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Songwriting Survey
What is your first memory of music and how do you think it shaped the musician you are today?


Joe Leone
A songwriter from Kansas City, writes:
My first memory of music comes along time ago, I was all of probably two years old, when my mother and father were into heavy mainstream rock and roll. (Bob Seger, Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix the Outlaws, Uriah Heep, alot from the 70's on Vinyl) Most of it started when MTV first came out, because then I could actually see the rock and roll stars, and from then on, I knew what I wanted to do... I wanted to play lead guitar for a band. I have had alot of musical influences....... Metallica - The biggest one of all (These songs are like a "Heavy Metal Orchestra" with their multi-track tricks and techniques) Led Zepplin Jimi Hendrix Carlos Santana Blue Oyster Cult The Misfits Diamond Head Motorhead Stevie Ray Vaughn AND a gentleman that lives in Memphis, they call him Memphis James. He plays totally live, and I believe he has a few recorded tracks as well. If you are ever in Memphis, go to Beale Street and look for Memphis James!! This man deserves a record contract!!!!!!!!!! I seen him in the summer of '97. He plays the cheapest instruments, everything he does is on a very strict, tight budget, because I do not think he has a job. But, no matter what equipment he has (or how cheap and worn) he always sounds true blues, and it must come from the heart. 

Sonja Crisp
A songwriter from Virginia, writes:
"Somewhere Over The Rainbow", was the first song I ever heard. As a young child I sang this little song as I would swing. I pretended that the birds were my audience as they chirped along. I sang this song as a young mother to my little ones on their way off to sleep. Now my children sing to me with the voices of chirping birds, as I doze off to sleep, while they practice. Now 3 of us sing, 3 of us play instruments, and 2 of us writes lyrics.
Honorius Gulmatico
A starving songwriter of North Dakota's Red River Valley, writes:
I remember constantly traveling Southern California in the back of my parent's car listening to the only band that ever existed- the Beatles. I constantly go in and out of my Beatlemania but they always instilled the fact that a group's creativity can be mostly selfcontained(no slam on George Martin though) and even if you don't make it big- at least the material that you have, you can claim it's all yours and noone elses.

Chris Conway
A singer-writer of songs of Love & Peace & Outer Space, writes:
Our family all loved John Sebastian and the Lovin Spoonful - we'd all sing along in the car on holidays, "Coconut Grove", etc. His inherent good-time, feel,  & mellow jazzyness, & genuineness stays with me. WARMTH - thats what he taught me - (easily forgottten when trying to impress music-wise.) And communication. Sometimes I forget - I listen to Sebastian again, and he reminds me these about things.

Lois
A young, ME sufferer, who tries to write songs, from Essex, England, writes:
My first memory of music is when I was about six (I'm now fourteen) and I was given piano lessons by a very old and talented teacher. It gave me thouroughly good grounding in music, even though I sometimes found it boring.  I am now very involved with music at school, (when I'm there- which I haven't been for over six months due to this dratted ME) and I'm looking forward to a career in music.  I think exposure to music at an early age is vital because children learn so much quicker than adults.  I now play the piano, clarient tenor saxophone all to very high grades.  I love it and I'm so grateful to my parents for giving me piano lessons when I was so young.

Sandy Patten
A young lyricist from Bakersfield, CA, writes:
My parents played a lot of Statler Brothers tapes while I was growing up. They also played Patsy Cline and Anne Murray. But the first song I remember listening to is a Statler Brothers song. The Statlers write on a lot of subjects and I think that encouraged me to write on several subjects.

Shaun
An aspiring song writer from 'ol Ohio who can't spell worth a darn, writes:
My first memory of music would probly be my old raffie and seaseme streat tapes, but the first popular music I heard is the Beatles. My mom was, and is, a big fan and so she got me a tape of beatles songs sung by kids. I've been hooked on 'em ever since. I think that they pretty fermly (woo boy, I sure cant spell) instablished my love for a good melody, which I hope is showing through in some of my work. Also as I grew older I started to love there weirder songs (I am the Walrus, Wild Honey Pie etc. etc.) brought me into contact with some wierder bands such as Pink Floyd, which has very much influenced my music. Sorry for rambling.

