Composers and lyricists are only two players on a successful songwriting team's roster
by Lee Abraham
Songwriters come in all shapes and sizes. Skill levels too. Rare is the professional tunesmith who single-handedly composes all the music, pens all the lyrics, and ultimately, -performs- a hit song. Usually, there's an element of teamwork somewhere along the line.
Face it: the lower a songwriter is on the music biz food chain, the easier it is to get stuck in the 'jack of all trades' rut. Just ask all the neighborhood garage bands and coffee house poets, who wonder why they never get the 'big' break. True, not every songwriter seeks fame and fortune. In fact, writing songs and making music for personal enjoyment is totally cool. The world would be a far better place if everybody tapped into that energy.
Living room artists - I salute you! Everyone else listen up. I'm standing on my ink and paper soapbox today to bark a little at the songwriters among us who have visions of grandeur. You know the type. Creative, ambitious, and frequently hard headed folks who have a dream of being on stage or behind the scenes, not just for fun and personal fulfillment, but to earn at least part of their livelihood through music. Sure, having faith in one's own abilities is vital, but all the talent and stubborn perseverance in the world will only take a songwriter as far their ability to network, make connections, and ultimately, collaborate with others.
Mention the word 'collaboration' to a songwriter and their first thought flashes to the relationship between a composer and lyricist. Rightly so. Creatively speaking, that's usually where the action is. You know the routine: the musical partner has a melody or chord change they can't get out of their head, and the word partner channels verse to articulate the vision of the muse. Or vice versa.
Unfortunately, too many songwriters fail to extend their collaborational efforts to the performance of their songs. Yes, plenty of songwriters have the talent, or at the other extreme, thick enough skin, to get out in public and perform. You'll find these folks pickin' and grinnin' at open mic. night freebies or jamming on the weekends for drinks and pocket change in local dive bars, with only a very small fraction working the game into a 'real' paying gig.
But regardless of how high up the ladder a songwriter goes on their own, there's almost always a performer who can help them reach the next level. Bottom line - everyone who invests time, emotion and creative energy into songwriting can benefit from finding musicians to play their songs. Especially songwriters who -don't- perform. It may sound simple, but for whatever reason, most non-performing songwriters pay a demo studio to record their tunes in hopes of pitching the songs to the rich and famous, but never make the rounds on the local music scene to seek out performers interested in playing, and perhaps even recording, their new, original material.
Hey, it's not just about money. Having other people play your material can shine a new light on your work, Hendrix's version of Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower,' for example. And sometimes experiencing a public performance of your songs can be profoundly inspiring. Take this to the bank: there isn't a songwriter at -any- level who can't benefit from a little of that action.