Attitude is Everything

Songwriter Session at the Bluebird Cafe: Jamie...
Image by TedRheingold via Flickr, Bluebird Cafe

Even though we songwriters tend to seclude ourselves sometimes when we’re trying to come up with another tune, there does exist a community of songwriters out there. It includes professionals and amateurs, young and old, rock, country, and all of the other genres, and male and female. Each has unique perceptions and experiences to bring to their craft; each is driven by a desire to express and create something.
What I find most interesting is the attitudes expressed and how those attitudes can completely colour my response to a songwriter‘s material. Recently I remember reading a post in the newsgroup rec.music.makers.songwriting from a songwriter who began to list the subject matter that he thought “sucked” in songs. He included any songs you write in the first person, love songs, any kind of relationship songs, and the list went on and on. I was immediately aroused from my complacency, since I most often write about those very topics! It made me think about what it is in a song that appeals to me and what doesn’t, which is a completely relative experience, but I responded with a post saying that it isn’t the subject that “sucks”, but the way in which that subject is handled. What interested me even more was how this person had essentially dismissed the majority of songs and songwriters out there with his attitude. Occasionally the “dark” side of creative immaturity and competitivenss rears its ugly head and reminds me of where I came from.

We’ve all been there. That “I can write better songs than that” string of thought that temporarily boosts our egos when we hear someone else’s material that doesn’t live up to our expectations. It’s too easy to fall into that frame of mind when we’ve had to struggle with our own writing and the self-esteem gauge has dropped below zero. I’ve been to demo critiques in which the “experts” literally devastated the songwriters who were there, and others where the complete opposite has happened.

It’s a tough world sometimes, but the people I’ve admired most are those writers who seem to roll with every punch and have enough energy left to encourage and help others. And the conclusion that I’ve come to, the thought that has helped me more than anything else, is that THERE’S ROOM FOR EVERYBODY! We won’t all make a fortune from writing, or have great recognition, but the talent that exists is extraordinary! Sure, songwriters in the “business” have to compete with others to a certain degree, but it can be done with such graciousness. I’ve heard staff writers talk about sharing writing credits with a person in the room at the time a song was written because that person came up with one line or one phrase. That’s the kind of generosity and maturity we all need to emulate. Time and experience will teach us that, when it comes to the big picture, having written the best or worst song in our lives doesn’t really amount to much, that the value is in the process and in the community we build with each other. You can’t help but be lifted up when you lift somebody else up. These days, instead of trying to figure out what makes a song “suck”, I try to understand what makes it great…if I don’t like a song, rather than getting comparative, I move on to the next one…I take a step back from my ego every now and then and appreciate the process. Songs don’t “suck”…bad attitudes do!

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