Revealing a slice of the past.
I started dabbling in songwriting on my own many, many years back now.
Huddled over my guitar, in my little room in NE Wisconsin, working it out best I could. But, I wanted to get serious about it.
Years later up near the Minnesota/Canadian border, at a Jon Vezner songwriting workshop, I’m in this room of other writers. Each playing their song for Jon and crew to hatchet them up good with critiques.
My turn came.
I hadn’t played much in front of anyone solo at this point, let alone my own tunes, and in front of the likes of Jon, Michael Johnson, and others.
So I do it.
To my surprise, there was very little criticism to my tune.
An odd syllable stress or two, a couple word changes, maybe a chord here or there different… not much really.
Okay, it wasn’t a Top 40 tune, but still.
Then Jon cocks his head, stares at me and says…
Do you gig out?
“Me?” I say. “Ha-ha. Oh no.”
Then he handed me my-ass. Oh, he was nice about it.
“Alright. I’ve got an assignment for you. I want you to get out there and start gigging your songs.”
Jon didn’t’ know it, but Unlike most folks, I didn’t know any cover tunes. Not a single one.
And I didn’t have enough of my own songs I felt were good enough to make it three times around a song circle jam, let alone a solo gig.
Even to this day, a cover tune in my gigs is a rarity.
So, I started writing.
Then, I took Jon’s directive to heart and started gigging my own stuff.
Okay. Embarrassing confession here.
I did my own tunes, because if I performed a cover tune I felt I’d be judged.
And, no one could judge me on my own stuff, because it’s me.
I was fine if you didn’t like me, my views, or my songs, but I wasn’t comfortable if my rendition of a cover didn’t meet your expectation.
I know. Just the Opposite of so many songwriters. Most feel vulnerable about putting their heart out in song, and try sneaking them in between covers.
Guess I’ve always believed I should live life on my own terms.
The bread and butter I’ve earned in music has been done with my own creation.
No cover bands.
No bands at all.
Just soloing my own tunes, and enough covers I can count them without pulling off my shoes.
When it came to songwriting and performing, Jon helped me carry out my beliefs.
There’s one verse of Jon’s I can’t get past… and neither should you…
“It doesn’t interest me if your planets are aligned,
If your signs are well defined,
And your career is right on track.
It doesn’t interest me if you’re faithful and you’re true,
If you’re not true to you,
Then where’s the truth in that?”
–Tell Me What You Ache For—From Jon’s We’ll Remember album.
Great tune. Go pick up a copy of the album.
Getting out there being yourself…
Talkin’ with the people who tell you how much a song meant to them…
Watching someone walk out of a room in tears because you touched their heart…
Or putting chuckles in their belly after a hard day…
That’s what it’s about for me.
Can’t do that unless you are being you…
And, unless you’ve got the craft down good.
I can’t teach you to be you, but can nudge you along in the craft.
Thanks Jon, for sticking it to me about the gigging thing and being true to myself, it’s made me a writer I’d never have been.