WORKING HARD/HARDLY WORKING

Blank Page Waiting for the Song

I am working hard, but I feel as if I am not doing anything.  How can this be?

I am not really a prolific songwriter.  Since 2000 I have only written two hundred and twelve songs with a yearly average of around seventeen songs.  That means that I some years I only wrote five or six songs, and other years I have written over sixty.  However, I identify with being a songwriter.  I may have a Ph.D. in theology, and I may be a minister of a church, a very small, liberal, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California, but I nonetheless identify as a Rockabilly/Honky-Tonk singer/songwriter.  I spent years as a professional and fine-art photographer, but I still wrote and performed my original songs.  Songwriting and performing is just what I do, and I do it very seriously.

So this last year, and this coming year as well, it seems that I am doing more song promotion and song marketing than writing.  It also means that I am spending more and more time at this computer communicating with A&R reps, song peddlers, artists, film companies and whoever else needs and uses songs.  It also means that I am doing less and less songwriting.  It also means that I am doing more recording, mixing and mastering, at which I am least proficient.

I have a woodshop where I build and repair wood stuff.  I enjoy working with the wood, and I make a little money ate it, but it is still just something I do to clean out my brain for the real work of songwriting.  I have written one and one half songs this year so far, and there are more to be written, but I feel frustrated by the need to record, mix, and master my old songs.

Actually I feel grumpy at the blasted A&R people who need fully mastered radio-ready songs to pitch to their artists.  I yell stuff at my studio walls like, What the hell ever happened to interpolation?  Where they could hear a song and hear themselves singing it.  Without having everything done in advance.  The walls of my studio have no answers, and I just go ahead and play the stupid game.

The bottom line is that I am learning how to do it because I cannon afford to have it done by the experts.  I am using an older version of Sonar for the mixing and a new version of Izotope Ozone for the mastering.  I am slowly figuring it out.  I do not have high end studio mastering speakers, but I have my PA speakers that work good enough.  I figure that if I get the sound so it sounds good on my studio speakers, and it sounds good on my little CD player and on my house system and on the car system, then the sound should be good enough quality to send to an A&R type.  It somehow seems to be working.

Yet, while that seems to be working, I still do not feel as if I am working.  Rather, I should say that I don’t feel like I am accomplishing anything because I am not writing songs at the rate at which I want to write them.

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16 thoughts on “WORKING HARD/HARDLY WORKING

  1. How familiair this sounds! And I must say that you are more productive than me, which is probably because I have to come to terms with not really being a songwriter, but more of an engineer and arranger/producer. Nonetheless, I have the same problem as you, doing a lot, but still nothing finished. I have (much) less problems with doing other people’s stuff though, and so this sort of made some bells ring in my head, thinking that we might complement each other with our skills. If you are good at writing, but are struggling to get it in the form you want, and I am struggling with writing but am good at recording an finishing, maybe there’s an opportunity here…? Who knows!

  2. Keep at it, brother – you’re doin’ more than ME at the present time! I’m going through a “techno-lazy” spell, while my songwriting/creativity/chops-riffs-fingering is going through a SURGE – I just don’t feel like layin’ down any tracks until I find some OTHER musicians to bounce ideas off of. Even though I KNOW that MY songs are ABSOLUTELY the BEST original compositions of ANYBODY (you included, Hilary ;-]) … I realize that without outside input, it’s just … just … just PLAYING WITH MYSELF … ;-] !!! So I’m looking for a creative female bassist and a lady drummer with a kick that scares me to death! LOL – ;-] – Mike

  3. “…communicating with A&R reps, song peddlers, artists, film companies and whoever else needs and uses songs.” As far as I’m concerned, that IS the hard work! I know I get frustrated with writing when it feels like I’m doing it in a vacuum. Because if you write and write and no one ever hears what you do, are you really accomplishing anything? So be proud of what you’ve done to get your songs heard!

