I believe that it’s never too late to be what you might have been and to chase your songwriting dreams. In my case, I was in my mid-thirties when I started trying to write professionally. I got a much later start than some others who pursued their songwriting passion right out of high school. But, as it turned out, it didn’t really matter WHEN I started. It only mattered THAT I started. I was able to turn my late start into a long and continued success story. As time has gone by, I realize more and more that my age can be just as much an asset as a liability.
History is full of “late bloomers” who found their success later in life. Ray Kroc was 52 when he started McDonalds. Grandma Moses was 76 when she painted her first canvas. Winston Churchill was a political failure until he finally became Prime Minister at age 62.
If you think about it, you probably know people who got late starts as well. A friend of mine just landed a starring role (Her first) in a movie with some HUGE actors at age 49. She’s living the life she always dreamed of. Someone else I know someone entered medical school at age 52 and got their M.D. at age 58.
So what’s the point?
Age Is Just A Number
Age doesn’t have to limit you or hold you back. Does it sometimes present obstacles? Yes. But, I have never known of any of those obstacles to be fatal. You’ve probably heard the saying “You’re only old as you feel.” I’m not sure that is accurate. I’d suggest that “You’re only as old as you’re willing to be” might be more accurate. If you accept that you’re in your 60s and people in their 60s don’t start chasing crazy dreams, then you’ll never get started.
However, if you throw off what “they” say and decide that you’re going to take a young person’s approach – you’re going to be fearless, you’ll try knew things, you’ll learn, you’ll throw yourself headlong into your dream chasing – then you have a real chance. You don’t have to accept the societal norms for what people your age can or cannot do.
Age is just a number and only YOU can decide what to do with that number. And here’s another thing to consider.
Age Can Be An Advantage
I have learned to leverage the advantages of my “maturity” instead of letting myself be weighed down by the disadvantages. Instead of rolling with many of my peers who “can’t stand what’s on the radio”, I listen to it. I study and learn what is working and WHY it is working. I continually try to bring those elements into my writing. My many years on the planet have taught me how to study and learn in ways that 20 somethings have not. I take a more analytical approach to writing. I break things that are working down and I put those tools in my writing toolbox. That is an approach that only comes with age.
Another advantage to age is that you have more stories to tell.
I was writing with a Hall of Fame songwriter and an 18 year old female artist one day. The Hall of Fame guy threw out an AMAZING line. The artist crinkled up her nose and said “I wouldn’t say that.” I responded, “Why not? It’s an amazing line.” She replied “It’s just not my story.” Hall of Fame guy put his guitar down, looked at her and said “Honey, your story is only a little bit of acne and maybe a broken heart or two. You don’t have enough to say just yet if you only tell your story.” He wasn’t being ugly. He was telling the truth.
Younger people don’t have the richness of life to draw from that those of us who are older have.
I was writing with an artist and a track guy one time. Both were super talented. In fact, she’s now a megastar. They were both in their early twenties. I kept throwing out lines and they kept saying “No, we need something cooler.” I began to get irritated, but I took a deep breath and asked “Can you show me what you mean?” They threw out some lines that didn’t make much sense at all. However, they WERE cool.
I set my hurt pride aside for a moment and asked “How about you take the lead and keep throwing out cool lines, but you trust me to help you make them make sense?” They laughed and agreed that we needed each other. I needed them to help me update my “cool factor”, but they also needed my help to craft a lyric that people would understand and relate to.
We struck a deal and it worked out great for all of us. Our songs got great responses because we had the coolness of youth and the wisdom of age working at the same time.
So Where Do You Start?
You are not likely to become a recording artist in your 40’s or later. But it could happen! And, who says you can’t write a hit song in your 50’s or 60′? My friend Bill Anderson has been writing for a long time, but he is still having hits in his 70’s. He’s a life-long learner. Today there are books by pro songwriters like Song Building and Mastering Melody Writing to help you improve your craft. SongTown has hundreds of hours of video on almost every topic imaginable. The resources are there to learn and grow, no matter your current writing level.
Just start where you are. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re older or you got a late start. Just– begin. Reach out to people you know in the business – like myself or Clay Mills. We started SongTown to help people like you.
We recently had two members in their 60s write the #1 song on the Texas Country Chart. Another member in her 70s is getting cuts right and left. Another member in his 60s had a #1 song in Australia. People of ALL ages are writing and succeeding. You can too.
If you have a dream and you’ve started late, don’t give up. Your success is probably limited more by your own doubts than it is by the number that follows your name.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t reach your goals or capture your songwriting dreams.
Prove the skeptics wrong. Do what they say can’t be done. Break new ground. Somebody will do it. It might as well be you. You never know when success is just around the corner.
At the end of the day, no one cares how old the man or woman is who wrote Katy Perry’s latest hit. They are listening for a great song.
So, forget about your age.
Be it “too young” or “too old”, just write great songs. Refuse to be defined by your age. You are only as old or as young as you choose to be.
Forget the number– and write on!
Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting.