Friday, August 18, 2006

Songwriters paradise

I just returned from my second year at the Lyons Song School. What a great four days. Just imagine the creative energy when there’s 150 songwriters in one place. The school offers top-notched classes, one-on-one mentoring, and the opportunity to interact with songwriters of all levels. This year was also special because Julie joined me for the first time (more on that later).

A great example of how this school works was preparing for my performance. I was planning to sing College Years, with Julie backing me up on violin. We played it around camp and got polite comments, but no one saying it was great. In a class with Issa (formerly known as Jane Siberry), she asked the questions, “How authentic is your song? What percentage of you is in the song?” Steve Seskin in his class, made the comment, “do you love every line of your song.” With these comments ringing in my head, I woke up one morning and realized I needed to perform a different song.

So at this point I was in quandary. I was performing the next night and had no song to sing. I returned to camp and a group of friends offered to help. I went through about 5 songs before I got to “Here I Am.” From their response, the choice was obvious.

I knew I still had work to do, so I brought the song to Vance Gilbert’s performance class. Vance and the others in the class immediately honed in on my weakness, keeping time (more on this later). With the performance in three hours, I had a lot of work to do. Julie and another songwriter Mary Gerwin became my percussion section and eventually got the beat into my head.

I showed up at the performance tent, went to the bathroom (three times), tuned my guitar (twice) and then started pacing. I had a number of people come by with words of encouragement. Finally, my name was called and I walked onto stage. I started tapping my foot like Vance showed me, and launched into the song. By the end of the first verse, I heard people laughing (which was a good thing). I even adlibbed a comment. I missed some chords in the bridge, but it didn’t matter, I could feel the crowd with me. Vance started the crowd clapping (probably to help me keep time). When I finished I got a standing ovation (my first). I walked off stage to a line of hugs from Julie Portman (who inspired this song), Vance and whole line of other songwriters. The best comment was from someone who I hadn’t met before, “your song could have been written about me.”

None of this could have been done without the amazing energy of this place. Thanks to all.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking more about what I learned.


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