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How much does a songwriter's personality influence your enjoyment of his/her music?


Tim
A musician/songwriter/producer from Toronto, Ontario, writes:
I think that the personality of the songwriter always comes through, so you are no doubt going to be influenced by it. Chances are, if it is a great song, there will be a piece of that person in the music and lyrics. Does it matter what the person is like? I think the best and most human parts of someone come through in their song. I don't think it's important that we "like" the person since (I'm getting a little philosophical here ) it's usually our own biases that make us like or not like someone else. The important thing is that we get a chance to share an experience created by the writer. I'm sure we have always gained something from people we have never known or those we do not need to be friends with. There is always that teacher or mentor, in spite of their personalities (or distasteful personal habits ), who has added value to our lives and contributed to our personal growth.
K.V. McLennan
An Australian Songwriters' Association member, writes:
Most people have no idea who wrote what wonderful words. The words themselves have their own life if they endgender a response in people. Throughout history the arts were peopled by gifted people who often displayed curious behaviours for their own times. Their behaviours were not what mede them famous or respected.  Their artistry did that. 
Dusty Bray
An amature songwriter from Georgia, writes:
I think that the composer's personality plays a very large role in their writing style.  For instance, Hyden's "Surprise" Symphony portrays his love for practical jokes, which he had quite a reputation for.  Without these elements throughout his works, he would have failed to make his pieces original and interesting.!
Axer
A songwriter/guitarist from California, writes:
Just one note of caution: I sent out tapes of a finished band album in the late Eighties to two dozen of the best known indie labels (and a couple of the big companies for the heck of it), and only got one response (from TVT). So I've learned never to make unsolicited mailings.
Cherie
A songwriter from New York, writes:
I feel that a songwriter's personality can count for a lot because their personality plays a part in the kind of music they write and because of that it can sometimes determine whether people like their music. I would rather listen to someone whose personality was similar to mine because chances are we would have similar musical tastes.
Shawn M. Proctor
A writer and musician from PA, writes:
To examine this problem I will show one good and one bad example.  Then an example of my own.  Dar Williams is a great songwriter.  She remembers people's names, even when they haven't seen her in a couple years.  She is friendly, even after a long show/tour.  Since her songs are personal and emotional, I believe it is important for her to reveal herself, in some ways, as a person.  Since her music ultimately is self-revealing, a fan of her music comes to know about her.  That is a good example of a person understanding the content of the music and reacting to fans accordingly.  However, the band, Live, is a bad example.  My friend met the lead singer and is active in the Punk music community.  He was walking through a bookstore where Live was signing autographs.  The lead singer (I forget his name) said: "Hey, you want an autograph?"  My friend, who did not really really know who they were (this was early in their career).  My friend replied, "No, thanks."  And the guy from Live flipped out and said, "What?  Don't you KNOW who I am?  Why wouldn't you want MY autograph?"  My friend merely walked away.  He left him alone because he knew that the man was drunk on his own popularity.  Since then I sold my Live albums and don't pay attention to them anymore.  It was just that Live comes from my state and they basically seemed so arrogant when I listened to their music afterwards.  They are a bad example for musicians.  If you know you have become popular, be friendly to people you don't know.  Never suggest to someone that they take your autograph.  They might not know who you are! 

My personal experience:  I hadn't played out yet and I was in line to buy a CD at a concert.  A couple young ladies walked up to me and said: "Hi, can I get your autogragh?"  I replied, "Sure.  But, could you tell me why? I think you have me confused with someone else."  They said I looked like a local musician they like and seemed generally embarrassed.  I learned something for my next reaction, I tried to lessen their embarrassment and make them feel good about themselves at the same time.  I said, "I have a pretty familar face, it happens a lot.  But, in a couple years when I have started to play out a lot, ask me again.  Then I'll have earned your respect."  They seemed to feel better.  I thanked them for their kind mistake and they left.  This is a good lesson for musicians caught in a wierd situation: lessen their embarrassment, make the event seem common, then put the people (formerly in a bad light) into a good light.  Make them feel good about themselves.  In all situations make the people who have made a mistake feel better.  They will look back on the memory and thank you later.


