This is simple...
I regularly participate in a monthly meeting, first tuesday of every month, in a meeting of writers called "the writers' guild" that is hosted by David Hampton at Christ Community Church. It's not intended to be a meeting of songwriters focused on sacred music because of where it meets. It's just hosted there because the arts are integral to the community, and it's a central place to do it. Simple enough. I often attend to listen and offer thoughts, not to present songs. I do this as a producer, not as a writer. But last night, I presented one song out of a project I'm producing, and thus writing for as well. But my comments aren't about anything I did there. I just find this a remarkable group. It's not a set of remarkable talents. No more so than any other such group in town, I'm sure. But I find the value of such groups to be remarkable. And there are all too few of them. I am reposting my comments that I posted on the group page on Facebook page for the group, which is actually a closed page. But if anyone is interested in joining the group on the first tuesday night of each month, let me know, and I'll make sure you are informed of the details. There's no sales pitch in this. No fees. No membership dues. No hook. No bells and whistles. No sucker punch. Just a group of writers who provide appropriate, honest and candid feedback to each other on songs.
One thing I will mention in addition to this, is that when I talk about Gary's songs below, he presented one song that significantly stirred the emotions of the attendees. Many suggested he make a few changes to the lyrics in order to soften the impact of the lyrics. I sharply disagreed with those who made the comments. Why? Because the song stirred the emotions of those who made the comments. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT A SONG IS SUPPOSED TO DO! Well done, Gary!
Last night's meeting was amazing. I wanted to say a personal thank you to all that were in attendance for several reasons. 1. Professionalism of the group is amazing. The comments shared at each meeting are honest and intuitive. B. The songs that were shared were simply excellent last night. Every one of them were remarkable. Every one. 3. I appreciated the remarks on mine. I prefer to absorb rather than comment back. It's my way of taking it in. Especially interesting to hear Jonathan Grow say I sounded like David Lee Roth. I'll take that as a compliment LOL.
Gary Forsythe is blowing my mind. I'm just amazed to see how his skill as a writer is transforming from fantastic to mind-blowing. I must highlight his person and songs in particular. I see something beautiful in what happens with him in this group because I see him shed any sense of pride by submitting to the group each time lyrics that are pulled from a deep sense of his person. This is an amazing, vulnerable place that he writes from. I believe this is where the best songs throughout the history of music comes from. This is inspiring to me. I also believe that is why his songs pull such deep and controversial emotions from so many of us. It's also why for me, I delight in co-creating with him. It's also why I so often just tell him to stay the course with what he's written.
I speak from no more authority than any of you do, and I believe that. It's just one man's opinion. Even the opinion of a producer, and you all know the most common joke about producers, right? How many producers does it take to change a lightbulb? "I don't know, what do you think?" But when it comes to songs, I won't hesitate to have a very strong opinion, because everything that happens in the recording process hinges upon the song. If I don't have an amazing, mind-blowing song, that magic doesn't happen. Flat song = fat recording. Just as Bill Deaton says (and I think Gary was the one who told me that quote), "Oh, you don't like this microphone, try a this song instead!"
And Sarah Benedetto's a cappella delivery last night was absolutely delightful. We often say that a song that can stand without production, just on it's own, with piano and melody or guitar and melody, can tell us if it's good enough, but GOODNESS! Strip it of the accompanying instruments even, and it's telling: If the melody and lyric can stand without even the instrument, THAT is telling! I often say that a song must come alive in my head when I hear it stripped down, in order for me to know if I can produce it. If it doesn't, then I can not. It doesn't mean someone else can't, but rather that I can't. But that song came alive in my head. Each chord structured inside my head as I heard it sung. I loved that I could paint it unfettered in my mind, uncluttered as it was presented. That means that it has been beautifully written. PERIOD!
More than that, I want to applaud the confidence of the delivery in that instant. But it's likely more than that for Sarah. That also took trust in the persons assembled. It highlights something that I believe is essential in the creative process. For me, it's the shedding of the critic. As I create, I believe the critic must be absent from the room while creating or presenting a creative work. I must abandon any concept that the critic will be present. Ideas must flow without reservation or fear of rejection. Ideas must be rejected without the person presenting the ideas being rejected. "Young" writers resist this critique so easily, because when they share their creations, they are sharing often times from the depths of their souls. The rejections of their musings feel like a rejection of their persons. This resistance is perceived as a resistance of the person offering the constructive replies. A negative feedback process begins.
But what I experienced and witnessed last night was anything but this. So, all that to say, I just want to applaud what I see happening in this room each month. And also to say thank you to all for offering me a place to voice my opinions, and to share mine. And also, to say thanks for letting me come in late each time, since my schedule often doesn't allow me to be there earlier than I am. I hope we are able to be there Friday.