Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flying Monkeys in the Land of Oz

You learn to write by writing and if anyone responds, even if it’s
only your Mom, no, especially if it’s only your Mom, then you’ve done
something worthy of the time it took to do it. My Mom was my first
barometer, because she took such delight in each new song, or cried if
it moved her, or quoted my lyrics to friends who needed
encouragement. She would give recordings of my songs to people,
clerks at checkout counters, the Charlie's Chips delivery man, or friends
at work, and tell them, “You need to hear this; it will help you.” She
did not get me a single career connection, did not enter me in beauty
pageants, and did not promote me to talent scouts. I’m sure she would
have, but she was too busy responding to my music from her soul, and
if it helped her, it would help others. Her honest heart-felt response
and the piano she bought for me were the best gifts she could have
ever given me, that and a glimpse of faith. I began my artistic
journey with the firm belief that my music mattered, that it was
powerful, and that people needed what I had to offer.
A song is art. That is its spiritual power. That’s how it heals,
comforts, compels you to dance, or gets stuck in your head; because it
is art.

The music industry is the business that makes the art available to
people. This seems so basic, but it is so easily forgotten. My Mother
didn’t care if there was a music business and neither do any of the
other people who are moved by your music.
I had the privilege of writing with some of Nashville’s top writers
the first year I moved to town. One of them had a string of hits
happening. He was making great money and was in high demand. He
said to me, “Start right now giving your music the priority. You have to
take time to write. It’s the most important thing you do, but time to
write will be the first thing to go once you get into the business.” He
was right. Suddenly you’re at this meeting and that meeting, number
one parties and how-to panels, playing writer’s night after writer’s
night contributing to the vibe of the town and gradually writing less of
your best. The distractions will swoop and swirl around you like those
creepy flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. The tyranny of the urgent
overtakes the important, and if its not the biz doing it to you, it will be
relationships, financial pressures, family, the dog, alcohol, or getting
the oil changed in your Corolla.
Once you sign your first publishing deal, the danger becomes
writing for the industry instead of for the people who need your songs.
On the streets of music row you hear much complaining about the
sad state of radio, the same songs being played over and over, the
same songs being played over and over (see what I mean?). This is
one of the few things that has never changed since I’ve been in the
business. It is because most writers and the publishers who sign them
quickly forget the rule my friend taught me. Don’t let anything get in
the way of the writing, not even flying monkeys.

No comments:

Post a Comment