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  • Writer's pictureHugh at ZephyrHillMusic

Behind the Lyrics: Catie Offerman - I Just Killed A Man

In this series of ‘Behind the lyrics’ I take a closer look at what makes certain songs have the ability to take us deeper. I look at a wide range of country artists, from Billboard toppers to the undiscovered and unsigned. I like to uncover the story between the lines and highlight where the lyrics are special, unique or generally make me say “I wish I’d written that!”.


I always like to check out the credits page on Spotify. The first name listed is Ryan Beaver. Now he has something I aspire to - a Spotify songwriter page, and has been involved in 36 listed songs which when I added them up have a combined total of over 107 million streams. But he’s not the singer.


To be clear though, there is no doubt of Catie’s musical abilities. She began playing piano at age 4, guitar at 6, and by the tender age of 9 was classically trained on every instrument she played (including accordion and fiddle). She had her first gig at 11.


It’s no real surprise that she signed her first record deal at age 24 with Universal. I chose this song and story because it’s a great example of the power of the ‘up-write’ and how to take a simple single idea and expand it into a full song.


You can almost imagine the conversation in the writers room. “When you end a relationship it’s almost like you’ve killed that person. That’s a great idea, we should write about that!”


In Verse 1 she jumps right into the metaphor, so it’s clear this is a different kind of murder. By line 3 we have the justification, and the last line confirms that she was the “killer” but somebody was going to have to do it to just end the pain.


The Chorus is a huge 9 line section, top and tailed with the title. In a way it’s just a continuation of the story, and in some ways not a summary of the whole story. The metaphors continue but this is the end of a relationship not a life, although with all the pain and anguish and pleading for forgiveness it might have well been a murder.


It thrives on the central idea that the “ending a relationship is like committing a murder” and unashamedly runs with all the images surrounding that, carefully re-framing them as a failed love affair.


Verse 2 is a simple tail of regret including my favourite line:


Tonight's just whiskey and guilt on the rocks”


We then hear the whole Chorus again. It feels like the Chorus got written first because it takes nearly all the metaphors for itself. The Verses just seem like simple transport methods to get to it.


Even the Bridge is short and is again a simple reflection that she will still “do time” as a result of the decision.


The final Chorus offers us a new angle with a new line:


“Neither one of us will be the same”


Which recognises that actually both parties are affected and I think that just helps to smooth it out so that the singer does not come across as being heartless.


Of the song, she herself said in a interview from C2C


“It’s about heartbreak, and to me it’s a really special song and just a way of saying it that I’ve never heard somebody say before”


About her songwriting style, she fully acknowledges the power of collaboration and opportunity to write with others with more experience:


If I can say one thing about my songwriting, it’s just that I’m so appreciative of the songwriters I’ve been able to write with, because I feel they are who make me great, make me better, help me write great songs. I obviously couldn’t do it without them. For me I’m more of a musical person in general, because that’s how I grew up playing instruments. I love melodies. I usually have an idea, but I rely on my friends to really help me shape that.”


Finding other people who are slightly different, slightly ‘better’ from our perception can really expand the songwriting experience bubble. So if you are reading this as an aspiring writer or as an established writer I encourage you to find those people that in turn inspire you, and challenge you. Seek them out and get to know them (either in the real world or via their work), maybe they can help you climb the next rung of the success ladder alongside you.


Before I finish, I draw your attention to another of Catie’s songs from 2022 - ‘Happyland Trailer Park’, which is a great piece of lyrical writing which is about “searching out the parts of your life that are mapped out yet.” It’s added to the accompanying Spotify playlist to this blog.


Until next time.

Written by: Hugh Webber



Bio

Hugh has over 20 years experience as a songwriter and creative collaborator. Personally mentored by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, and a year at the London Songwriting Academy. Find out more here



Written by Ryan Beaver, Benjy Davis, Catie Offerman, Jessie Jo Dillon, Joe Clemmons


Verse 1

There ain't nobody calling the cops

There ain't nobody circling chalk

It was over and he knew it

Yeah, somebody had to do it


Chorus

I just killed a man, left him in his drive

Watched the light go out of his loving eyes

I got in my car, made my getaway

Couldn't stop the tears running down my face

Yeah, he begged me not to let him go

But goodbye, don't give a damn

They won't lock me up for this one, no

But his heart breaks on my hands

I just killed a man


Verse 2

Tonight's just whiskey and guilt on the rocks

Word gets around, this town's gonna talk

It ain't like I ever loved him

Wish that mattered, but it doesn't


Chorus


Bridge

Just because it ain't a crime

Don't mean I won't be doing time

I just killed a man, ooh


Chorus

I just killed a man, left him in his drive

Watched the light go out of his loving eyes

I got in my car, made my getaway

Neither one of us will be the same

Yeah, he begged me not to let him go

But goodbye, don't give a damn

They won't lock me up for this one, no

But his heart breaks on my hands

I just killed a man, ooh

I just killed a man, ooh


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