Thursday, March 19, 2020

Big Egos and Grandiose Notions: How Songwriters Act in Times of Crisis

We’ve never seen anything quite like this in our lifetimes.  As songwriters shelter in place, they are no doubt contemplating writing, recording and releasing songs to make people feel better during a sad time for the world.  I’m not an exception. 

Instead of some sort of save the world through song, Live Aid-style thing, I’ll probably want to get out a few more songs from my bedroom here in Michigan somehow.  Maybe another album, maybe a single, maybe just hit record on the computer webcam and upload a solo performance of a new previously-unreleased original to YouTube.

When the lucky, famous, wealthy and privileged people seemingly have advantages to get tested before the rest of us regular folk, you dread the inevitable indulgent all-star jam for a worthy cause, and this cause is different.  Thankfully, you won’t get all those celebs on the same stage together for quite a while.

Don’t die with the music in you.  That’s from a t-shirt I saw a while back in a songwriter magazine.  I’ve got some good ones in progress, and some completed ones I haven’t released yet.  The thought has crossed my mind that I’ve got some risk factors, and when dead and gone, my wife won’t be able to figure out how to get my recordings of my songs off my computer and put them online, so no one will ever hear them.  Not that there’s a big demand in my case, but these are the types of thoughts that can cross our minds lately.

You can bet that the recording artists with a certain level of self-importance like that perhaps misunderstood Bono guy from U2 for example are going to record a video or house concert with a new, uplifting song, and those who were already generally annoyed by him will be more annoyed than ever.  I predict you’ll see a wave of similar popular acts and famous artists hit the internet and YouTube with something similar in the coming months, and the pretention levels will be high.  That said, it’s all good.

Whether we can relate to a sad song about loss, or feel uplifted by a song with a “stay positive, we’ll get through this” sentiment, such new music will be a welcome escape for those of us with internet connections, and for those without, at least for those who still have electricity, we’ll take solace and comfort in our old CDs and records on a home stereo of some kind, or maybe even the now-old-fashioned thing called a radio. 

In an unprecedented time when Amazon has stopped selling CDs and vinyl records, might as well take advantage of the seclusion and alone time to get inspired and “re-kindle” the creative fires.  So when you’re stuck in the house, and your guitar is there, and there’s a computer to type and record on, songwriters are going to do what they do, whether they really think their songs can truly make a difference in the world or not.

I’m no different.  If you have this hobby, you can’t help it.  It’s a way to get your feelings off your chest, and a creative outlet is a good way to spend your time instead of constantly consuming the latest sad news and living in fear.  I’m on a bit of a roll of late, having written and recorded a few new songs this year.  It’s fun, and it takes your mind off worrying about the future. 

You can’t help but wonder if your latest new inspirational song could catch on and make a difference to people by cheering them up or providing a calming influence or temporary escape from the fear.  Few can make money from writing and recording songs these days, but that’s not why you do it anyway – it’s out of pure passion.

When you think you’ve written a good one, and one that would be particularly impactful during tough times, you’re tempted to put it out as a single right away, rather than wait for enough songs to release a whole album.  You’re also tempted to just record a solo video of yourself singing and playing it live because the reality is you might not be around long enough to release that next album.

It occurs to you in times like these that you won’t be around forever, and little will remain, but maybe some of the songs will still be floating around the internet.  That’s the hope.  Long after I’m dead and gone, this little blog nobody knows about or reads might still exist, and if so, its posts will collectively tell some type of larger story about some dead guy who used to write songs and record them while he was alive.

The optimist in me believes I’ll survive, and the songwriter in me thinks it’s one of the reasons I was put on this Earth.  I seriously have this grandiose notion that it’s part of God’s plan for me – to stick around and keep putting new music out into the world.  It may be funny to some to hear that because I realize I’m not famous or even particularly good.  I’m aware I’m not a great singer or musician, but it could be that my ego is telling me I’m a decent songwriter, and that’s a part of my life’s purpose.

Praise is a strong word, but if you’ve interpreted positive feedback from people about your songs, the realist in you might chalk it up as being “kind and polite,” but your ego reassures you that it’s genuine.  If you’re at all like me, you know you have these thoughts from time to time, and that you’ve been spared so far because it’s a contribution you make, and further, that it might even be important in some way. 

When you’re confident enough to call yourself a songwriter, whether you qualify in the minds of experts or not, you keep on with it regardless of your abilities because you can pause for a while, but you can’t ever stop completely, even if all you can do is write in your head.

Indeed, I have had people tell me they enjoyed my songs before, and that fact tells me I’ve already made a small difference in people’s lives.  Just a little of that serves as fuel to keep going.  You can’t help but want to help, and writing and recording a song is a way you can help. 

It comes naturally to people like me, so you can expect that in a much smaller way, sad and pathetic as it may sound, I’ll probably be jumping on the bandwagon and joining the ranks of all these artists you’ll be getting inspirational songs from during this challenging time in the world.  We’re all going to die eventually, but it’s going to be okay.  You keep doing what you do in whatever time you have left.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. As long as I have your username and password, I will figure out how to get your music out to the masses, as long as there is a credit for me in the liner notes! ❤️


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