I can't tell you how I went from a girl to a writer to a songwriter, but I can tell you there were songs and albums that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let me go.
When I was a kid it was a cassette of Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park. It was fascinating and I listened and listened and listened up in my bedroom all by myself.
Then when Katerina from Czech Republic came to live with us and put Queen in the motor home tape deck for the first time when we drove up to the Sierras, I heard music like I hadn't heard before. She brought six albums of Queen on that trip and we listened to them on repeat. Queen, Queen II, A Night at The Opera, A Day at The Races, Innuendo and A Kind of Magic.
Then later in high school I fell in love with a Belgian and wallowed in it with R.E.M Automatic for the People. In college my friend Amie let me listen to her Joni Mitchell Blue and my head exploded.
Fast forward to the first time I heard Darrell Scott and was instantly mesmerized and then probably five or so years after that I wrote my first song. The songs I write aren't important. Right now I'm thinking about the songs other people write.
Since becoming a songwriter I've heard bigger badder artists talk about how the greats have inspired them and taught them, but I have been reluctant to learn the canon and be the student. Well, I need to become the student again. I need to start listening for a while in order to get a better grip on what I'm doing.
Last week I went out and bought some Johnny Cash, some Kris Kristofferson, some Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. I know those guys, but I don't know much and now I'm determined to learn. I'll need Bobbie Gentry and probably Leonard Cohen, and one of these days I'll get the guts up to listen to Lori McKenna. Each one of those songwriters has tools and tricks that I don't have, they have a voice all their own. I'm not looking to change what I do, but I am looking to get a bigger toolbox and have a better handle on the craft. I think I mentioned that I was reading Todd Snider's book? Well, Todd Snider is crazy, but he sure knows how to listen and learn from artists who know more than him. That's what I want to do. Back when I was a kid/young person I let songs sink in and do their work without my even noticing. This time it'll be more intentional, but I need that work to sink in. Sometimes I feel guilty for listening instead of writing my own stuff, but it's necessary and it feels real good when songs sink in.