"They say it's better to bury your sadness in a graveyard or garden that waits for the spring to wake from its sleep and burst into green.” ~Conor Oberst
Spring is in the air – birds are singing, the snow has long-since melted, and the natural world is in a beautiful state of renewal in this hemisphere. Spring is a time for fresh starts, new beginnings, and unbridled inspiration. This Spring, write some new songs.
Everyone who reads this blog falls in to one of two categories: you have either not written any hit songs, or, you have written a hit song and know the music business’s dirty little secret: writing a hit only obligates you to write 20 more. Some writers succeed, others don’t, but the road to hit songwriting looks less like the yellow brick road and more like an escalator that empties into a fiery pit. If you write hit songs, your escalator moves slower, and you periodically get handed fist-fulls of cash.
Back in 2008 I had the pleasure of speaking with Richard Marx about his 30+ year career, and Richard told me that throughout, he assumed that his run as a multi-platinum artist would soon end. Marx placed himself in the record books by being the first solo artist to have his first seven singles hit the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 4). His record sales worldwide exceed 30 million (taken from his Wiki, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Marx). His 5-album run on Capitol ended in 1997, and throughout Richard said he was grateful and surprised when his records sold as well as they did. Richard still releases his own music to this day, and has written myriad hits for other artists including a 2004 Grammy for "Dance with My Father,” a song he co-write with Luther Vandross. His message to me was that you have to keep writing and assume that some songs will do well, others won’t, but that isn’t the point. Writing is the point.
Maybe you have already written a bunch of songs, maybe even some great ones. You cannot stop there. You have to keep going.
Songs are the thing that define an artist’s narrative, and in turn, an artist’s career and success level. Are you as successful as you would like to be? That’s a complicated question to answer, and part of the response, whether you’re happy or not, has to be an unblinking focus on new songs, new material, new ideas.
This Spring, drop your tools and start over.
Songwriting is an emotionally naked and dangerous activity, much like firefighting. Smokejumpers are wild land firefighters who parachute into extremely remote areas to fight fires, often times in a valley or a ravine. In 1949, 13 of 16 deployed firefighters lost their lives at Mann Gulch, and in 1994, 14 more firefighters lost their lives under similar conditions at South Canyon. In both cases, these 23 men and four women were overrun by exploding fires when their retreat was slowed because they failed to drop the heavy tools they were carrying. By keeping their tools, they lost valuable distance they could have covered more quickly if they had been lighter (Putnam. 1994, 1995). All 27 perished within sight of safe areas. The question is, why did the firefighters keep their tools? (taken from this article on the topic: http://www19.homepage.villanova.edu/gregory.gull/MBA8510.html/DropTools_Weick.htm)
Are you someone who has only written on guitar? This Spring, try writing one at the piano.
Are you a “lyrics-first” writer? This Spring, try writing the music first.
Always write with your band? This Spring, write one on your own and bring it to the band.
Always write alone? This Spring, try some co-writing.
Mix it up. What have you got to lose?
With love -