Jule Carey
A singer/songwriter from New Jersey, writes:
In my opinion a songwriter's personality can only be examined after the initial interest is captured through the song(s).  If the music in engaging and you like it enough..further interest in the artist(s) himself would be explored.  Certain artists such as Springsteen play upon origion and personality as a real integral part of their overall musical appeal...Warren Zevon, plays upon his obscurity and noncommercialism as his appeal.  Other bands have overall vibes that may appear as personalities, but could be commercial ruses by record companies..such as Greenday.  The music comes first..everyone has natural types of music they enjoy and look for...an artists personality is always evident in his/her musical style.  If a song is great to listen to such as some new material by The Virve, one might explore personalities further..however, most people listen to the radio and plain old enjoy what they hear..no matter who is behind the face.   Some artists may purchase songs and not be the originators of the material anyway!  The messages through music are the number one issue, not the personal lives of those who present it...
Heather Borean
A singer, song writer from Mississauga, Ontario, writes:
To tell the truth it depends on a number of things.  People I really don't like (there are NOT many of these around) can write really good, inspiring songs.  People I like a lot can write boring tedious songs.  But I think that I'm willing to give people I like more slack in listening to them.  ie: I'm less critical than I might be.

I am however always willing to give credit where credit is due.  If a song is terrific and I hate the person who wrote it,  the song is still terrific.


Kim LaBadie
A beginning songwriter from Pa, writes:
It doesn't really matter to me what that person's personality is.  as long as they can write gut-wrenching, powerful, heartfelt lyrics.  Intensity, to me, is everything!!     :)
Amy Rempel
A contemporary Christian recording artist in Ontario, Canada, writes:
If I know that somebody's personality stinks before I hear their song, chances are I won't bother with it. If I hear a good song, and find out later they're different it kind of ruins it for me.  I like honest music.  At the same time, everybody's human, and I think ALL of us have faults.  Nobody's perfect, which is hard to remember in this business where everything is made to look spotless.
Jennifer Adams
A 13 year old wanna be country music singer from Edmonton Alberta, Canada, writes:
I think if the song is really good than the person who wrote it would be nice. It doesn't matter as long as they are friendly to people. .
Ava
A music lover from NJ, writes:
Usually, all I care about is the music. Unless there is a need for me to find out about the person's life, or unless they do something that really offends me, I only concentrate on their lyrics and sound. If I like their songs, it doesn't matter what kind of person they are.
Melanie Crabtree
A Mean Woman Singer/Songwriter from GA, writes:
My enjoyment of a writer's art is adversely impacted if that individual turns out to be a poser. Some people create an image, because they believe they must in order to be "cool" or to soften up the female listener,whatever the marketing strategy and target market dictate. But I have tossed out CDs when I meet an artist who turns out to be a jerk, all puffed up with success.
Fred Haddock
A songwriter from El Paso, writes:
I find myself avoiding the music of a great songwriter if their personality is unpleasant.I still can respect their talent but I will be turned off to what they have to offer.Sometimes there are artists who write music that reflects on the flaw in thier personality.This music I can enjoy.I find truth in music refreshing.
Alison Lorraine
A songwriter/musician/indie record label owner/publisher, writes:
I REALLY cannot stand it when someone who has had success (i.e., multiplatinum sales) cops a holier- than thou attitude.  The only difference between them and every other songwriter or musician is LUCK.
May Lebrun
A songwriter and singer/musician from Ontario, Canada, writes:
I try to be impartial when listening to a song, but I don't believe it is possible to be 100% unaffected by the personality of the songwriter.  This is because so much of a songwriter's personality goes into what he writes.  I can appreciate songs that come from those with what I would consider to be offensive or objectionable personalities and, to some degree, I can see their point of view, but to really let my hair down and get right into it takes more effort.  It takes time to break down the walls between personalities and the art of bridge-building is more complicated when there is a clash of personalities.  This is not only true in songwriting.  It transfers into other areas of my life as well.  One example of the personality of a songwriter affecting the way I enjoy his song happened in my songwriter's club.  One man there wrote a beautiful song that I really liked.  It was melodic and insightful..so thoughtful, then he spoke and his words were harsh, brittle and condemning towards me (and we had never even met).  The song was still beautiful, but I distanced myself from it because it brought my personal experience with that songwriter to the surface.  Unfortunate, but true...and I do love to hear a good song.
Craig Danilowicz
An armchair philosopher from Pennsylvania, writes:
The answer to your question can be applied to any piece of art.  No the songwriter's personality does not have any influence.  If the person (the listener in this case) takes the piece of art seriously then they will make it their own.  By this I mean that their personality will be the one that influences the meaning and enjoyment of the music.  It is artwork that is being created here even if it does put food on the table.  There is nothing I hate more than when someone tries to tell someone else what a song/poem/book/painting...ect. is supposed to mean.
Joe Kesselman
A songwriter from NY, writes:
Hard question.I guess my gut reaction is "It _shouldn't_ matter", for the same reasons that I feel a song's meaning is ultimately what it means TO YOU, not necessarily what the author intended it to mean.

