Thoughts of a Thirsty Troubadour Part 8: Songwriting
It’s hard. Very, very hard. I am in a constant push and pull battle with writing a song. That’s probably the reason why I don’t throw my hat into that ring too often. First of all, the arena in which I perform is not always the most receptive to hearing original songs. I play in bars, man (which I love, by the way)! People generally want to hear songs that they’re familiar with and I am 100% on board with that. I love it! I get to sing the best songs ever written in the world! I mean, it’s not like people will “boo” me for singing an original but I may risk losing their attention. It’s my job to keep people in their seats and sell beer and I take that job seriously. Having said that, my audience these days encourages me so much to play my songs. I love them for that and I try my best to sing those songs with confidence and with the authenticity that they deserve. The thing is, sometimes it’s hard to spend time writing originals when I am the only one who is going to hear them. I have lots of songs swimming around in my head and I’m quite happy to keep them treading water while I work on new cover songs to play. Secondly. Being a fan of country music, it is hard not to compare my writing to my heroes. A lot of times I figure why bother? I can’t even come close to competing with Merle or Waylon or more modern day writers like Jeffrey Steele (The Cowboy in Me) and Craig Wiseman (Live Like You Were Dyin’). My waste basket has been filled with just that…wasted lines and wasted choruses and sometimes, even a wasted musician.
Here’s something that happened, it was beautiful, and was supposed to help me but ultimately, I wonder. I’m from Canada (strike one, LOL). The Toronto Star, one of the country’s biggest newspapers was running a thing where they wanted to help people. You send them your plight and if they chose you, they would connect you to professionals in your area of concern, for free, and hopefully get you on the right path (write path?). Unbeknownst to me, my wife read about this and submitted my story. I had put out an album and she asked, “how can my husband be heard? Like, REALLY heard?” She wrote a beautiful letter saying all kinds of nice things about me and asking lots of questions. Well, didn’t she/we get selected. Next thing I know, I’m being photographed and interviewed…it was a little uncomfortable but it was cool. About a week or two later, on a Saturday, I woke up to about 30 emails telling me to look at the Saturday Star. There I was on the cover! Holy shit! I didn’t know whether to pump my fist or crawl into a hole. My wife made 100% of this happen so I truly mean it when I call her the Hardest Working Woman In Country Music. She is my biggest fan and the only person who has ever known me and loved me on such a deep level. I do my best but it’s not always easy living with someone like me and she is a champion. So now I have entertainment lawyers calling me from Nashville, some radio interviews and about 20 000 hits on my website over the following week. All really cool! Speaking with the entertainment lawyers was especially hard. I gotta tell you though, I had Nashville entertainment lawyers listening to my songs! That was amazing. What they had to say however, was not. I don’t remember everything but the biggest thing I came away with was that my songs were too personal. I listened intently to all their advice while still disbelieving that I was talking to true pros in the entertainment industry. Are my songs personal? Yes. I cannot disagree with that assessment.
So What Now?
So what now, is nothing has really changed. I’m still writing down ideas and lines and choruses. I was never disillusioned that my songs would be hits. Although I’m not gonna lie, I think Tim McGraw would sing the SHIT out of “Last Lullaby”! When the moments hit me, I write the song and when they don’t, I let’em keep on swimming until they find a shore to stand up on… There’ll be more on this.