DavidPiano
A pianist/songwriter from Toronto, writes:
My first memory of pop/rock is when I heard Billy Joel's "52nd St." at the age of 3. In months I had the names of the songs memorized and could recall them offhand. I think hearing the possibilities of what could be done with the piano made me want to be a pianist. My first memory of jazz was listening to a Louis Armstrong CD I borrowed from my piano teacher when I was 9. I was researching ol' Satch and decided to hear him first hand. The energy coming from the horns was amazing and that is what led me further into that area of music. It's funny how influential 30 minutes of music can be on one's life. I hope to carry out that tradition with whatever I write (the ultimate songwriter's dream).

Kim
A songwriter from Virginia, writes:
I was born in 1963 and had a sister that was 11 years older than me. She was among the first Beatle fanatics. I know that I heard that music even before I was old enough to sing along. I also heard Donovan, Joni Mitchell (a lot!), James Taylor. My other sister played the guitar and played early Christian folk songs which she would ask me to sing along with. Today I am a Joni Mitchell, JT devotee and write mainly Christian songs. They are very much in the style of Joni and JT, acoustic guitar/piano based. It's hard to describe your own music. But, I know I was heavily influenced from them because that's what I hear back from people. It's pretty amazing really how music can become such a part of you at such an early age, almost on a cellular level. It becomes part of who you are.

Alysia Cole
A singing,guitar playing,songwritting Mom of two from upstate NY, writes:
I remember singing at the age of 4,on stage withmy Mom.I sang "Tiny Bubbles" and "Daddy Frank".I think this got me over any kind of stage fright right off QUICK!Also a good feel for crowd responce.I think that being on stage at such a young age is the reason performing is still my passion to this day!!
Eileen Tipping
A lyricist from the Pa. countryside, writes:
I first remember sitting on my father's knee and learning nearly every song from the 30's and 40's. I have always appreciated a well phrased lyric,and my musical style is at times reminiscent of the swing era melodies. Nat Cole, Perry Como,and the host of Big Band soloists were everywhere around me. If I'd had as easy a time cataloguing facts about science in my brain as I did storing song lyrics, I could have been a nuclear physicist!