On the other hand, there can be a definite cognative clash if I suddenly discover that the author's practices are in direct opposition to the point of view their song expresses.

On the other other hand, isn't that ability to clearly express ideas -- whether they're yours or those of a character in the song -- what the craft of writing is all about? I wouldn't have to be a sailor cruising the red-light district, or a corrupt politician, or a non-human intelligence to write a song from those points of view (though it might help). Why should I be surprised if a corrupt nonhuman sailor happened to write a song that captured _my_ beliefs?

Yes, there are some performers who are just plain hard to deal with (though more often, their agents or roadies are hard to deal with). That might affect whether I'd really be enthusiastic about their performing at the coffeehouse I run sound for. But unless they're really intolerable, I'm not at all convinced it would affect my likelihood of learning/singing/buying their songs. I've known too many obnoxious types who none the less had something useful to say.

I guess this means that I don't feel the "who you are determines what you write" truism is quite as absolute as has been postulated. It will certainly bias the output. But -- especially for folks who are trying to make a living at this -- it may only affect which songs they _want_ to write, or find easy to write, and not actual production.

"What you need most as a songwriter is sincerity. Once you learn to fake that, you've got it made."


William Corson
A songwriter from ohio-really, writes:
Normally the personality has no effect on my opinion of a songwriters work-You don't know the songwriter other than what you read or see on TV. You can't judge someone like that. However, some performers have turned me off by attitudes they present in concert For example- one performer said "Your all mindless morons" I can't help thinking about that whenever I Listen to their music.
CJ
A songwriter from Nashville, writes:
I believe that true emotion that is put into or not put into music is clearly evident in the delivery. You can hear in the singers voice or in the way he or she plays wether or not the music is soulful and heartfelt; and after all, music is about passion not perfection. So, I think, yes...the person's personality is definately a huge part of their music and I, like many others, I'm sure, connect with artists that I feel are similar in personality as I am. No matter what the artist is like personality-wise..it always comes out in their music. It affects everything.
eddie "scat" grimm
A songwriter/poet from ohio, writes:
good writing is very important, so is personality and attitude.  there are a lot of songs i like but the performer acts like  jerk  so i won't buy their music new.  i buy it at second time around stores or off a friend but they don't get my money.  so actions are equally important to a successful songwriting career.
JL Kondula
A songwriter/composer from New York City, writes:
I feel that the songwriter's personality is probably the most important aspect of all, after having musical talent, of course. It is the writer's personality that can have the hugest impact on whether the music is truly brilliant or not. Whether the music is dark and surly (Marilyn Manson), light and melancholy (Loreena McKennit) or fits of god-knows-what  (Queen, my all-time favorite), it is the product of the writer's heart and mind that rivets us to the music. Have you ever known a writer (maybe even yourself every once in a while) who will do a song outside of him or herself, because he/she wants to sound like someone else on the charts at the moment? It will undoubtedly always sound gratuitous for some reason. The greatest and most affecting music is always a direct product of the songwriter's innermost personality, no matter what type of personality that may be: someone humourous and fun-loving down to someone in great need of psychiatric help. If you truly are able to write what you are inside, no matter what the genre (or better yet, no describable genre at all!) the music can't help but be brilliant.
C.D.
A NY songwriter, writes:
I'm a fan of early period Elton John and Freddie Mercury. I can't believe how many times people have asked how I could listen to their songs when I knew they were homosexual. My answer is why should it matter what a person chooses as a lifestyle if the songs they write are capable of striking something ] deep within you. I'd hate to think someone wouldn't listen to my songs, despite whether or not they liked them, because they didn't agree with an aspect of my personality.
Alf
A songwriter from Oslo, Norway, writes:
The songwriter's personality is so irrelevant. The songwriter, too. If you can't keep the song and the writer separated, you're not entitled to an opinion. If the local Adolf H. had an album out, I would certainly boicott him, but that could not hinder me in secretly admire his 'wonderful songs', if that was what he wrote.
Bruce Miller
A guitarist/songwriter from west of Boston, writes:
I feel that that a great composer will reveal her/himself to you in the textures created within the composition. What Really moves me is when an artist takes a musical chance to step into a zone that is unfamiliar ..Then we both discover and appreciate musical growth. The best part of a song can be the artist confronting what he likes least about him/herself.Bottom line..Great stuff is Great stuff.You can't fully appreaciate the light untill you've expirienced darkness.
Jerry Flattum
A Contributor to Muse's Muse; B.S. degree in Songwriting, writes:
If I were a psychologist, I might diagnose the person who asks this question as having a "Cyrano de Bergerac Syndrome."  You know the tale by Balzac:  Cyrano is a wonderful poet, but an ugly one (or so he thinks). He has a huge nose. He is in love with a fair woman, but because of his insecurity cannot approach her because he believes she will runaway once she sees his ugly nose. So he solicits the aid of a dashing and handsome man to stand beneath her window while Cyrano, hiding in the bushes, whispers magical verses of poetry which the handsome man in turn, recites back to the lovely woman. She is enraptured, and it is the poetry she falls in love with, not the good looks of the gorgeous young man.

