I have had a number of amazing experiences because of songwriting. I’ve been able to travel the world and see places like Barcelona, Malmo, Nassau, Vancouver, and Toronto simply because I wrote songs that became hits. I’ve met and worked with people from all over the globe. Those experiences have shaped who I am and have made me a better, more well rounded person.
I’ve also had the extraordinary experience of driving down the road and hearing my song played on the radio. The first time that happened, I had to pull over into a parking lot. I had worked for YEARS to make that happen, learning in the process that you can’t really MAKE much of anything happen in life. You can increase your odds of it happening, but you can’t make it happen – and that’s a whole blog unto itself. Anyway, I pulled over into the parking lot and cried. I cried with joy. I cried for all of the blood, sweat and tears that had gone into getting that song on the radio. I cried over the validation that “I really can do this”. And I cried for my mom who passed away while I was struggling to get things going and never heard any of my songs on the radio. I’ll own it – it was ugly crying. The snot producing, shoulder shaking kind. But it was real and bittersweet and happy at the same time. I will never forget that moment.
Another amazing experience as a songwriter is picking up an album or CD and seeing YOUR name in the credits. As a kid, I would buy a vinyl record, rush home, put it on the record player and then I would take the record sleeve and read along with the lyrics, wondering who those mysterious people were that had written these songs and not even imagining that I could someday BE one of them. The experience of that first cut with my name in the credits as a writer was surreal. I remember just standing there staring at it trying to comprehend what that meant and wondering if the names I had read as a child had worked as long and hard as I had to see their names in 8pt type on liner credits.
Billboard Magazine was another surreal experience. All of my life, I’d heard of the Billboard Top Forty. As a kid, I never dreamed that it was even possible to see my name there. But, the same song that was my first single wound up going to #37 on the Billboard Country chart. And, there was my name listed as a writer on a “hit” song. Later, I’d get to see my name at the TOP of that chart. Opening that magazine to see my name beside “#1” was amazing.
All of those things have been amazing. But, to this day, the most “blow your mind” experience I have had in regard to songwriting is to see and hear someone singing along to my song. Those other experiences are “disconnected from reality” in a way. But to see someone sitting in an audience singing along to words and music that I wrote is completely, utterly unbelievable. To hear 60,000 people singing along is beyond comprehension. Why? Because those experiences prove that what we do MATTERS. Spotify, Pandora and Apple can tell us that what we do is insignificant and only worth fractions of pennies, but when I look out and I see someone – ANYONE – singing along to my song, I KNOW that what I wrote impacted a human being. There is no price tag you can put on that. It still blows me away every time I see it happen and I wouldn’t trade it for any of those other experiences.
If you are trying to get that first cut, don’t give up. There are unbelievable experiences ahead if you don’t quit and you keep working to get better. What we do matters. Right now, you might not have anyone singing along, but you will. Keep digging deep and keep going. It’s worth it!