Songwriters Anonymous: Part “Do”

Posted on January 9, 2011

0


5/2/10
"The life of the singer is the song."
By Jeremy Dean

One of the most common questions new songwriters ask is “How do I get my songs heard?” We all sort of wish there were a step-by-step process for every aspect of the music industry so that we could see Point A to Point B and gain a structured knowledge for future reference, but in reality there is only one concrete directive the successful writers have adhered to…hard work. It’s cliché and broad, but that attribute IS what keeps successful songwriters moving forward – never quitting, never swaying whichever way the wind blows, just pushing out consistently well-written lyrics and utilizing social skills with constant networking, and a lot of late-night gigs.

In my first article for NashvilleEar.com (“Songwriters Anonymous”) I offered some ideas for new songwriters, in regards to networking and promotion of their material, and I have been pleased with the response when I was asked to write some more. So, with this article, I would like to delve more into the characteristics of a successful songwriter. What makes a great songwriter “tick,” and what sets them apart from the average writer?

Rather than merely trying to pigeon-hole everyone through specific hit-or-miss directives, since there are very few processes set in concrete when it comes to songwriting and pitching, and since there are hardly any certain keys to success, I’ve chosen to look at a successful songwriter and what has helped him become who he is.

I’ve found that so many young songwriters who simply get “burned out trying” to get their songs heard, or “put out” by rejection, so they quit writing altogether. And while there will always be writers who think they are songwriters, just like there are singers who think they are artists, it’s my perspective that if writing is your gift, then just do it…and keep doing it…and do it some more. I’ve used the same advice with singers in the studio, because not every singer is a great artist, but if you want to create fulfillment in your life, and leave any kind of legacy, use your gift and never stop learning…EVER! You will either achieve personal satisfaction or keep moving on till you find your true gift. Realize this: you may NEVER hear your song on the radio. You may NEVER be a noted writer. You may NEVER receive recognition for your gift, but is that the purpose? Really?

“I’m always trying to put myself in the shoes of the people who turn the radio on every day looking for something that means something to them. Other than that, I attribute my success to the fact that I love what I do. My work is my hobby and my hobby is my work.” (Bob DiPiero – http://www.bobdipiero.com/biography.html)

Bob DiPiero’s list of songs cuts a varied and impressive swath through modern country and speaks volumes about his versatility and vision. Although his first cut, Reba McEntire’s “I Can See Forever In Your Eyes,” climbed into the country Top 20, the Oak Ridge Boys’ “American Made” put his name on the music map. The song won numerous awards and was used in major ad campaigns for Miller Beer and the Baby Ruth candy bar. Through the years, DiPiero has given the industry some of its most memorable moments, crafting 14 No. 1 hits recorded by country music giants including Montgomery Gentry (“If You Ever Stop Loving Me”), Vince Gill (“Worlds Apart”), Reba McEntire (“Little Rock” and “Till You Love Me”), Shenandoah (“The Church On Cumberland Road”), Ricochet (“Daddy’s Money”), Faith Hill (“Take Me As I Am”) and George Strait (“Blue Clear Sky”). Other hit singles include “You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out Of the Girl” (Brooks & Dunn), “Cowboys Like Us” (George Strait), “The Girls Gone Wild” (Travis Tritt) and “There You Are” (Martina McBride). Bob’s most recent single is “Southern Voice” (Tim McGraw) which reached number 1 on the Billboard chart.


Bob DiPiero didn’t just sit down at a table one day with a legal pad and a new #2 pencil and write Reba’s “I Can See Forever In Your Eyes.” That wasn’t the first song he’d ever written, and it certainly did not come to be just because he was looking for something fun to do and had a few minutes of boredom to spare. What makes great writers like Bob DiPiero is his desire to express himself through writing. Bob is also a good singer and entertainer, but he has successfully acknowledged his gift for writing and embraced the joy of using that gift and allowing truly great singers to take it to the masses. That’s what gives his work purpose. The key ingredient to his success is the lyric, whittled and honed until each line of his song stands alone with intended meaning and purpose. He has many irons in the fire, multi-talented as he is in the music business, but he still has his focus, and his brand as a master songwriter will be remembered as the gift that set him apart.