    • Thanks, Jessica, for read this blog and for responding. Thant means a lot to me. Also thanks for what you said. And yes, I do sometimes feel like I am working in a vacuum, but I get around that mostly by having a biweekly gig where I play my originals. It’s a mellow and appreciative crowd that holds me accountable for my music. H

  4. Most of the people I know that believe they are making a living playing music are actually making a living teaching music, producing or recording other people, producing shows or otherwise making a living AT music, not creating music.

    If Picasso, or Hemingway… you know where I’m going with this. I refuse to learn engineering or music producing, even assuming I had the talent to produce, for the same reason I decline to teach music: my joy is to write and perform.

    Every person who works in the “arts” (I fear casting music as “art” creates a danger for the ego) must build a support team. For most writers, painters and musicians the beginnings of that support team lie in your fans. Don’t have fans? Then you don’t have “art”.

    You’re asking the right question, “why do I feel like I’m not working”, which is a great and necessary beginning to change. Now find someone else to produce and sell your work.

    Best wishes,

    -lafe

    • Hi Lafe, and thanks for the reply. I do have fans, and I do have offers to help me with my engineering efforts, actually one offer by a platinum selling producer, but (and it’s a big one) I think the challenge of learning is is an important one for me. I gripe and grumble, but the complaining is similar to what I did learning piano scales or guitar chords–part of my process. I recognize that while I am not feeling any fulfillment from learning the engineering now, and that my identity centers around the writing and performing, I will, in the end have this sense of fulfillment from the finished product. H

  5. Hi Hilary,
    You know, your life is very interesting in itself. Would even make a good movie if you can find the thread and the universal truth in it.
    I think all true creative types absolutely cannot function within the dehumanized society that is being created around us and we have to abandon our desire to be recognised by that society as being futile. It’s like wanting to be the friend of the school bully. In the end you would lose the friendships that you really value, even the friendship with yourself.
    I think that you, as a minister, know what I mean. It’s too late to change that world. We need to remain true to ourselves and continue creating the culture that will remain after this present one crumbles.

    • Hi Chris, thanks for reading. A movie of my life would be a strange one to say the least. I am almost too feisty for a minister. I have been told by other musicians that I and my music are “agro.” All that aside, I do have a lot of fun in the bubble that is my life. About the school bully. In my youth, when I was in school, there were two bullies that that tried to pick on me, and I pounded them with a piece of hardwood flooring. End of the bulling!

      I do think though that you are absolutely correct about trying to make nice to the world and just be true to ourselves, or we will indeed lose that part of us that is most important–our soul. Thanks again for your comment. H

  6. Hilary,

    One thing, and I can only base it on this blog, is you may be lacking in the design/marketing aspect of the equation. Consider having a professional logo design, along with a professional website… not a template or blog, a website, stand alone. What the up and coming, those getting known, getting more hits on their networks,etc have in common is that they have things “in place”.

    Online, it’s ALL about image. So put your best foot forward and invest in YOUR image. A&R want a complete package. They want to see you already have a lot of things in place.

    Besides my own touring and writing/recording, etc., I own a professional website/graphic design firm. If you are interested, I can offer some insight and if money is an issue, perhaps I can refer you to a colleague or at least offer some suggestions for upping your image to a more professional level.

    I may be way off base here, but again, I am only seeing this blog. If you already have a website and logo, I’d love to see them and I’d also suggest “branding” the top banner on this blog with YOUR branding, not just a picture of a guitar that’s overly stretched out. It’s a low grade image and reflects poorly on you as an artist. I’m not one to pull punches and I do hope you appreciate directness.

    Best of luck to you.

    Peace, Love and Belief!

    Seth Regan

    • Thank you, Seth, for your comment. And yes, I do appreciate directness. I will give your comments some thought. I do have a web site, and I do have a logo. I like them both. I had not considered it as something to use on this bold, but I see that you may be absolutely correct. I’ll change it over soon. Thanks again, for pointing out the obvious to me!!! H

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