. But writing riff driven songs is more challenging. A good example of a riff driven song is Bad from Michael Jackson. These kind of songs are catchy and dont get out of our head. That's why most of them become hits. I mean it's not only about guitar riff. Riff can be created on any instrument even on computer.

  • Sky Rasmus
    Sky Rasmus 11 months ago +2

    I love this video so much and his music is incredible! The one thing that bothered me the entire time....His capo is upside down. Hahahaha!
    But for real, this is great.

  • D Cognit
    D Cognit 11 months ago +10

    Your true fans don't forget you Tom and always check on RU-clip if there's anything new from you. stay in the niche of music for us, the ones that love true lyrics and true music. Don't ever stop making your beautiful music.

  • Tanmay Kriplani
    Tanmay Kriplani Year ago +9

    why arent u famous ♥️

    • MyBrothersKeeper
      MyBrothersKeeper 10 months ago +2

      fame isn't worth nearly what people think it is and the cost is more than most wanna pay.

    • Tanmay Kriplani
      Tanmay Kriplani 11 months ago

      D Cognit He is sooo good... i wanna write songs

    • D Cognit
      D Cognit 11 months ago +1

      Because life isn't fair. He is our Nick Drake.

    BRAWLADDY Year ago +7

    If you dropped a stone down Tom's throat - you'd have your old physics textbook out trying to work out how deep he is after the pebble hits the bottom after an age.

  • Andro Medved
    Andro Medved Year ago +1

    Awesome TED Talk!

  • Andro Medved
    Andro Medved Year ago

    He sounds sooo much like the singer from REM (Steve or whatever his name is).

  • DKAY
    DKAY Year ago +1

    I want to be in a room with just this guy and I and write a song together.

  • Ger Bear
    Ger Bear Year ago +1

    beautiful voice.

    RANAGRI Year ago +1

    We love this man for obvious reasons! A genius in our time! It's gonna be OK! X

  • Henry Goulding
    Henry Goulding Year ago +1

    Love McRae.... seen him loads of times and don't miss a show...amazing songs, great humour and solid fans. Never dissapointed.

  • The Porsche 924 Owners Club

    The guy is an absolute legend and the best songwriter of the last 20 years, his gigs are spellbinding.

  • Chris Hall
    Chris Hall Year ago +2

    I've seen him live many many times. He is absolutely brilliant.

  • Gina Rayment
    Gina Rayment Year ago +1


  • Nathan Shearman
    Nathan Shearman Year ago +2

    It's gonna be okay.xx

  • Brendan Mather
    Brendan Mather Year ago +21

    I've seen him live twice and hopefully I'll get to see him many more times. For a guy who writes really dark and sad music he's surprisingly good at adding comedy to his gigs when he talks to the audience. Although he does seem to have a dark sense of humour. I cannot recommend enough that you go to a show of his if you get the chance.

    • Andrew Thomas
      Andrew Thomas 4 months ago

      mattrolandjim I was at the Union Chapel Gig as well with Tom, Ollie and Ollie, what a Beautiful Concert it was.
      I was in the front row and I have seen Tom play the Chapel before.
      Fingers crossed we get another Superb Album ASAP and another Wonderful Tour.
      Tom McRea is the BEST. ❤️😊

    • mattrolandjim
      mattrolandjim Year ago +3

      Seconded, I cannot recommend this comment enough!
      Seen the guy twice, once ages ago on my own and i promised myself then and there I'd always make the effort to go see him wherever i could. The guy wasn't always easy to follow and so i missed a few shows. It got to be a while before I got to see him again but I bought tickets for his recent union chapel gig in London. Even though me and the Mrs said we weren't gonna buy any more gig tickets that year. Truth be told between having underhandedly buying tickets, the Mrs' scepticism and it being in a church (seating room only) I started to wonder if it would live up to that now distant memory of the last time.
      Suffice to say that it was amazing, the Mrs and I loved it, insane acoustics in that place, the three of them filled up the whole church with a torrent of beautiful sound. His lyrics allways get me, I always come away with 4-5 new songs to add to my play lists. The banter and audience participation are always spot on.

  • tis1tygrr2time
    tis1tygrr2time Year ago +1

    Amazing, he's such a great guy ❤

  • Nobby McDibdabs
    Nobby McDibdabs Year ago +2

    Good stuff, especially about getting things finished.