Through most of my life, I have been moved by the words of songs. Through a specific sad time when I was young I remember being comforted by the lyrics of the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” As a high school pole vaulter on the track team, as I was preparing for a jump I would calm my nerves by singing Phoebe Snow’s song “Sweet Disposition” quietly to myself. The Rolling Stone’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” would ward off frustration when things weren’t going my way. James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” albums were guardians of my heart through most of my teen and early adult years.
The words of songs, the lyrics, have supported and motivated and influenced so many levels of my life. Also, long before video games and streaming movies came along, the imagery that well-written songs could bring was and still is a great form of escape for me.
Not to seem overly dramatic, but if it wasn’t for so much of the music that I grew up with I don’t know if I would be alive today. Music was instrumental in helping me through extremely depressing times in my life, and also there to help me celebrate personal victories.
So, I think one of the main reasons I became a musician was possibly envisioning my music and songs having the effect on the lives of my listeners that the music that I listened to had on me.
For me, the music of a song is important, but it’s usually the lyrics, the message that I crave. I see the music as the road or highway on which the words or the message travels to us on. So, if the road is bumpy with cracks and potholes or unpaved, then it will be hard to get or understand the message.
Our ears are trained for tones and patterns in music that are satisfying to our individual musical tastes. These tastes are usually developed through what we have listened to in our lives. Someone who has grown up listening to country music may have a hard time getting the message from a song written in the grunge genre simply because their ear is used to the more simple chord progressions of country music so when the pounding driving force of grunge hits them, it becomes a distraction from the lyrics. So, in the same way, those wanting and expecting the grunge affect on their auditory sense will be distracted from the message of the country music. Of course, there are those who listen to a wide variety of music who have no problem listening to songs from any genre.
Now with all of that being said, as a songwriter, I have no problem accepting that my songs are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Expecting songs that you write are going to be accepted by everyone is an express elevator to frustration and probably writer’s block. That’s a pit you don’t want to fall into.
The simple fact is you can’t please everyone.
The songs that I write and perform are for my specific audience. Those folks who like listening to my style of music and lyrics.
The reason I write songs is that I believe that through my music and words I can move and motivate people the way my favorite singers, and songwriters move and motivate me.
I guess it’s kind of like a pay it forward.