Monday, June 22, 2009

The Evolution of the Disclaimer (thoughts on songwriting)

I’ve found that there are many evolutions of a songwriter. This is especially true for co-writing. For example, there is the evolution of the disclaimer.

When one first starts co-writing they will often have ideas that will filter though the different rooms in their mind... and when almost to the entryway...almost ready to edge out of ones lips... the realization hits that this is in fact, a bad idea. It’s too cheesy, It’s been done.

Did I really just rhyme heart with start? Grace with place? Whoo, I’m glad I filtered that before they thought I was a bad writer. close call...

After awhile when one gets stuck in a certain writing session it will come to pass that some of those thoughts are let loose. The thought of not contributing any ideas at all becomes unbearable and there is no stopping the "bad" ones. However, this is where the disclaimer comes in. Before the horrible, no good, very bad, idea sees the light of day, you will hear things like:

“now this is probably a horrible idea but...”
“okay, I'm just gonna throw this out there...”
“I know this sounds cheesy, but what about...”

It’s inevitable. Find me a songwriter than has not used the disclaimer. Find me a human.

I have a friend that I recently saw for the first time in months. We were good friends growing up and now only see each other over the holidays if we’re lucky. She is almost opposite of me. She looks great in heels and earrings and button up shirts and her hair is always done. I, on the other hand, wear the same pair of shoes with every outfit, and I’m lucky if I remember to brush my hair in the mornings. She works a real 9 to 5 job with a salary and coworkers and staff meetings. I couldn’t even begin to describe my job to you but it wouldn’t sound anything like that. On the outside she is much more put together than me. However, seeing her the other night reminded me how easy she is to be around, how simply enjoyable she is. I walked away feeling quite good about myself. And the reason is because she is confident. Which in turn, made me confident. I’m sure she has, but I can’t remember a time when I heard her use a disclaimer. She is who she is and she loves the people around her for who they are, differences and all. It’s refreshing.

I really think that songwriters are notoriously insecure. Maybe creative types in general. It’s hard to put something together with the materials you have available and then reveal it to someone else. Because what if they see through the half written verse and realize that I am in fact, void of substance. Void of anything worthwhile to say. This is the voice every creative person must fight off. This thought process only leads to disaster. We must revert back to kindergarten where “no question is a bad question.”

It seems even the best ones have their set backs, but in the evolution of a songwriter, one arrives at a place where idea after idea gets freely tossed into the pile of words and melodies in the middle of the room without any disclaimers. Warts and all. There is little room for filters in co-writing. The truth is, when someone's bad idea is combined with someone else's bad idea, the result can be a very good idea, or at least an organized bad idea that leads to a good idea. Because although I do think there are bad ones (and I have come up with mounds of them) ...a songwriter must go into a writing session with the thought that in fact, “no idea is a bad idea”. A confident vulnerability is crucial to a successful co-writing experience. Insecurity is a waste of time.


Fuad said...

Wow... that was quite informative.
I really enjoyed reading it.

thanks :)

Nelson from Texas said...

I'm thrilled that you're back online, so we can keep up with the adventures of Alli and James.

See you in Texas (when it cools off some). It's so sunny and hot, I'm thinking about getting a solar oven to cook with.

Corey Ann said...

Dear Alli,
I tried to find a way to email you but alas couldn't find a contact here part of your website. You don't know me...I actually went with my dear friends the Hunters (Josh and Jesse...they are in Jamacia in the PC right now)to a show you did in Nashville with Derek and Sandra a few years back. Anyway...I have been in Cambodia for a year and a half now working with girls rescued from trafficking. About 6 months ago...I started really struggling with a lot and your song nothing to cry about really began to speak to me. God keeps using your music and lyrics to refresh and renew me to continue on in Him. At one point you say "letting go is not romantic" Lair's Dream I think...and it's reminded me so much of why I'm here and who it's for...not me. I just really wanted to thank you and let you know that half a world away your music is being blasted and sung at the tops of someone's lungs. (I thankfully just have a dog that doesn't seem to mind!) Right now I'm chewing on Closer to the Moon...Corey at