What does it take to write a good song? There are soo many thoughts on this question. Some might say great words where others might say a hooky melody. Then there’s the whole conversation about the instrumentals and wether or not composers are “songwriters” or not. At what point in life did we start to qualify what a good song is. Hundreds of years ago songwriters were travelling minstrels singing about the happenings of the day. Oh how far we have come from that.
These thoughts I have noticed also change depending what market one might be in. Say you are trying to write country songs. Does the stigma of losing ones car, dog, and house still ring true. What about a rap song? Honeys and Moneys seem to be an underlying theme throughout that genre. What do people think about the craft of Pop writing. I’m sure most think that alot of those songs don’t have a lot of substance. But let me tell you it is a true craft to be able to write something anthemic and yet simple enough to relate to all people. Just look at a liner note(I know most people don’t even get these any more) of say Taylor Swift and see how many names are credited for writing those songs. Sometimes it looks more like a roster of a sports team than credits. Then there is the obvious, that we all want to listen to things that are pleasing. Which means thousands of hours of grueling practice, so we as artists can perform for our audience with the sense of ease as not to look like we are trying. That’s a whole other post that I won’t get into right now.
So back to songs. I personally have not been performing much of my own songs lately. Mostly due to the fact that i don’t believe in them anymore. I personally don’t think that they are any good. So for the last 6-8 months I have been in this constant search for what makes a good song. I still have yet to figure it out, but I feel like I have made some headway. This headway for me has not come easy mind you. I still write songs that are absolutely terrible. Luckily no one but me has to live through those.
My big epiphany has been this. Great and timeless songs, like all sorts of great art, come from life. The sad ones, the clever ones, and even the silly ones. We as artists must find that fine line between being loners for the cause and actually experiencing life. For what we have to say is a direct reaction of something that we have encountered. I find this line very difficult to find and I wil tell you why.
When I am not locked in my room slaving over songs I feel that I have lost my identity as a songwriter. So all I am thinking about when I am living life outside of this circle is “am I a songwriter” and “if I am a songwriter why am I not writing RIGHT NOW??”
These are the two biggest thoughts that plague me and prevent me from becoming the artist that I could be. Both of these thoughts come down to doubt. My doubt, I have figured out, stems from fear. See, being a songwriter is not enough for me. I also have a deep desire to share my songs with other people. I am coming to realize how terrifying this process actually is. So let me lay it out for you.
1. I have grown on my particular instrument through thousands of hours of practice.
2. I decided that the next step was to create on said instrument through the craft of songwriting.
Believe it or not these first two was the easy part.
3. I try to pour out my heart, soul, and mind into a piece of work that might change the world someday.
4. I perform it for an audience that either embraces me or rejects me.
Please notice step 4. I perform for an audience that either embraces or rejects me. This is where my doubt through fear kicks in. We are taught as kids this idea of stranger danger. Well I believe that in this teaching we unintentionally were taught not to trust people. We all became skeptics and scared of what that stranger might do. Now I wont go into how I think this breaks Gods heart. For we are to love all people. I won’t. Not this time.
I will say this. We all as adults have carried this idea of stranger danger with us. It continues to follow us into who we decide to open up to and live life with. It affects us in ways that we don’t even notice. I will leave you with this last thought.
We are incapable of living life alone. We were not created in that way. We desire to be apart of something. Don’t let stranger danger defeat or cloud this true and beautiful truth.
I’m not. And who knows, maybe it will come through in my songs.
Just some thoughts
I know it’s been a while since I have posted. Being that this is my first real post of the year I will have to catch you all up on what’s been going on in 2013.
Starting a new year is always very surreal to me. This year has been no different. I had a great opportunity to ring in the new year with not only my Fall Classic band mates but also about 95 other people at the house party of the year(this is still to be determined but it will be hard to top).
Not only was this a great party but it was hosted by, what most might think, the most unlikely of hosts. My good friend Ian who is a pastor at a local church here in Chicagolandia decided why not get all my artistic friends together and have a celebration of talents. So included in this night was a short film festival, some great local music, and of course alot, and I mean ALOT, of dancing. Capped off with a champaign toast and a rousing rendition of Auld Lange Syne. For all intensive purposes it was one of the most perfect New Years Celebrations of all time.
Since then though there has been some huge changes in my life that have made me start questioning the big life questions. The biggest one being what kind of father can I be while being far away in distance. See my daughter will be moving to San Fran this weekend. And while it has been amazing to be soo close in proximity I can’t help but have feelings of guilt. Those thoughts of have I done enough? Did I really take the time to be a Dad while I had the opportunity. Don’t get me wrong having a child is one of the most important things about me and I am always in process of trying to be the best Father I can be. Now it’s time to figure out a way to keep the impact of my physical presence as a father from a far. Fortunately for our family the technology is amazing and in this life of constant connection it makes this situation a bit easier.
But these are the things that I will miss. Those moments where she is heart broken for some reason or another and I can’t be there. The times where she want’s me to read her a story or protect her from the dark I can’t be there. The times where she says “Daddy come cuddle and watch a movie with me” I can’t be there. So tell me what can I do when she has the “hard” questions about faith and God? In the past years I have tried my hardest to live in a way that is glorifying to the Lord as to be an example to her everyday. What is all this going to look like when she is 2000 miles away? All of these questions have left me uneasy and terrified for her. But this I do know. God is the ultimate provider and as long as my family and I continue to cover her in prayer God will honor that. He will be her protector and guide much more than I could ever be.
While all this is happening I continue my search for a true artistic voice. Even though I have released music in the past I have found that those particular songs I am not connecting with. So while taking a break from performing and focusing on writing and recording music that is not only poignant and powerful. I find that no matter what I must remain true to myself in this process. This last weekend I had a very talented and great friend Guy come and visit from Nashville. We spent 3 days in the studio and it was surreal. I am soo excited about this collaboration that I am really scared to ruin it. Which keeps me in this constant feeling of unrest when it comes to being authentic. How does one be true to themselves when there are thoughts of doubt in their own skills. Tell me please if this will ever stop. I am fully aware that as I continue to grow I will constantly be unsatisfied in myself. For all musicians know that there will always be someone better.
So we will see how the rest of this life journey continues. I do have hope for there is only ONE reason why we breathe and have purpose. For God has given us life and talents to be a sense of light in this dark world. So even with all these uneasy feeling of what if’s and doubts. There will always be one constant I know I can rely on.
That’s all for now
Still a wanna be
and here’s to 2013