At Song School we get a chance to sing one song for our fellow Song Schoolers. Just like any open Mic, they like it if you keep it short and sing the song. This is what I've been thinking I would say, but never will.
"I love Song School. I had no idea how special Song School was until I started talking with other songwriters who've never had the pleasure of doing some real hard work, feeling real stupid in front of fellow writers and being challenged to work harder. Song School gave me all of that.
I was pretty early on in my songwriting life when I showed up here, sang a song I thought was priceless and then had my ass handed to me by an esteemed colleague in a circle of other songwriters who were all just taking turns getting their dreams shattered.
That's a good thing. It taught me to get past being proud of myself for writing something down and get down to the hard business of writing something worthwhile. The world doesn't need another song. The world needs dynamite that blows shit up. That's the kind of song the world needs. Most of us can't do it on our own. Most of us need some guidance from people further down the road in order to hit on pay dirt. That's what Song School is about.
When you're at the ranch you get homework. Re-do a verse, try the chorus but slow it down, dig deeper, cry, co-write with a stranger, resolve to do an Open Mic every month until next year, try singing your songs to your family. There's lots of homework. I'd like to give out some homework now to anyone who is listening.
1. Stop reigning in your awesomeness. Stop tempering what you can do because you've decided your place in life won't allow it. Be unapologetically huge and go blow up some buildings (artistically speaking). Shake up the norm, be the craziest person you know, practice fearlessness. Stop doing what you think you're supposed to do and do what you feel called to do. Of course, you're still going to have to do the dishes and the laundry and take out the trash, but that doesn't mean you can't become a technicolor version of your everyday self. Do it.
2. And then your homework is this: freak out every headliner you open for. Freak out every person who goes after you at the Open Mic. Make your writing group work harder by bringing your heart and guts and pouring them out on the dining room table every time you meet. The world doesn't need softball, lukewarm, color inside the lines kind of artists. The world needs uncontrollable energy and fearlessness. Every headliner should hear your set and feel like they need to be working harder. Every Open Mic artist needs to hear you bringing your eleven so they go home and try to do it themselves. Every person in your writing group needs to be challenged by you so they entertain the possibility of opening doors they usually leave alone. Seriously. The world doesn't need another artist to play it safe. The world needs more of what you've got to give. Work harder, dig deeper, become the headliner. Even if you're like me- a doughy mom with frizzy hair and a farmer's tan. Do it.
3. Yes, this is about revolution. It's about ignoring the pecking order and harnessing your best work. Welcome the times you sing a song and get your ass handed to you. That's a good thing. It's preparing you to find the song that's a few songs down the line. Tell the other songwriters this. The world wants to lull us into complacency. You can see it everywhere. The world wants us to paint by numbers and click on the next episode. Refuse. Serve your family, serve your neighbor with love, with bravery and with your artistry. Part of me thinks it's the only way for us to get out of this mess we've created. Now here's my song...."