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Notes About Songwriting

By C. D. Johnson

There is a conundrum, at least to my way of thinking, involving the development of the singer-songwriter and the accumulation of the life experience required to be able to compose a song that will be believable and actually touch the listener. It seems to me, that the story (lyric) is as important, if not more important, than the accompanying music. I am sure my next statement, and probably the last statement will not set well with our younger KSA members and maybe
a few of the older ones but here I go anyway.

It is my contention that a person can write beautiful music or at least passable accompaniment by pursuing a musical education at most any institution of higher learning. Music theory is like math. It is possible to learn the tried and true ways to create a tune. However, once again my opinion, experience is the most valuable tool a "lyricist" can have in his arsenal. Don't misunderstand me I'm not trying to take away the importance of the melody. What I'm saying is a beautiful melody without heartfelt lyrics is just a beautiful melody. Of-course, heartfelt lyrics without a melody is just a poem. By combining that beautiful melody with the lyrics of life-experience then just
maybe you will have created a standard that will outlive you as the writer.

Here in lies the conundrum, in today’s commercial music industry there doesn't seem to be any value placed on the experience the older generation of singer songwriters are able to bring to the table. I wonder, when was the last time an A&R record company executive decided to invest
the company’s money on a great song by a new singer songwriter over the age of 40? Or maybe even 30? In today’s market if that same great song was attached to the so called total package, meaning marketable/young, the story would probably be entirely different. Before I travel any further down this road I will stop and tell you, as if you haven't guessed, that this writer is more than a few years over the 30 to 40 year old range I've thrown out as the imaginary acceptable age for undiscovered talent.

I am trying not to come off as a bitter old man. However, as I go back and read what I've written so far I can see that I've not accomplished that. I apologize for being old. Believe me, that is
something that I would whole-heartedly change at the drop of a hat, if I could. Recently, while discussing my views with another older singer-songwriter I was struck by how much my
ranting was met with acceptance. The longer I talked and the more examples of Pro Tools assisted vocals and bubble gum lyrics invading today’s commercial radio I threw into the conversation the more vocal he became. Within a very short time he had completely taken over. It was then I suddenly realized what I was doing.

In the span of a very few moments I had taken this old singer songwriters dreams and was in
the process of shooting them down in flames. To make matters worse he was letting me. Here I was preaching about life experience giving a person the insight and ability to express himself and I had just packed a bag that was getting to heavy to carry.  I knew a reverse gear had to be activated or the music world might lose another old singer songwriter to the at-my-age-give-up-gremlins. And I certainly didn't want to be the cause of that.

I gradually began to change the tone of the conversation from complaining to barn-storming for solutions to being old in a youth orientated business. As we threw our ideas back and forth I could see that this was what I should have been doing the entire time instead of starting a whine-fest. We did come up with a couple of feasible ideas. One of those ideas, as we aptly
named it, was the “Billy Ray Cyrus” principle. That is, find yourself a young talented singer and attempt to take them to the top with your lyrics and their marketability. Think about it. It's not really a bad course of action if you can find the right combination. It could be a win-win situation for both parties. I think I might even try it myself. Back to my friend and my back peddling maneuver. When it comes right down to the end of the day I may not have been able to solve any problems but at least I had not caused a friend to abandon his DREAM! I guess there are times when we all have doubts and momentarily lose thedesire we need to keep on trying. Thankfully, most of us recover before we do something stupid . . . like quit!

It is at this point that I should go back and recant everything I wrote in the opening paragraphs of this article. I'm sorry I can't do that! Even though it is a little depressing, the truth is still being young is better than being old, especially in the pursuit of a singersongwriting career. Until next time . . . all you old guys mix yourself up a Geritol/Ensure shake and above all . . . keep the faith!

Singer / Songwriter

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