I realized the other day that I've been "following the song" since I was about 11 years old.
I followed the songs to record stores. (Yes, they were called that back then).
I followed the songs to the radio. I followed the songs to the music store to buy guitars and strings. I followed them to dances and parties.
I followed them to classes in college, to concerts and shows and to the steps going down to my basement where the echo was just right.
And, I eventually followed them to a job. Instead of the job becoming the “be all” and “end all,” I discovered that “following the song” was still the key to EVERYTHING.
Each day, I get up, pick which guitar I want to write with, and head to a tiny little office where a friend or a stranger will show up and join me as we follow the song where it wants to take us.
More and more, I realize that, at my best, I’m following the song, not leading the song. Once we land on an idea, the goal becomes getting out of the way and letting the song say what it wants to say. Sounds easy, but it’s not.
Many days, I want to impose my will on the song. I want to shape it and beat it into submission.
But a great song idea can take care of itself if my co-writers and I can get out of the way long enough to let it take shape. I like to compare songwriting to a sculptor who sees an angel in the stone and he chips away everything that doesn’t look like “angel” until all that remains is a beautiful piece of art.
If you struggle to “bring a song home” — to finish it in such a way that is REALLY shines, it could be that you are getting in the way. Let your idea sink in for a few moments. Think about all of the places such an idea might take you and then follow. Listen. Go with the song.
I am limited in my writing ability. The song is not. That’s why I continue to try to follow the song every day.
Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here: www.facebook.com/songtownusa, at www.facebook.com/martydodsonsongwriter and at Twitter @SongTownUSA or visit martydodson.com