Jeremy Bussey
A Songwriter from Eastern Kentucky, writes:
I had been listening to music for a long time, but the first real memory I have of any form of music impacting me and shaping me as a musician is when I picked up a copy of Corrosion of Conformity's "Deliverance". My life wasn't going very great and basically all I had was my music. People very close to me where dying and I felt alone an alienated. But I got this album and the thick atmosphere , filled with emotion and the strongest lyrics and guitar I ever heard hit me write in the heart. I learned what true heavy metal should be and learned what being a musician was about. That album gave me a sense of what really makes a song, emotion.
Heather Borean
A songwriter/singer student and mother from Ontario, writes:
Music has always been a part of my life,  I can no more imagine my life with out it than I can imagine my life with air.  It's always been there. My parents sing, my grandparents sing.  I can't remember a time when music wasn't there.  I do remember the time when I realized what an impact music has though.  I was 6.  My sister who was 4 had died.  We lived in a Villiage in England.  There was a tinker who travelled from Villiage to Villiage selling odds and ends and entertaining. He taught those of us willing to learn, old English songs and dances.  He played an old pipe (Something like a penny whistle)  My sister had died in early spring and he came though mid summer. He'd been especially close to my sister and I (my mom was the local nurse/midwife so we saw him at home sometimes)  When he asked about my sister and Mom told him she had died he played a song on his pipe that had my Dad in tears.  (me and Mom as well but that wasn't such a big deal)  Then he played one of her favorite dance tunes and told me to dance for her.  He died (I later learned) that winter.  Music had the power to make my father cry.  That really taught me something.
Marques Richards
An amateur, aspiring songwriter in Atlanta, writes:
My first memory of music are the songs that Mr Rogers sang on his television show.  They were very simple, and as I grew older, I realized that they a wealth of information and life-shaping ideals in them.  Sut since I kinda fel into songwriting, I never thought about what shaped my writing.  I can say that I always make sure that everything comes from my heart.  Everything is something that I  would neot be ashamed to say to anyone.  And I always make sure my lyrics are conversational...though very meaningful.
Chloe
A ~ Sweet Siren ~ from Chicago, writes:
Carly Simon. When I was about 7 years old my mother would tape me singing and sometimes lip- synching to Carly Simon songs. My singing style definintely has been influenced by her.
Michael J. Miller
A Southern Indiana muse chaser, writes:
My Dad played in the Army band and then dance bands.  Some of my earliest conscious memories are of music. I began singing to myself in the first grade, and had my first singing part in front of a paying audience when I was eight, about the time I began making up songs to sing to myself. I actually thought the Beatles were cheating everyone- how could someone get paid just for making up songs? Now thirty years and two careers later (I have more college credits than Moses), I have adjusted my career and personal life to facilitate and organized approach to this business of music.    I can't even begin to remember every song I ever wrote but each one has effected my musicianship, often by necessitating improvements in it. My songwriting imagination always has far outstripped my musical ability through my wannabe jazz years, through Brouwer's Etudes, and so on.   The more I learn about being a musician,the more I find I need to know.
Jessie
A songwriter from Arizona....anything else....my most famous weapon is my pen.  Tis also the most deadly and most admired....no I'm not concieted...really.  :), writes:
My very first memory of music was my mother playing the grand piano right after I went to bed.  I'd stay awake and listen to her play up till when she would start playing soft, soothing music that was meant to make me fall asleep, like somehow she knew I was listening. Now, as a teenager in today's society, I have a very unusual appreciation for classical and a love for the "deep" side, which is where I write from.
Conrad Standish
A rock'n'roller from Melbourne, Australia,writes:
My parents played a lot of Beatles when I was a kid, and I think that gave me a good ear for melody. Paul McCartney was a melodic genius. The Beatles instilled in me a love for driving rock'n'roll (their early years) and intricate, psychedelic arrangements (later years). And it taught me the importance of versatility
Hayden Grove
Kiwi Muso Guy, writes:
Listening to the radio I guess, I cant really rembember that specific moment, but my parents listen to the NZ National Radio service, so it was most probabally Jazz or classical, not pop music. It shaped me like this: I do not play pop music so instead I experiment with different instruments, play different styles to my peers (I am 17) and get a lot more out of music instead of people I know who listen to one genre exclusivly.
Sionne
A songwriter/poet/adda adda adda, writes:
when i was young, actually as far back as i can recall, my father would take my brothers and myself out for the day and just drive. while driving, he would bet each of us, everytime a new song came on that if any of us could name that singer/band/and song name, he would give us money. he would change the channels all the time so we would have to listen to all different styles and not just one. i learned so much from that. i was introduced to so many different cultures, genres, and eras of music. i think that that is where my musical roots were formed. i cant write a song with out having a little bit of everything it in. if its jazz, i subconsciously throw in classical elements. music is in my blood. and if feels damn good, like some kind of hypnotic drug.
Stephanie
Singer-songwriter originally from Toronto, writes:
My first memory of music was hearing "can't hurry love"..Diana Ross and the Supremes..I think i was about 3 I remember just wanting to learn that song by heart and wanting to sound just like her...of course i have memories of music before 3, but i decided right then and there that i was going to sing one day...and from that day on all i've ever wanted to do is be in the music industry. I don't know if it shaped me, but i do know that my biggest musical influences are that of Motown and Blues (Chicago and New Orleans Blues). Even though I listen to an array of different music...to me there is nothing like Diana Ross, The Stylistics, Temptations...and other greats of Motown.

