A Song Must Wear Many Hats

The insight Jody Gray shared with me after the songwriting class has been brewing in my skull for the past few days.  His insistence on music collaborations and ‘finding others who fill in your blank spaces’ has given me a thought.  The only way artists can collaborate whole-heartedly with others is if they are not completely attached to the way their song was originally written.  As songwriters, it is important to be aware that songs can always be improved and expanded upon, flipped around and edited; improved being the operative word.  All artists are very protective and prideful of their finished work which can make every critique feel like a knife being thrown directly into their creative gut.  Until quite recently, I was very protective of the songs I had written and wanted them to be a certain way, exactly so.  I winced at the idea of anyone judging or laying a hand on my song.  I worked so hard to construct these songs and felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I found the perfect lyrics and melody.  Once they were done, they were done.  I put them in a box preserving their original structure, keeping them safe.  So Scott and I would film a song, record a song, play it live… but always the same.  I loved playing all our songs, but I felt frustrated that they never gained any traction after the first reveal.  And after a while we ourselves became tired of the monotony of playing the same songs the same tired old way.  We became stuck in a loop, but couldn’t quite figure out how to escape the cycle…

Finally we realized the root of the problem, which is the root of almost every problem if you ask me.  FEAR.  We were, and still are, self-conscious and sometimes doubt our abilities.  I’m sure every creative can relate: writers, visual artists, dances, comedians…  When you are developing a product from nothing, it means so much when it is completed because it is a direct fruit you bore from your brain!  It is your child!  Your craft is the brainchild you care for and when you feel it is being threatened, you obscure it from view; hiding it away from harm or change.  Fear is what holds us back from truly sharing our creations with other people.  I was so afraid of anyone else toying with the way I had initially heard the song in my head because it was perfect to me.  But because I was holding so tight to these songs, I was not allowing them to reach their full potential.  ‘Songs are like tiny vignettes’ Gray mentioned in class.  The definition of a vignette is: ‘A small illustration or portrait photograph that fades into its background without a definite border.’  That is the essential piece of the description.  Songs are like sketches, merely scratching the surface of an idea.  There should be no limit, no border, no box secured around a piece of music.  You must allow yourself to set fear aside and be open to the amazing possibilities and interpretations a single song can produce.  The results may fascinate you!

There have to be many ‘reveals’ of a song in order to keep interest, that is why covers and remakes are so popular.  It is especially mesmerizing when watching a pop artist perform a ‘stripped down’ version of their song.  Arranging and performing one song in a variety of different ways promotes creativity and enhances the experience for the listener.  And the more people you can work with, the more of a buzz you will receive as the originator.  Letting your music spread its wings will not only grant you a larger following, but will also enable your songs to be everything they deserve to be because in the end, it’s really all about the music.

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