When I tell people that I am a songwriter, they instantly draw a few conclusions about who I am before the conversation goes any further. Just like, if I were to say that I'm a policeman (which I am not), there would be a number of assumptions instantly made about my level of fitness, my ability to handle a firearm, and possibly my moral character...none of which might be accurate. But people would put me in a box entitled "policeman" and not think twice about it. Same with the songwriter box. Alot of people, upon hearing that I am a songwriter, instantly assume that I like to stay up late (I do), tell stories (absolutely), play a musical instrument or two (fairly accurate), and that I take my joy in interpreting life in interesting and beautiful ways that can be shared with others (ok). All those things would be true, and I would be honored if you all thought that's how I spend all my time when I'm not doing the laundry.
There are some other assumptions made about what I do that pinch like a tight pair of shoes. One is that because I want to make make money as a songwriter, I am willing and /or able to write music that will sell to the masses. I am here to tell you, friends, that all music will sell to somebody. In workshop after workshop after migraine-inducing workshop I have been told that my priority is to GO FIND MY AUDIENCE. They are out there, I am assured. But they didn't need to tell me that. I know my audience is out there, every time a stranger approaches me with a faraway look in their eye and asks, "What was the name of that last song? I really liked it. It made me think of..." Those moments, my friends, are the ones I live for. Not the moment of pulling up my ReverbNation page a while back and seeing that I had hit number #35 in my local ranking (no mean feat, apparently, in Nashville TN)...but I have to confess that I don't know what that means. Why is it important? Do I just sound like my grandmother now? I know what a man at The Bluebird Cafe means when he crosses the room to tell me he's lived in this town for twenty two years to have the kind of experience he just had (after I played one of my songs at the Monday open mic/cattle call). An old man. Even older than me! Wavy silver hair and blue eyes. Never told me his name.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I am engaged in a quiet struggle for my role in this industry. I do not spit on social media, to be sure. Am I not blogging right this minute, after all? I do seek my audience. And I find them. Even as my standings on the internet don't reflect it (right now I'm at a whimpering #175 on Reverb locally. I've neglected my page. Too busy doing laundry and playing the guitar), I don't question the reality of this thing I've been doing for as long as I can remember. I don't question the word that has landed, the spoken picture that has filled up someone's eyes, a conversation in the corner that has paused mid point because some winged melody in the room took it captive. I revere those things. They are my touchstones. As an artist, and as a human being.
I am a songwriter, yes. People ask me about hits. When will I write a hit?... because of course that's what all songwriters want to do, apparently. All songwriters want mass acceptance and commercial rewards and respect and a swimming pool. Don't misunderstand me, I would LOVE a swimming pool. I even wrote a song about it. But I don't know how to set about writing a hit, not because I lack the tools, but because this is a process that occurs on the inside of me, not on the outside where all the workshops are taught.
So I keep on. I write alot of music that seems to baffle, yet it feels good. Like the smell of approaching spring. Unexpected. How can you refuse that blossom wind?