Researchers have done some research into the personalities of rock musicians, but not much.  Even less info is available on songwriters.  Songwriters who perform are, of course, more well known for who they are than songwriters who don't perform.  Many performers are considered beautiful, and this is very much a part of their allure.  But if looks were a criteria for good songwriting, we would never see the likes of a Paul Simon or Bob Dylan.  I'm not implying these guys are not good looking.  It's just that it is meaningless whether they are or not.  As for personality, Springsteen is an excellent reference where the embodiment of the person and the songs he writes are one and the same.  Springsteen's style comes from Springsteen the man.  Where this question really comes into play is songwriters who don't perform.  I think its fair to say that many of world's greatest songs are written by writers who fall far short of the standards of beauty and personality. Some have the looks and personalities of nerdy grocery clerks.  Others are quite timid and shy.  Others are drunks or addicts--people no one wants to be around.  Beyond the myths and dazzle of showbiz, its important to keep in mind that songs are written by ordinary people.  Songwriters have families, play the roles of mom and dad and have friends and lose friends.  Their emotions cover the gamut of human expression, from irate and rebellious, to demure and conformist. As for me personally, I've always said that if you want to know who I am, its all in my songs.  This is true to a degree.  I can write a dance tune, but this doesn't mean I'm the kind of person who hangs out in discos every weekend.  Also, I can write a song you think is one of the world's best, but that doesn't mean you'll get along with me.  Many songwriters have troubled lives, not just as the result of fate, but because of their personalities.  They might be shy, or angry, or don't talk much, or don't even know how to have fun.  They are moody and sit in dark rooms or alone in parks and would rather work on rhyme schemes than attend picnics and parties.  They can be boisterous and obnoxious, yet write tender love ballads.  Not all songs are written from the heart or are an expression of who you are.  But who you are very much determines the kinds of songs you write.  It's very paradoxical.  Can you write a grass roots folk song but yet are politically conservative?  Can you write a dance tune but never dance yourself?  Can you write a love song without ever really being in love?  Can you write a hard driving rocker but spend most of your time taking care of kids and running errands?  Songs are often an expression of what we feel, not necessarily who we are.  The quest is to cross the bridge between who we are and what we feel.


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