The River's Badge

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thoughts On My Singer-Songwriter Series


I wonder how many people in this world consider themselves to be songwriters.

I'm thinking there's a lot.

I've so far featured three singer-songwriters. Three damn good ones. (Not to confuse you. You've only read about two, but trust me, I've written about three. It's just all out of order, because, well, that's how I roll, apparently).

How many damn good ones are there? I'll say you can count them on the fingers of two hands. Okay, maybe three. But how many people actually have three hands?

I don't think songwriting is like a puzzle. It's not as if you can work on it long enough and hard enough to crack it.

You either have it or you don't.

Yes, I've used that phrase every time I've posted one of my "episodes". That's because it's true.

I've called myself a songwriter for about nine years or so. And I'm thinking, nuts to that. I'm not going to crack the code.

Unlike Radney Foster, I haven't written 25-50 songs per year. I frankly don't have the subject matter. Some years, in fact, I probably wrote two. If it wasn't for FAWM, I would be sitting at about number 13 at this point.

Oh, it's not for lack of desire.

It's for lack of ability.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone. But I will say, write for yourself.

If you like it, that's really the only point there is. I still really like some of mine; not most of them, but some. I guess you had to be there (ha); you know, in my subconscious, to really "get them'. That's, I guess, the problem.

I don't even know what it is about us that makes us want to do this. It's not for commerce. Because that would be the most doomed business enterprise ever created.

Can you imagine a storefront advertising songs for sale? Nobody would stop in. Or, if they did stop in, they'd say, oh, that's okay; I'm just browsing. And then they'd surreptitiously make their way over to the door, and slither out.

There you'd be, following them around, wearing your nice white apron, asking, "Is there something I can help you with?" And they'd murmur, "I was just looking for something bright and shiny; you know, something I can dance to".

"Well, I've got this song about love and loss", you'd say. "Oh, that's okay. I was kind of looking for something different. A little variety. I'm not really in the mood for love and loss today. I've already got a bunch of that at home."

"Well, let me just play you this one. You'll like it, I think."

Then strum, strum, strum. Your three-minute intro.

And you look up, and they're gone. Out the door.

You mutter to yourself, I don't know what people want. Maybe I should have stayed in customer service. Maybe starting my own songwriting business wasn't such a great idea. I guess people just don't understand greatness.

At this point in my songwriting career (okay, I can call it a career if I want), I look at the songs I've written sort of like a diary. I think maybe only one or two of them are completely fictional.

I read something that another songwriter wrote on one of those songwriter sites, and I'm paraphrasing, because I'm really too lazy to go back and re-read it, but he said that every song he wrote had some personal truth in it, even if he had to go back afterwards and cover up all the tell-tale signs. I kind of like that.

Songwriters (at least the un-schlocky ones) are really telling their life stories.

The problem with that, commercially, is that most people don't care about other people's life stories. Not really. Even if you know somebody really well, you are sort of interested, but not as interested as you are in your own life.

So, it's the rare (again, count 'em on three hands, if you have them) songwriter who can transcend that complete and utter disinterest, and invoke some kind of recognition in the listener's mind.

Either that, or the songs need to have a catchy beat.

I can go either way on that.

I'm being semi-facetious, but not really. For what is music, really, if not entertainment? What's wrong with a nonsense song that's infectious? I've got some of those guilty pleasures in my music collection, and I really like them.

That same songwriter that I referenced earlier (I think I'll call him "Jed") likes to talk about hearing music that touches his soul, or something like that. And I like that sometimes.

But sometimes, I've had a really crappy day, or a crappy week. My husband has lost his job (like a quarter of the population, apparently), and I'm worried about stuff like paying our bills, and insurance, and how we will survive when we're old; that kind of fun stuff. And I don't really want to hear some singer crying about...well, anything. I don't need to listen to some sad song to make me feel sad. I'm already sad. I just want to forget my troubles for one measly hour of my life and hear something fun and mindless.

And, come to think of it, the few songs of mine that people say they actually like are those kinds of songs. Entertainment. No offense to Jed, but I don't think the majority of people want to wallow.

So, what is the point of this post?

Well, it's two-fold. Listening to great songwriters (and so far, there have been three, but there are many more to come), I realize that this just isn't the gig for me.

I'm at a crossroads, and the road I'm traveling on right now is leading me toward just writing, but not songwriting.

Maybe I'll change my mind later (probably), when I'm in a better frame of mind. But I'm thinking, why keep beating my head against the wall? It's giving me a real headache, and I've got enough headaches already.

The other point is, let's have fun!

I'm going to search my music collection for "fun" songs, and post a few here and now. The week has been long and difficult (for you, too?), so it's time to kick back.





(Thank you, Dwight. I can always count on Dwight).





(Thank you, George. I used to always be able to count on George).



(Thanks, Marty. You're a rock.)

I know I posted this one before, but I don't care! If you don't like this one, well, I guess you just don't like country, and you just don't care, and you just don't really know what real country music is. Pity.



(My four go-to guys: Dwight, George, Marty, and Mark. George, you're moving further down my list, but you still have time to rise to the challenge. I haven't given up on you yet; at least not completely).

We're not done.





And while we're having fun, and throwing caution to the wind, let's not forget this one:



Tomorrow (or sometime) I will post the sad songs. But not tonight.

Don't forget, songwriters, that music is entertainment. We all just want to feel better; forget our troubles. So, while you're pouring out your guts, and lamenting your life circumstance, everybody else doesn't want to think about that.

I think that's the best advice I can give.

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