I get so many friend requests on Facebook from young, aspiring songwriters, so eager to come to Nashville and try their hopeful hands at being songwriters There’s a great hope floating around out there that if you can just get a song cut by (insert hit artist name here), the world will open up for you and everyone will know how great you are. Your one true love (who will look like Tim McGraw or Faith Hill in their prime) will appear and money and fame will follow you around like paparazzi, basking in the radiance of your passing wake….the exhaust from your Range Rover….
I hate to tell you, but that does happen to some people. The rub is, that it’s only to the very few. The average aspirant has about as much of a chance of becoming a hit songwriter in Nashville or Los Angeles as an ant does of hitting a nine-iron out of Yankee Stadium, to mix sports metaphors.
The successful fall into a few categories.
Number one is what I call the Undeniable. Michael MacDonald. Elton John. Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and so forth….you know, the stars of the firmament, the ones who really belong up there in the sky. There are quite a few of these uber-talented people and they aren’t all public. There are writers who are less well-known by the public but are known to biz. There is an amazing amount of talent in the world. If you are one of these people, I worship your talent, if not necessarily your person (some stars are assholes).
Number two: The Talented Who Aren’t So Talented that they get automatic ascension to the sky. There are way, way more of these. These fall into two main categories. The first are The Successful. They are marked by massive egos ( also a characteristic of many of the Undeniable-one of the attributes that make them Undeniable),driven persistence , and frequently, stiletto-wielding cunning. They play to win. They know whose ass to kiss and whose ass to kick. Look out for them! Even if they are your ‘friends’ they’ll sell you out for fifty grand or to keep you from getting something they want. I believe the Spinners said it well years ago: “smile in your face-all they want to do is take your place-the backstabbers”. Many of these folks (ain’t that a right nice word?) are very talented as well. Enough to fool the masses. You know who they are. Many big winners in this group. They smile so well, it’s hard to tell who the real jerks are.
The second subsection of The Talented Who Aren’t So Talented are the almost good enoughs. They have a hit now and then as artists or writers, but don’t have the overvaulting ambition that marks group one of this ranking. I think I live in this group. I actively dislike the music business. I love the creative side, especially when everyone leaves me alone to just do my thing. What marks this group is the belief that they are true servants of the muse, if unworthy. The get enough success to hang around.
The next group is the not-quite- good -enoughs. Once again, we have the very ambitious and their lesser counterparts, the naively lost. What is irksome about the ambitious of this group is that they will sometimes score at the expense of ‘real’ artists and songwriters. A distinguishing feature of this group is that they think music is a ‘good career’. It’s an ‘Industry’, not a ‘Calling’. The above groups have either undeniable talent or a true calling. This lesser group of scammers should be shot and their musical instruments given to me or other deserving types. The naively lost are sweet, like little puppies, but they should also turn their Martins, Gibsons, and Fenders in to me.
Then we have the absolutely deluded. These are frequently participants of songwriting seminars and such money-making scams. Have a beer and play your really bad song you think is so good on the back porch for mama…it don’t get no better’n that! These are preyed upon by members of the upper groups as songwriting students…it’s a way for better –qualified- yet-not-quite-good-enough writers to make a living. Bless their little ol’ hearts!
I’m cruel. I know. It’s just that I’ve been around. I have judged songwriting contests. Wow, the amount of delusion out there is astonishing…oh wait, you probably have seen American Idol, haven’t you?
This is all a joke, and the lines between the different groups are as blurry as an LA sky. Don’t evaluate yourself too harshly: the world will do that for you!
Best of luck. By the way, I actually do think that playing your song on the back porch for your friends and your mama is about the best thing there is about music ….