Young songwriters with aspirations of a hit song are, more often than not, confused about their own personal purpose for songwriting. Ask yourself these questions: “Why is it that I want to write?” “What makes me think I have something to say?” “What am I trying to accomplish by writing?” If any of the answers you come up with are “money and fame,” you’re not writing for the right reasons and will be one of those who tuck their tail and retreat to a safer environment when the rejection starts flying. Songwriters should not write to be heard, they should write to feel. Songwriting should not be seen as your opportunity to stand on your little soap box and tell the world off. Songwriting is your opportunity to share an emotion and express a feeling that will draw a desired response.

“What comes out of me is totally passion-based and led by my intuition. I’m still a fan. I’m still amazed by the process and I’m still a student. That’s what keeps it alive for me. That’s what keeps the process of writing new and fresh.”
(Bob DiPiero – http://www.bobdipiero.com/biography.html)

Songwriters, remember this: getting the song heard is secondary. How you get your song heard is, first…write great songs! I do not claim to be a great writer, but I love doing it. So, when Barbara Fairchild recorded one of my Gospel songs, “The Table Grace Prepared,” on her project “Forever Friend,” about nine years after I wrote it (in High School), it was merely an acknowledgement to me that my gift was not in vain. And I believe the need for that validation is what drives most songwriters who ask “How do I get my songs heard.” If they are truly writers and truly write for the love of the song, they are really asking that question because they seek to be accepted as a writer, to verify their purpose. That is normal. Every one of us, no matter who or where we are in our lives, want to feel accepted. We want to know that our gifts are worthy, and we want the validation that comes with the hard work we’ve put in. But, we start trying to jump into the songwriting waters in Nashville, and we push demo CDs till we’re worn out and too tired to write after a hard day’s work at our “real job,” and the late-night songwriter gigs we’ve crammed into our week. Am I right?

If you only had one thing to do today, what would it be? If you said, “Write,” then we have something to work with here. If you said, “Play golf,” or “Watch movies all day,” then I’m afraid you’ve either got so much going on you can’t find fulfillment trying to fit songwriting into your lifestyle, or it’s not really a priority you recognize as your gift, because you don’t set aside the time to “practice” it. At that point, it may be time to realize you just haven’t found your gift yet and you should spend more time doing that instead of trying to write something so you can call yourself a songwriter.

Contrary to popular belief, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes PERMANENT. You can be consistently bad at something, even though you practice, and you are, therefore, not perfect. You merely keep practicing imperfection until it becomes permanent. So, if songwriting is your gift, and you have the insatiable desire to succeed at it, JUST DO IT! You’ve GOT to keep writing, and you’ve GOT to keep writing better! I am not perfect…and I have a lot of imperfections I too need to get out of the habit of practicing, but at the end of the day I still have the desire to write. Why do I write? I write feel…to feel the embrace of hope for something less mundane, or perhaps sometimes I write to feel laughter, and sometimes I write to feel through the pain. But, whatever emotion I feel to write about, the fact remains that I would write regardless of whether or not I ever get a commercial cut or royalties or awards or recognition. I just do it. At that point, the rejections of my songs become another opportunity to write better. And, along the way, I get to meet a lot of really cool people, all of us looking to get better at our gift and have fun doing it – a lot of people, by the way, who are willing to cheer us on after the rejection of a song chopped up at the pitching table. I love songwriter nights!

So, “How do I get my song heard,” huh? If that’s what you really read all this to find out, Songwriter, then let me first encourage you to write something worthy of hearing and then write some more…constantly going back over your “finished” material until it truly is not just another run-of-the-mill yawn-breeder.

“I consider myself a songwriter and guitar player who loves to entertain,” says the man whose accomplishments led him to be inducted in 2007 to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. (Bob DiPiero – http://www.bobdipiero.com/biography.html)

If you read my first article, then you will also know that I am an advocate of a good song critique. Friends and family are the worst judge of songs…you should know that by now – they think you’re a hero. Fine and dandy, but Tony Brown, Kyle Lehning, Byron Gallimore, or any of the rest of my production idols could care less what your momma thinks of your song. You need constant constructive criticism in order to meet a challenge…an unbiased, honest review of your material, so that you can take the revelation and give it some light in a revision or two. NashvilleEar.com is one of those resources that you have access to that can boost the worthiness of your songwriting capabilities. So, spend the time, money and effort to get a fair review of your songs through NashvilleEar.com And the moment you stop copping an attitude about rejection and constructive criticism and start taking the advice, without ulterior motives…that is the moment you will start writing better songs. We all need somebody to lean on.

Advertisements