When we think about the music industry, the term “artist” is typically reserved for the people who are singing on stages, selling albums, and recording music. Not necessarily songwriters.
Songwriters are usually referred to as the crafters, the masons, the welders and carpenters that temper our songs in the fires of writing rooms up and down Music Row. Songwriters are known as the builders of what we hear.
And while that is accurate and amazing, we song crafters forget a certain truth: Songwriters are artists, too. But not in a music industry sense. Not always.
Songwriters are artists in the same way that the painter is an artist. That the poet, the photographer, the dancer is an artist. Here’s what I mean:
1. You have something to say.
Just like a painter or a dancer, you are an artist with something to say. Songwriters have an undeniable creative turbulence inside us, beckoning us to pick up the pen, sit beside our instruments, and coax it all out. We have that itch to make. To sing. To write. To play with words and music until we’ve made manifest the tumbled array of messaging that was twisting inside our gut. Songwriters have something to say. They have to get it out. So you write songs.
2. Your message is so important to you.
You guard your message with your life. You know that when you’re making a statement in one of those songs, that statement needs to be made. You will hold true to that throughout the entire song. You will see your message through. You write the hell out of that concept and make sure every single word and line speaks to it.
3. You couldn’t stop writing, even if you wanted to.
Let’s be real. Even on your darkest days, when you feel like you’re all song’d out and there’s nothing else at the bottom of the well… you know you’ll be writing again in time. You know in your heart of hearts that no matter how discouraged you get, you could never walk away from songwriting. You could never get frustrated enough to just quit. Songwriting is in your bones. When you’re in a creative slump, you give it the time it needs to fizzle out, then you get back to your writing.
4. You know it’s more than craft, it’s an art.
While you know that your songs depend on good song craft, you also know there’s something subjective and wild in the writing process. And you hold tight to that. You learn everything you can about songwriting, you memorize the rules, but then you go and break them. Because your craft is important, but your art is just as important.
5. You eat, sleep, and breathe your songs.
They keep you up at night. You often find yourself missing out on hours of sleep because you’re on a roll, just writing, writing, writing. Sometimes you even wake up with a song in your head, and you have to write it down quick before the fog of the morning robs it from your consciousness. Your songs follow you. You find them in every day life. A conversation with a friend, something overheard at the checkout counter. You see your new songs in everything. You’re kind of hashtag #obsessed, and you don’t mind one bit.
Songwriters need to see themselves as artists, too.
Why is this important? Because the longer you spend learning how to write “great songs,” the easier it becomes to lose the wild uniqueness that you, the artist, brings to your songs.
Yes, there are rules. Yes, there are standards. Yes, there is what is commercially viable. You should learn all those things. They are tools for your toolbox. Write within those bounds all you want. But when you’ve got a song that you love that doesn’t necessarily meet those requirements, be patient and kind with yourself. You are an artist and you have something to say. Say it. Then keep writing. Move on to the next song. Blend your craft with your artistry anytime you can.
Write on, Fancy fam! You are the best.
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