I started writing songs when I was in my 20’s. Once in a great while, I write the music as well as the lyric, but usually I only write the lyrics. People ask me how that works—where does the idea come from, what comes first, words or music, that sort of thing — so I thought I would take this opportunity to give a little background on each song. These are not in any kind of order.
Song writing led to other business opportunities, like song publishing. You can read more about this on the Annie Merle Music page of this website.
Song: Everything and Nothing (Darnall/Gill/Matthews)
Project: Vince Gill, These Days
Released 2006, MCA Nashville
A song about the sometimes paradoxical nature of life and love. Cure is worse than the disease, be careful what you wish for, etc. Kyle Matthews and his unbelievable gift with words helped me with this lyric, and Vince generously added music only he could have written.
Song: How Lonely Looks (Darnall/Gill)
Project: Vince Gill, These Days
Released 2006, MCA Nashville
Sad, haunting song about losing what you didn't think could ever be lost. Vince's voice just makes me want to lay down and cry.
Song: One Day (Darnall/Gill)
Project: Eric Clapton, Back Home
Released 2005, Warner Reprise Records
I wrote this lyric many years ago, and I gave it to Vince Gill because he said he liked it. It was many more years before he wrote some music to go with it, and even more years before I asked my buddy Bobby Blazier to produce the demo of the song. I told him to think in the style of Eric Clapton when he recorded it, so he hired the genius talent of Chris Rodriguez for vocal and guitar, and it turned out to be a great demo. The rest of the story is another version of “it’s all in who you know,” and it turns out I have some good friends. Doesn’t hurt that Vince is a genius.
Song: Turn This World Around (Darnall/Grant/Thomas)
Project: Amy Grant, Behind the Eyes
Released 1997, A&M Records
Keith Thomas had finished this track, and had good part of the chorus (including the title line). Amy and I got together and wrote the rest of it in her living room. The second line became the title of the CD. We were working alot together that year, and eventually I was hired to produce the tour that supported this project.
Song: Only the Heart Knows (Darnall/Lauer) and The Gift of Time (Darnall/Lauer)
Project: Simple Abundance
Released 2002, Compendia Media Group
Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote a beautiful daily reading book call Simple Abundance, and when songs were needed for a CD to accompany the book, Angela Lauer and I were asked to submit new compositions. The guidelines were pretty clear. The lyrics should reflect some of the major themes of the book, and the music should be compelling. It was a challenging task, and we wrote several songs. These two were chosen. I’m positive that one main reason they were given a good listen was the quality of the demos done by Angela’s husband, Tim, an incredibly talented musician and a good friend.
Song: A Christmas to Remember (Darnall/Grant/Eaton)
Project: Amy Grant, A Christmas to Remember
Released 1999, Myrrh Records
Chris Eaton had already written this wonderful, engaging music and some of the lyrics when he gave it to Amy to finish. She kindly asked me to help, and we worked on it for a couple of days before it was just right. Happily, she made it the title track for her Christmas CD, and I had the privilege of producing her “Christmas to Remember” tour with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra that same year.
Song: Helping Hand (Darnall/Grant/Sims)
Project: Amy Grant, House of Love
Released 1994, Universal/Polygram
I remember when I first heard this track, sitting in Amy’s living room at the farm. It is the way I feel when I hear almost any of Tommy Sims’ music. Very happy. He is a genius and this was some serious fun music to write to. Amy loves singing it, too.
Song: Do You Dream Of Me? (Darnall/Grant/Smith)
Project: Michael W. Smith, The First Decade
Released 1993, Reunion Records
This is a sweet memory. Michael was almost finished with the bonus tracks for his first greatest hits CD, but he needed a lyric. In fact, he needed it by 10 am Monday, and it was 9 pm Sunday. I drove to Amy’s in my most comfortable pj’s and a robe, because it was going to be an all-nighter. Michael’s music was beautiful, and I had this lyric in the back of a notebook that included the line, “do you dream of me?” Amy and I worked together like we always do, writing and re-writing. It worked, and Michael’s rendition is absolutely beautiful. He has an almost supernatural way with a piano.
Song: I Know Your Name (Darnall/Smith)
Project: Michael W. Smith, Live The Life
Released 1998, Reunion Records
In this case, Michael sent me the music track along with a melody on cassette tape and I started writing. It took me a few tries to get it to a place where it felt right, but I’ve always liked this one.
