January 4th, 2017
I’ve never felt like a true songwriter. In fact, I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself an artist. I think it’s because I had developed a belief that music is meant to be a hobby…something you do on alongside working a “practical” job. What seems to have happened is that performing music became my “practical” job and writing songs became my hobby. I write songs to help clear my thoughts. But I don’t think that’s the only reason.
In the beginning of my career, I attended a few workshops on how to write songs. I must admit, I disliked every one of them. I’m sure it had to do with the egoic energy running through me and the discomfort of feeling competitive about something I do for enjoyment. Also, although I realize it’s a necessity sometimes, I generally don’t like being taught ANYTHING. This attitude tends to be problematic. I have little ability to retain information unless I actually DO what I’m learning. I’d prefer to make 500 mistakes than sit in a room and learn which mistakes not to make. On top of my “don’t teach me” attitude, I also couldn’t fathom how lessons on songwriting wouldn’t incorporate some kind of psychological factor? (I think everything in life should incorporate psychology and spirituality….but that’s a topic for another day.) And I don’t like the thought of having to sit in a room and practice my songwriting. I’ll practice piano and voice like it’s going out of style. But don’t elbow in your technicalities to my beloved songwriting…my one guilty pleasure and escape into freedom.
Because of this repulsion towards taking songwriting seriously, I developed a belief that “songwriter” is not an apt title for me. And, for many years, when asked what I do, I would say I’m a musician or a singer. Songwriting was my guilty pleasure…and it still is. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, there has always been this stern old woman with a tight bun of hair on top of her head. She points at me with a long, rickety finger and tells me I should practice songwriting more.
But, last week I had an a-ha moment that made me feel a lot better about my choices.
It all started when I blurted out a song to Quentin. I was joking about his minimalist lifestyle:
(sung to the tune of “Take Me On” by A-Ha…how fitting right?)
Minimizing things around the house
And asking me
If I’ve used it in the la-ast year
Then throwin’ it in the trash.
Every last thing that I may not have used.
Ooouuuut it goes.
I might need it today or tomorrow.
I sang it and then began to laugh hysterically while Quentin quietly stood by. (In our house, it is common for me to laugh at my own jokes while Quentin sits with a deadpan expression…which makes it THAT much more funny.) I realized I couldn’t carry on like this, so I recorded the song on my phone for further laughter in a private setting. Well, later that night, I enjoyed the song in privacy. After I achieved the full effect of my own joke, I started reviewing some of the other songs I’d saved on my phone. One was about lowering expectations. Another was about a woman who budded in line at the grocery store. And eventually, I found a song I had no recollection of writing. It was called “Take My Hand.” It was about turning 40 and realizing I know nothing and that I still feel like a child sometimes. It brought me to tears. It was in that moment when I realized I have been practicing songwriting for many years without knowing it. How lucky is that? The puzzle pieces started to fit together. Sometimes I slip little lines into songs during my shows. I’ll say stuff about the bar staff or the people in the audience just to see if they are paying attention…and I do this ALL THE TIME. And do you know where I got it from? My Dad. He used to make up little songs in the same way I do…by blurting out lines that hardly made sense. If he wanted my sister and I to clean our rooms he’d sing something while playing the piano like:
You put your shoes in here
You put your shirt in there
You better clean that room or you better beware.
And we used to hate it.
Who’d have thought it would play a major role in my life?
Take that, Old Lady in the back of my mind! I’ve been practicing all along. I’m a songwriter after all. Haha (obviously I have some lessons in humility coming : )
Yours in development of new perspectives,