Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nashville’s Not An Option…For Now, Anyway

I’m not interested in being famous.  I don’t have the right personality to enjoy the life of a celebrity.  That’s one reason I’ve never been interested in performing live.  Don’t get me wrong – applause and compliments are addictive, and I’ve experienced that, and loved it of course.  I have an addictive personality, so I instinctively know to stay away from something like that, just as with alcohol or gambling.

I would, however, like it if someone famous recorded and released one of my songs, and the song became famous, and the artist even more famous.  I do want to have more people appreciate my songs, and I’m not sure what that says about me, but someone who is a vehicle for that – someone better at the delivery aspect – is who I need to find.  I’ve heard you need to go to Nashville for that to happen, or possibly NY or LA. 
It’s the end of 2013, and when I look at the lists of the most popular songs of the last year, I realize I barely know any of the artists’ names.  I don’t recognize any of the songs either.  When I listen to these songs, I find myself not liking many of them.  Then I try to listen to more by that artist, and again, not finding much I like. 

There’s either terrible hip hop, or terrible mainstream country, and there doesn’t seem to be any rock and roll anymore.  If there is, it has a lot of synthesized drums and keyboards.  It’s a weird time for a songwriter like me to be pitching songs due to the weirdness of what’s popular now. 

They say if you’re going to be a non-performing songwriter, it’s all about who you know, and you have to go to Nashville and network and make connections.  A guy from Michigan with a day job can’t pre-arrange meetings for a vacation down there very easily.  I’m thinking it would be a waste of time anyway, since I don’t write the type of stuff I hear on the radio, nor do I want to.

So, that leaves me with the prospect of selling my own recordings of my own songs, and I’ve got to do it online, since there are no record stores anymore.  In doing so, would anyone looking for a song for a movie or a famous singer’s next album ever run across one of my songs for consideration?  No, probably not, and so I would still need to pitch if I wanted that to happen I suppose.

Questioning why I continue to pursue this hobby makes me think of next steps, getting to another level, etc. which is a natural thing.  In doing so, I question whether I’m good enough to do so.  The reason I don’t give it up and replace it with something else in that free time slot is that I really enjoy it. 

I get a kick out of listening back to my recordings years later, and am a little amazed that without any lessons or training of any kind, I have five or six songs that are real songs, and pretty darned good.  Comparing yourself to others is something that isn’t healthy.  It’s good for me, and what’s good for me, may not be good for a famous artist, but I have a few songs that might be close. 

If presented to those seeking material for an artist to record, they might agree.  There is something to be said for garage rock being played acoustically, and that’s my sound.  It’s quite different than someone trained at Berkley or Julliard who would be writing for a play or a movie or a ballad for a pop star.  It’s rock and roll, which has always been about rebellion, and not too serious, and about having fun and not getting too fancy.  Taking that thought a step further into punk, you’ve got the anti-establishment, ant-mainstream.

They say you have to study what’s commercially successful in the mainstream in order to sell a song to a recording artist.  I don’t do that.  I don’t care.  I don’t listen to the radio or watch MTV.  I don’t care what’s in the top 40.  In fact, I’m primarily influenced by what was on the radio when I was a kid in the 70s.  So, I write what I write, the way I like to do it, and never have an artist in mind, or a style based on what’s currently popular. 

Sure, I could quit my day job, find something similar in Nashville, and after I move there, see if anyone is interested in any of my songs.  I could hang out at the right places in the evenings, get involved in the community, meet people.  Would that help me get a cut?  Probably not, if I don’t pay attention to what the great singers are looking for.  I have my own weird style – a blend of different genres. 

I could go to a studio and bend them into what a popular artist would sound like, and maybe that would work.  I could possibly do that from Michigan – just pay a demo service down there to do a fully countrified version of some of my songs, and then figure out who to pitch them to and how to go about that.

Sounds like a lot of effort, doesn’t it?  I’m sure there are countless others like me whose passion for songwriting led them to do just that – pack up and move to music city.  I’m sure they find places to get the applause, the compliments after the show, the local open mic or song pull or songwriter in the round deals, or those house concert things.  Maybe they’ve made connections, have spent hard-earned cash on pro demos, pitched them, maybe got a hold or two.

Then you have to wonder – are they happier?  Are they discouraged?  Was the place all it was cracked up to be?  Has rejection and criticism gotten them down to the point they wish they hadn’t done it?  I wonder what that’s all like.  I wonder what about those who achieve the cut by a major label artist.  What is the pressure like after that?  What about those who’ve never been able to duplicate that, and many years have gone by?  Are they better off?  Would I trade being in that position for being close to family and friends here in my home state?

All I have are unanswered questions here.  We’ve all heard it said that it’s better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all.  If I believe that, those people are better off than me.  Maybe they can write books about their experiences now, be instructors at song camps, instead of writing “what if” blog posts like me. 

Personally, I’ve gone for it before with certain pursuits in my life I had contemplated, sometimes against my gut feeling, and they didn’t work out, and I didn’t gain anything from the experience.  I call those regrets.  So far, my gut tells me I’m not good enough…..yet.  Would I get better any faster if I were to dive into that world?  Probably, but then again, I might give up faster, and not have enjoyed all these years of my hobby.  Nashville is out for now.  Thanks to this blog no one reads, I’ve typed my way through to that conclusion.