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Song Sung Blue

February 24, 2009

I’m in an email discussion with another Irish singer-songwriter.

It seems that many of us hold ourselves back creatively and we were sharing our frustration and experience.

Demons & fears are the single thing that holds back so many songwriters and I include myself in that. Some days I’m confident and others I just wonder who I’m trying to kid. I’m even going through it now with my album recording. On MySpace there is a simple guitar+vocal+cello demo of a song called “Holding On”. I started recording a master of it last week and have almost completed it. The problem is that I’ve recorded it with a full band arrangement. Although I like it I’m not sure if I should stick to the original simple arrangement. I’m trying not to sound like a whiny acoustic folksy singer-songwriter stereotype (I’m looking at you Damien Rice!). I’ve done this with my song ‘Be Alright’ which on MySpace is a simple acoustic demo but the ‘album’ version has more in the arrangement.

I’ve decided to just get on with it. If I make the wrong decisions on the arrangements and style then so be it. Nobody dies because of it.

Fortunately I have my own studio which means I can spend entire evenings working on this stuff. Until last year I hardly used the studio for myself and seemed to be always doing stuff for other people and trying to hire it out.

Many of my friends are musicians (regularly mentioned in this blog) and I have to stop comparing myself to them. Sometimes it feels like I’m only ‘pretending’ to be a songwriter. They’re doing it full time so I’m really only pretending to be an artist. That’s a hard one to get over – that feeling that they’ll come to the gig, hear the CD but will know that it’s not the real deal.

I think a songwriter needs to set goals and deadlines. I’ve set myself a goal of having a launch gig in the small room in Whelan’s for a CD. Ideally in the autumn. Given that I will be away for 3 weeks this summer and have a demanding day job it’s quite a stretch. There’s also the small matter of paying for the duplication and hiring the venue. With the goal in mind it’s focusing my mind on getting this album done.

The person I’m corresponding with has set themselves a goal : write a good song this year. But I think they’re not giving themselves a fair chance. My message: If I may be so bold as to make a suggestion: set yourself a target to write as many songs as possible this year. If they’re all shite then so be it. But I’ll bet you a bottle of your favourite drink that there will be more than one gem in there.
Back in November I tried the NaSoAlMo project. I blogged about this back in November 2008.

Now, my point here is that I’m looking back on the songs I wrote and recorded for that project and have decided to keep two of them live on MySpace. I created an ‘experimental-me’ MySpace at . I think I will do something with those 2 songs. Each of them took less than 2 hours from opening a blank page in my notebook to finishing the demo.
So making yourself just keep outputting songs does yield results.

I found the open mic scene in Dublin to be very supportive (with only 1 exception really). Just getting out and playing your songs is a great learning process. You find out which material works and you also develop confidence. Most people look in awe at anyone who can play music in front of an audience. Even more people admire anyone who writes and performs their own material.

My song writing friend mentioned the inner critic: “As songwriters I know a lot of us wrestle with the ‘who wants to listen to me & my ****’ mentality.
Every time I sit at my piano or take up my guitar I think ‘oh, what’s the point?
‘ “
why oh why do I limit myself by jumping the gun from idea to fear of doing anything with result of said idea. The result too often is No Result, because I limit & criticise myself from the moment of conception.

Very valid points. They’re not alone in this. All I can say is this: the point is that you can do this and others can’t. Nobody can write a ‘Peter Fitzpatrick’ song (not even Ron Sexsmith – he can only write Ron songs).
That moment of conception is where your best ideas are. They don’t need to be complex ideas. For all it’s complexity Jazz is still just 12 semi-tones.

Here endeth the lecture.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 24, 2009 11:32 pm

    Everything you say is true. Don’t let the bastards grind you down, but more importantly, don’t grind yourself down either…Regards,djp


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