I was 11 years old when I started writing songs. The only person I trusted enough to play my songs for was my mom. Before I even realized that she was hearing them, I had found that my favorite songwriting location was the staircase going to our basement. I would sit on the steps with my guitar, a pencil and paper as I crafted my first original pieces of music.
Unbeknownst to me, my mom was in the kitchen, at the top of the steps, working while I played. She heard me trying out different lines and chords. She heard me singing my songs line by line. Songs about girls I liked or that I wished liked me. Songs about things I believed in.
Months went by before she finally told me that she had started coming in the kitchen on purpose so she could hear me sing and write. She mentioned lines or songs that she loved. She told me I really had talent and that I should “do something” with my music. Neither of us knew how to “do something” with it, but I will never forget the feeling of realizing that she really believed in me.
She didn’t think being a songwriter was a ridiculous dream. She didn’t tell me to figure out something safer to support myself while I wrote. She didn’t talk about the odds of actually becoming a full-time songwriter. She just believed.
Throughout her life, she was a believer. If I wanted to go sailing on a sailing ship off the coast of New England, climb the highest mountain in Colorado, write a book, or take on any crazy challenge -- she believed I could do it. I never recall her saying anything discouraging when I ran an idea by her.
When I started trying to write professionally, I encountered many discouraging voices. I can’t count the number of times that people told me “no.” I had people tell me I should give up and do something else. Others simply expressed ambivalence toward my music. It didn’t move them at all.
Finally, I ran across Kim Williams. He signed me as a staff writer because he thought I had “promise.” He didn’t really love any of the songs I had written but he saw some of the raw skills in me that he thought could pay off someday. He not only signed me, he taught me how to write. He critiqued, he challenged and he encouraged. It took several years, of writing and working full time before his investment in me paid off.- He made back every penny he spent on me plus some.
I have learned that, in a business ripe with discouragement, sometimes all you need is one believer. A mother, a friend, a mentor, a spouse – someone who thinks you “have it.” Someone willing to encourage and share their belief in you. Those are voices you can hang onto when the going is tough.
If you have a believer in your life, send them a “thank you” or give them a hug. And, look for people that you can believe in and support. Sometimes, it only takes one! Write on!
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.