Finding Your Mermaid
by Rod A. McMillan (BMI)
Shortly after I volunteered to submit an article to the Muse's News, my wife and I were talking and I said, "Hey Hon, maybe you could write an article about what it's like being married to a songwriter".
She instantly replied "I could sum that up in two words".
You see my wife is somewhat prone to vulgarities, Her mother being a sea captain. One who took the phrase, "swears like a sailor" to heart.
So needless to say, here I sit with the clickety clack of a two fingered typist hammering out rhythms into the wee hours. Which luckily seem to be my most creative times.
I believe there are as many ways to write a song as there are songwriters. Music is totally subjective so anyone trying to say this or that is the way you write a song is just plain arrogant. On the other hand people basically want to hear something they are familiar with so structure can be important when trying to write commercially, I have had songs sent back by the publisher simply because I didn't type the lyrics out in the format he/she preferred.
There is not allot I can share on commercially successful song writing since success still alludes me, but I did see a quote attributed to Bill Cosby when asked about success, "I don't know much about the way to succeed, but the easiest way to fail is by trying to please everyone." This makes sense to me, along the lines of "To thine own self be true". You have to write what you feel, not what someone wants you to feel. or what you might assume someone else feels. That is what music is about, the expression of feelings, passion, despair, ecstasy. It is easy to see why most songs are about love in one way or another. Love is easily the most disruptive of all life forces, The most glaring of all human frailties. One of the hardest to explain because there are no intangibles to hang on to, so people look to their poets, their muse to explain it.
I do try to write to be commercial. It doesn't make sense to me to try to be obscure. I follow certain parameters, i.e.: subject matter, melody, tempo, etc... I believe there are still thousands of songs to be written within the realms of "pop" without having to create my own genre.
"Well" you say, "doesn't this stifle creativity"? and the obvious answer is "yes", to some degree, but on the other hand I write so that I may share my creativity with others, and with my songs floundering in obscurity, this just ain't gonna happen.
Another point I want to try to make is simplicity. Simply simplicity sells. The more convoluted your music/lyrics become, the less chance of commercial success. There are not a large percentage of the listening populace who want to sit back and analyze your music, but rather prefer the soundtrack mentality, playing in the background to accompany their lives, bringing style and image. wherein image is as important as content
This brings me back to my wife, (don't ask me how???).
When we first met, and before I had ever seriously considered trying to make money at song writing, I had written a song I affectionately call "Mermaid". It contained lines I personally thought were great, such as: mermaid you can live in my swimming pool, do all those things you do so well, cuz I'm in love.
Sharing this with you now I am tempted to re-write much of it, to at the very least, present myself as a serious lyricist.
It went on to say: I'll bring you little fishes, feed you from my hand. I'll tear out all my grass and trees and fill my yard with sand, cuz you're a mermaid.
Well to this day my wife will use this song as an example of my ability to write an absolutely horrid lyric. I on the other hand still kinda like it. It was fun to write. Do I believe it will ever make it on the charts? I doubt I would ever submit it. But I do have to write volumes of absolutely horrid lyrics so that once in a while I can write that gem that falls together with lyric and melody, substance and mood, that makes all the constant rejection of song writing worthwhile.
So I asked her again, "what's it like to be married to a songwriter"?
And she replied, "Ain't bad".
Rod A. McMillan (BMI) (NSAI) penned his first song at age 10 and performed it for his classmates. It has been an ongoing addiction since then, but only in the past 6-7 years has he begun taking his talents seriously. He continues to strive towards that first hit song so that he can realize his desired occupation. His web page can be viewed at: http://members.wbs.net/homepages/t/r/a/tralfaz1.html