Song: Lux Venit (Darnall/Grant/Smith)
Project: Michael W. Smith, Christmas
Released 1989, Reunion Records
This was the first song I ever wrote with Amy and Michael. Michael was recording a Christmas record and he had already recorded this lovely track. He expressed a hope that the lyrics could be in another language in some places, and since I had already been working on an idea based on the scripture “Arise, shine for your light has come,” I decided it would be cool to use that in some way. I called a professor who told me how to say “the light has come” in Latin, and that became the title. Amy and I finished the rest of the song during a week at the beach, and Michael’s arranger, Ronn Huff, used a boys’ choir for the chorus. Fabulous.
Song: Out Of This World (Darnall/Grant/Smith/Smith)
Project: Michael W. Smith, Change Your World
Released 1992, Reunion Records
This lyric was partially finished by the time it got to me, but it needed a second verse and part of the first, some of the chorus, too, if I remember correctly. Another impossible deadline, but we made it. Michael did a fun tour that year, and it was so great seeing him onstage performing this song.
Song: We Come To Praise You (Darnall/Darnall/Grant/Chapman)
Project: Songs from the Loft
Released 1993, Reunion Records
This song was actually written one Saturday afternoon because we needed a call to worship for church that night. When a CD was produced of all the songs used in the youth service at Riverstone Farms, this song was included.
Song: I Will Rejoice (Darnall/Smith)
Project: Sandi Patty, Another Time...Another Place
Released 1990, Word Records
I was so happy when Greg Nelson decided to play this song for Sandi. It had been a thrill to write this with Michael, and I thought it was perfect for Sandi but that doesn’t mean that much sometimes. But she liked it, recorded it, and it made through the final cut. I went on to create the first worship musical for Word with the same title, with Russ Taff, Amy, and other good friends as guest artists. I am still very proud of that work.
Song: Looking for the City (Darnall/ Tunney)
Project: Steve Green
This was the first song I wrote with Melody Tunney. She is a fine musician and singer, with a special talent for melodies, appropriately. We were actually headed out to do a back-up singing tour with the Imperials, but we took a little time and wrote this song because we had heard that Steve needed an uptempo song for his new record. I got the chance to sing it lots of times, because it was used for many, many demos for print choral music collections. This was followed by several more lovely writing experiences with Mel:
Song: Seekers of Your Heart (Darnall/Tunney)
Project: Larnelle Harris, The Father Hath Provided
Recorded as a trio by Larnelle Harris, Sandi Patty and Steve Green, the chorus of this song is included in several hymnals.
Song: For Unto Us (Darnall/Tunney) and
Peace Be Still (Darnall/Tunney)
Project: I’ve Just Seen Jesus/ Larnelle Harris
Song: Earnestly I Seek You (Darnall/Darnall)
Project: Praise 15
Released 1991 Maranatha Music
Song: Isn’t He Good? (Darnall)
Project: The Praise Band 4, Let the Walls Fall Down
Released 1993 Maranatha Music
Song: What If (Darnall/Darnall/Darnall)
Project: Totally Outrageous
This was a fun collection of nutty little songs for kids, and it had a great activity book that went along with it. Isaac, my son, was just about ten when he helped us with this lyric.
Musicals and Octavos
I’ve written a few musical dramas for publishing houses, and I’ve had a really good time writing and recording them. These works gave me my first chance at writing for children and my first opportunities for producing.
If I Were a King Benson Melendez/Darnall
Starshine Benson Melendez/Darnall
The Attic Benson Melendez/Darnall
I Will Rejoice Word Darnall/Smith
Born is the King Word Darnall/Smith
True and Faithful Lifeway Darnall /Fettke
Salt and Light Word Darnall (This one won a Dove award in 1996.)
Once in a while I get to write a single song to be published by itself for print purposes, that is, an octavo for choirs to sing, and sometimes one of the songs in a musical is pulled out for the same purpose. Here are a few.
God is Our Strength Darnall/ Dearman
It Was his Grace Darnall/ Slaughter
Lord, I Sing My Thanksgiving Darnall/ Dearman
The God Who Reigns Darnall/Fettke
And from the list above
I Will Rejoice
Peace Be Still
Seekers of Your Heart
Isn’t He Good?
Much More Than We Imagine (Michael W. Smith and I wrote this song to commemorate our pastor’s 25th year anniversary at our church.)