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July, 2012

"Why Write Songs?"

by Webmaster

Man, if anybody knew the path that we've been on, no one in their right mind would ever try to duplicate it. That's something Nashville always tries to do, though. If something is successful, they try to repeat it by telling other people, "Hey, do what that guy did." I just don't think it works that way. The first one who gest there, the one that cuts the path ... it's always the roughest path but I think it's got the most reward at the end. — Eric Church, quoted by Andrew Leahey in "Portraits: Eric Church," American Songwriter, May / June 2012

I've been going to a lot of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) song critique meetings, attending workshops, and even took a songwriting class taught by a local songwriter who has been to Nashville on a songwriting contract with a publisher there. I joined NSAI and will submit my songs for further critiques. Last fall I went to the Durango Song Expo. I bought 3 books on songwriting.

I'm learning the rules to writing a good hit country song.

I realize that if I took all the money I spent on books, classes, membership, fees, tuition, and used that money to buy lottery tickets, my chances of hitting it big would be better.

So, why do it?

I write songs and poems because they come to me. If I honor my muse, it will continue to give me inspiration. And, if I'm going to do anything, I'd like to do it as well as possible.

I was an English Literature major in college. I write in my journal, a monthly column here, and am writing a book. I like to write. It's fun. And, I think I have something to say.

Song critique sessions, and some of the rules I've learned have helped me make improvements in my songs, helped me make them be better songs, regardless of the genre.

I write in many song genres. Comments about my CD of original and co-written songs include:

I commend you for giving all of us a great slice of American music the way we love to hear it.
— Bob Wheeler, author of "The Daddy Book" and "The Stress Book"

I like the variety of songs, and the way that the songs feature different singers and instrumentation. — Peter Schwimmer

The quality and diversity of songs, song styles, singers and arrangements is really captivating. — B. J. Suter

Whatever we call the style (roots, americana) doesn't matter -- it's the stories, melodies and insights that merge to make a recording interesting (and radio worthy). Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Sandy Reay has accomplished that with a creative spirit and the help of a superb supporting cast. Well done.
— Steve Clarke, "Acoustic Planet," Erin Radio

Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Sandy Reay alternately leans toward the Country side, the Boogie side, the Folk side, the Jazzy side, the Bluesy side, the Novelty side and that Whatever Happens To Appeal To Her side. In other words, she doesn't limit herself or her creativity … and her songs are blessed with fresh and adventurous lyrics. … The album becomes a kind of show that way. — Rick Huff, The Western Way, magazine of the Western Music Association, Spring 2012

There are a lot of markets for original music, besides Nashville and the obvious indie singer/songwriter circuit. Nashville gets a lot of attention because it is the biggest dollar market of all the genres. But it isn't the only market.

Americana is a genre that I don't know a lot about. It seems to be the description of music that people really like that doesn't fall into any strict commercial category. An Americana songwriting class by David Williams included the description:

...songs deal with the varied american landscape and the characters who in habit those places. This class will focus on how to create "literary" songs that are a few steps above pop, songs that deal with the nitty gritty of people's lives, telling the true stories of where we live. ... David brings a literary sensibility to songwriter, helping writers develop their own voice and exploring how songs about real life can develop and move others. — How to Write Americana with David Williams

At the Durango Song Expo, I played one of my songs, "You Were the Road." This song, inspired by the love between my mother and father, touches people and has been performed by other people. It was immediately dismissed by the Sesac representative because, "It has a minor chord in it. It is not commercial." "Free Fall" was criticized severly because it didn't fit the mold for a specific pop star. Afterward, the critics did tell me privately, "But it has this vibe..." In another workshop, the same song was very well received. My co-writer told me the people there suggested it would be a great video.

I don't want to write cookie cutter songs. I don't want to write songs that sound just like every other song on the radio. I don't want to write songs that sound like every other song I've written. Recently I listened to a songwriter who sings and plays piano beautifully. She has a talent for writing lyrics and music. But after 3 songs, people in the audience were falling asleep, because every one of her songs sounded the same. As one musician there said, "She writes church music without church lyrics." Another comment was, "She did the same song for an hour."

I want to go where my muse takes me, whatever the genre or label. I want to amuse and surprise my listeners. I want to keep them awake, make them roar with laughter and bring tears to their eyes. I want to make them want to hear the next song or poem. I might be on Robert Frost's "Road Less Traveled." I might be chosing a steep, winding path rather than a super highway. And that path might lead nowhere.

I'm gratified that my songs were so well received by the Western music community and the Folk and bluegrass DJs who played them on the air. I'm working hard to make my next CD better than the last one.

"I'd trusted my fan base, I'd trusted the my gut, and I'd trusted the music. ...the real experts are out there in front of you every night. They're the ones buying the tickets and coming to the shows. They're the professionals in this business, and they're the only ones who can tell you which songs have the ability to move them." — Eric Church, quoted by Andrew Leahey in "Portraits: Eric Church," American Songwriter, May / June 2012

And, I'm using the things I learn from the song critique meetings,workshops, classes and books to make my songs better — not according to someone's "rules" but according to my instincts and the reactions of the audience.

Thanks for visiting AcousticByLines.

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