Authenticity

The feeling of moving back home was exciting, freeing, and terrifying. We both rationally understood it would be a struggle to start from scratch, but at least we would be cradled by our wonderful and loving support system while we got on our feet. We also struggled with the idea of what people may think about us moving home. I would allow damaging, untrue thoughts to run between my ears in a constant loop. I imagined people thinking we ‘failed’ as musicians and are living too unconventionally for our age. I foresaw having awkward conversations with friends about what we are doing now that we are home and what our plans are for the future. I could hear everyone, even strangers, thinking disapproving thoughts about our lifestyle choices. Although I was persuasively calm and confident on the outside, I kept a tightly sealed soundproof door behind my eyes to keep the violently loud voices isolated to merely thrash about brain. I got sick and began cultivating a subtle, consistent headache in the back of my neck. I was worried about everything and driving myself into a slight fit of insanity. My mind was working overtime to rationalize and suppress extreme feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt. Even the things that bring me the greatest joy were hard to stomach due to these nagging voices that kept whispering “You should be doing.. x, y, z”, “You should be better than this”, or “You’re wasting your time.”

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Waiting for Lightening to Strike!

Now let’s say you’ve taken the time to think about what your personal ‘ideal writing environment’ looks like.  And you’re there.  Sitting at your favorite back table in that tiny diner on the corner, pen in hand, ready to let a creativity bomb explode all over your notebook.  You sit for a few moments staring at the blank page anticipating the sensory rush you will feel as the floodgates of your imagination unleash the cornucopia of ideas you have locked in your head.  You are excited, filled with inspiration.  Not only have you determined the place and time where you feel most comfortable writing, but you have a goal and know exactly what you want to accomplish during this session.  You may have just woke up, clocked out of work, it may be your day off or you found a way to squeeze in an hour or two of precious time to dedicate to your writing.  You have taken all the steps necessary in order to set yourself up for success.

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What is Your Ideal Writing Environment?

What is your ideal writing environment?  Which room in your house do you find most inspiring?  Do you have a particular desk or table you enjoy sitting at?  Even a certain chair?  Or would you rather sit at a coffee shop.  Do you even like to sit at all?  Can you think more creatively on the go?  Maybe while taking a morning jog or evening stroll around the neighborhood?  Speaking of, do you feel the creative juices flowing more strongly in the morning or evening when you write with that special black ballpoint pen?  Or is it blue?  Or do you feel a greater sensation when you type??  If you do actually write do you only write in a notebook exclusively for songwriting that you carry with you?  Or are you okay with scribbling on a napkin or back of a receipt?  How do you feel about listening to music while you write?  Or do you like silence?  And what about your phone that keeps buzzing…?

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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…

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What Can You Learn from a Songwriting Class?

Last night I attended a free, one hour songwriting class taught by composer and songwriter Jody Gray at the Gotham Writers Open House.  I jumped at the chance to sign up, but was a bit skeptical as to what I could actually learn in a songwriting course.  This was the same skepticism I faced when I begrudgingly decided to go to my voice therapy sessions after my vocal chord surgery last October.  Songwriting.  Correction, GREAT songwriting, I believe, is an instinctual process and cannot be taught.  Just as you learn how to use your voice.  It comes naturally.  Anyone can play a simple chord progression, rewrite the same old tired generic lyrics, crank out an album and call themselves a songwriter.  I’m not saying I’m in the category of GREAT songwriter by any means, but I am definitely proud of my ability to manipulate the standard songwriting form in order to create a new, yet familiar, sound experience for the listener.  That is wire you must balance in order to become one of the greats:  finding that balance between writing songs that showcase your individuality and unique skill set while utilizing a recognizable, more mainstream format.  But I digress….let’s leave that conversation for another day.  All my suspicions aside, my curiosity peaked as people began filing into the room…

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