MissyCoCo
A 17 year old songwriter from Canada, writes:
My first memory of music is FAME, my mom was a big fan of that tv show and I used to watch it with her since the day I was born. So my first 3 years in this world were fild with FAME's music. Those years definitly help me shaped my taste in music, I'm still into those uptempo, fast songs (even though I write r&b music). One of the thing that the show stuck on me is that music is a life style. Well I'm full of it, so that's it. (héhé)
Deanna Sophia Berry
21yrs, Christian, A player of many instruments, but a master of none, outgoing, curly exsplosive hair, never afraid of being myself., writes:
I think my first memory of music was when I was 3 and my mother gave me a bath one day, and as the bubbles in the water multiplied I decided to put my mouth under the water, just enough for my ears to be covered, and I started blowing out air. I felt the vibrations in my ears, and I could hear my heartbeat and the motion of the water moving around me.  That's when I combined all the sounds together to form a beautiful symphony. To me that is the first time I ever experienced music.  This has made me into a very sensitive person when it comes to my songwriting. Each word and phrase I use lets you venture deeper into my thoughts.  When I write a song I try to write it as though we are walking around in my mind as if it's an art gallery and I'm showing the art that is in my thoughts.  I show you the things we have in common, and the things we disagree on, and most of all, the things we'd like to change in this world.  With each new song I try to write lyrics that will be soothing to you. Lyrics that hopefully inspire you to think about life.  Our life.  I consider myself to be a serious musician, but I love to talk about real topics that matter to people.  I sing about topics that people only think about quietly to themselves, in fear of someone laughing at them, or thinking that they're weird. I write songs for those people.  To me music is like breathing, and if I could have held my breath under the water longer that day to listen to those RAW natural sounds, I would have.  That's the way music should be.  Its like air, you can never get enough of it!
Mike "Mojo" Sutton
1/2 of Rough Cuts, a grizzled Texas Song Writing Duo, writes:
I grew up in an apartment above an establishment named Bob's Bar.  Bob's bar was infamous for being a low down esablishment.  It was the only bar in town that brought in "topless" dancers from the big city about once a month on the weekends.  I remember not only hearing the music, but, also feeling it through the floor.  Most of the songs had a strong back beat.  I guess it was easier to take your clothes off to.  Those wonderful childhood memories ....(the smell of stale beer in the morning, the wiped out looks from the dancers that would stay in the apartment across the hall, drunks asleep on the stairway).  I miss those day!  How did it shape me musically?  Let's say it has led to a life that has been rich (twisted) and provided many intersting situations to write about.  Dare to come to listen.  Visit it as our website "Rough Cuts, Living at a Lower Social Level".
Dave Crighton
An Alternative /electronica/ rock/ metal addict, writes:
The first memory i have of music that influenced me to start writing was hearing some guys in the 6th for play nothing else matters by metallica on two guitars only. It was the best song i had ever heard. I borrowed their (metallica's) album from the library and listened. It was of course the much acclaimed black album and the harmony parts are what inspire me most. The best thing is that they dont just apply to guitar. The same type of harmonies work with synths, keyboards bass whatever and lyrically metallica are stunning especially the amazing "sad but true" this concept of a forced relationship inspired a lot of my songs especially one of my favourite ones which i call mannequin.
Bob Clayton
Songster and writer, musician and bureaucrat, writes:
I grew up in a family where making music was something you did regularly.  My uncles (my career Army father wasn't at home, so the male role models were uncles and cousins) played guitar or banjo, and sang, and even wrote songs. My mother played some rudimentary piano, and we'd sing from the "Golden Book of Favorite Songs."  The music was popular and country, with country being the predominant style.  I remember a summer I stayed at my uncle's farm and would fall asleep listening to the AC/DC radio, set to a country station.  Spade Cooley, Hank Williams, Kitty Wells.  These were my aural influences.

Later on, I moved to Washington, DC,  got a guitar, and started learning to play. The folk boom was reverberating, and I fell into the scene easily. Learned enough to know I liked this music and that in some ways it was much like what I'd grown up listening to.  I later learned about true hillbilly music (1920s & 30s style) and the roots of folk as well as rock and country.  I try to bring as much of that into my playing and writing as possible, but some styles are stronger than others and it shows.  For example, even the pop songs I write are straight out of the 1955-65 mold, not the later rock pattern.  My countryish songs are folky, my folky songs are rocky, and my rocky songs are down-home.  I'm not into that "songer- singwriter" mold of introverted, Dylanesque ramblings about my feelings -- who cares how I feel? -- nor do I write songs with a "groove" (whatever that is).  In many ways, I write as if I were writing for my uncles, particularly for Buddy, who himself was a country song writer who never "made it" in any big way.  Or maybe I'm writing for Blind Alfred Reed or Vernon Dalhart, and just don't know it.


