Is it important to know music theory when writing songs?
Knowing music theory is not necessarily vital to songwriting. In reference, consider the early blues. Nobody can deny the pure expression of early blues legends, Leadbelly, Blind Willie McTell and Lightning Hopkins among many, who would write songs only, from the heart.
To write songs that are born from experience only, is an art confined to the gifted ones.
Those able to reflect on their personal experiences and who, in their own unique way, express those experiences in such a powerful form, that any education on the inner workings of music theory does not even enter the equation.
The earliest works we know of, of course have similarities in shape and form to a lot of contemporary writing.
The earliest works we know of, also have a lyrical flow that is a million years away from the type of modern day lyrical form which is taught and adhered to by the songwriting schools who invariably make no secret of the fact that they measure the worth of a great song by first gauging it’s commercial potential.
Let us not be judgemental. If our aim is to be a commercially successful songwriter, then we learn from the appropriate teachings. If not, then let us leave it to our hearts to speak with purity and let the song’s form be born, not manufactured. Let the song’s form flourish in it’s own uniqueness, lead by the ways of conventional structure or not.