I woke up this morning so excited to go and demo some songs today that I'm really proud of, and it got me thinking about the path my career has taken.
I started as an artist - all I ever wanted to do was be in my own band and write my own songs; I didn't even know you could just have a career as a songwriter until well into my second record. Well, that's not technically *all* I wanted to do - be rich and famous was in the mix, too. Obviously. Gotta keep mama in cupcakes.
Truly against EVERY odd, because no matter how talented an artist is, it is a feat of epic proportions for you to ever hear of them, I had some success. In hindsight, I can see exactly how many stars had to line up to make that happen. But with the rise must come the fall. The same stars that lined up to make us win, seemed to line up again to make us lose - that's a long story in and of itself.
After that first hit, I spent years being guided by someone who wanted nothing more than one more hit. The pressure on me to write one was heavy handed at times: The whole band is counting on you. Do you know how many people you support who are depending on you to make this happen? You are letting down the whole team. You you you you you fail fail fail fail fail.
I felt like I was a single parent with 9 or 10 children that I couldn't work enough hours to feed. The band didn't even know those things were being said to me, as always they were my friends and brothers, but I still felt like I was letting them down because I was told that I was all the time.
If you have a creative bone in your body, you know art just flows under that kind of pressure. NOT. Over the years I was instructed to write a song exactly like each one of the following: “Make Them Good Girls Go Bad” by Cobra Starship, “According to You” by Orianthi, “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat, “Faded” by Cascada, and many more.
When you look at that list, what do any of those songs have in common with each other? Not a damn thing except they all charted (do you even remember half of them?). What do any of them have in common with anything I would ever do? Definitely not a damn thing. The only time I was truly successful was when I was being me. Writing songs like “Girl Next Door” and “Imperfection,” because they were the truth.
What I learned was when you try to copy something someone else is already doing because that's what's working, the very best you can ever hope to be is a pretty good imitation. When you forget that and be YOUR best self, nobody can touch you, because you're doing something no one else can do.
I feel so lucky today that I found some people in my career who believe in what I do. I can't wait to hear these songs. I got lucky enough that my publishers and my co-writers believed in me, and I believed in them, and because of that we wrote these songs that no one else would write. There is no better feeling. (Well, maybe except getting them cut!)
Whatever you're doing today, nursing or lawyering or selling things or HR or accounting or parenting or writing (or especially if you're playing on my session), do it your way. Maybe you'll win and maybe you won't, but you can sleep tonight proud of your work either way. And I promise not one other person on the planet will do it just like you did.
Marti Lynn Dodson is a graduate of the Ohio State University who has toured internationally as a Top 40 recording artist with Universal Republic and Toucan Cove Records. The BMI award winning songwriter currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.