Rhonda Trull
A songwriter from Georgia, writes:
My earliest memory of music is of my grandmother playing an acoustic guitar and singing gospel music on stage.  I thought she was the coolest person in the world.  My mom, brother and me were singing and travelling together from the time I was about 8 or 9 years old.  I think the greatest impact my early experience had on me as a musician is in the area of songwriting.  My view of the world is always optimistic, and I have strong faith that there is almost always something good to be found in almost every situation.  That point of view makes for uplifting songs. 
Phil Grigg
Novis Ameture song writer, writes:
My first memory is sitting in my bedroom listening to Little Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tub, Hank Snow, and Hank Williams.  For those of you who do not know these giants, they were THE country singers of the early 50's (before Elvis).  I remember when I heard "Hound Dog" by Elvis I did NOT like him!!  But, when he made "Heart Break Hotel", I liked that.  I switched to Rock 'n Roll in the late 50's, then switched back to Country shortly after Disco.  I guess Country is still my favorite music.  I also like light rock and the 60's 70's rock n' roll.  Most of the songs I write are country along with some light rock and blues.
~Angel~
A songwriter/singer from Illinois, writes:
My first memory of music is hearing my dad sit downstairs and listen to Elvis Presley. I grew up listening to rock and roll, and I think that really shows in my music. I have many rock and roll groups that are my favorites, and I think you can tell from my lyrics that rock and roll definitely started me out in the music industry.
Althea Valentine
A 16 year old female who just finished composing her first song, writes:
My first memory of music is when i was 4 years old. I was traveling on the subway and started singing a whitney huston song. It was a totally positive experience for me. The people clapped, and gave me the motivation I needed to learn the piano, guitar, and sing.

DavidPiano
A pianist/starting songwriter from Toronto, writes:
My first memory of music I know of is listening to Neil Diamond's Hot August Night II as an infant. I personally don't recall this, because I was an infant. This has been said to me by my parents. The first memory I personally can recall is hearing Billy Joel's 52nd Street album when I was 3. Billy, I guess, made me want to play piano and I still love his composition skills and pianisms. Both Diamond and Joel I guess later in life made me want to venture into songwriting. I have yet to parallel them in quality, but I don't think anyone can.
L. Chapman Jones
A songwriter from KY, writes:
I remember the first transistor radio I received at Christmas some where around 1961 or 62. At night I would place it under my pillow and listen to WSAI in Cincinnati. They played rock and roll at the time. My parents would get aggravated as some nights they could hear the music. However, the crash of my radio hitting the floor at three o'clock in the morning realy did the trick. Dad gave me the first Beatles album, on the Vee-Jay label at Easter 1964. That was all it took. I was seriously hooked. As I grew up with the Beatles and listened to them change, I grew very aware of music styles I had not heard in my early years. I found a folk singer, Bob Dylan, and a country singer named Kris Kristofferson. My whole outlook on music changed. From that point on my entire musical life has been centered on acoustic material. I then found Gordon Lightfoot and Doc Watson and a bit later John Prine. These great writers and singers have made me think, read and learn about writing on life and love. Writing about what matters. And playing with a passion. Only recently have I begun writing seriously. However, as I write and play, I feel their influences. But if it wasn't for the Fab Four, I don't think I be playing today. Thanks for the opportunity.
Kevin King
A Performing Songwriter, Toronto, Ontario (Canada), writes:
This year, as a gift for my father, I put all his favorite songs from his old albums, even some 78's, onto cassette for him. Every song had a memory attached to it. My earliest memories involve my family listening, dancing and singing together and always in celebration of something. For myself, music now is always in celebration of living and FEELING ALIVE. I love sharing this with an audience.
Thomas
A songwriter in Tucson, writes:
A seven year old boy sitting on a couch well after bedtime, mom on one side, dad on the other, listening to Bruno conduting either the Ormandy Philharmonic, or the CBS Orchestra (can't remember which)through Beethoven's Ninth. The music and the circumstances provided a symmetry and balance that I try to explore and affirm in each song. The sciences precipitate order out of chaos more efficiently and pragmatically, but music allows you to dance upon entropy.
Alexia
A Published Songwriter, Singer, Musician, writes:
I remember my dad having the day off and, sometimes, on saturdays turning off the t.v. and playing records for hours.  Everything from Statler Bros. and Waylon Jennings to Olivia Newton-John or Elvis.  I would lay in the floor and just listen with him.  At that time, radio became a very important connection for me to "my kind of music".  My brother and I used to keep notebooks as we would listen in the evenings to different stations.  We would write down the name of the artist, song, and station call letters.  We would then rate them with stars indicating which ones we thought would "be a hit."  We'd wait for the Top 40 countdowns to "check our charts."  To this day, I always know when I hear a winner.  I try to remember how the singable melodies or cool hooks (though I didn't know that was what they were called then) moved me in those days, when I am songwriting in whatever style.
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