The laws have changed

Yep, a song title quote: New Pornographers from The Electric Version.

I said I wasn't going to write about the band. But this is really about me.

I've been writing songs since I was about 16 and first learned to pick out a few chords on a guitar. OK, so those were mostly bad poetry set to music, but a lot of songs are bad poetry set to music. I got better at songwriting over time, but I have never been very prolific. Over all those years, I think we're talking several dozen songs rather than, say, several hundred.

I wrote most of the material (sometimes in collaboration) for the bands I was in back in the early to mid 1980s. And when you write most of the songs, you basically shape the band. As well, since I tend to write specifically for whatever band I'm in, the band also shapes the songs. A rock band is an organic entity. It has a life and a character of its own that is more than the sum of its parts.

In one place or another, I have many of the lyrics of those songs, as well as some recordings. Some of them were discarded fairly quickly. Some were good enough in the context of a live set or a record. Some were pretty good, and occasionally I wrote something that might even be called a really good song.

Most of what I wrote back then was because I had issues. Unrequited love or lust. Political anger. Personal anger. For a lot of songwriters, the best songs tend to come out of bad situations. Writing songs is a way of dealing with the negative stuff in a relatively constructive way. And the outcome can be compelling. Ever notice what happens when a songwriter has a successful relationship? They turn into John Denver. Seriously, you need at least a little conflict to come up with good material. No one wants to listen to how happy you are.

A few years ago, I came to terms with the fact that I simply was not a genius songwriter, or even that good a one, except occasionally. All my life, I've wanted to be a creative person, but it took me a long time to understand that I could be creative in ways other than the ways I tried to be creative for so many years. And I finally came to terms with that. No Grammy or Juno or Polaris awards in my future. And that was OK.

Except now there's the band. And even at this early stage, I absolutely love what we have. I haven't felt this excited about a project for longer than I can remember!

The band needs original material. With possibly an exception or two, I don't want to dredge up old material. That was then, and different bands (or no band). This is now, and a totally new band. I want to write material for this band and for our singer. And I'm no more prolific than I ever was. And I still know that I'm not a genius songwriter. Some of the old stress is back.

Fortunately Sweetie, who pretty much never used to write songs, has already come up with one that we're playing and one that we need to work out, with a couple more possible.

It's interesting how that changes things in itself and also reminds me that the laws have changed in other ways. She who writes most of the songs kind of runs the band. That's how it was for me in the past. This is probably the first completely democratic band I've played in, an entity in which each of us has an equal stake. That's what I've always wanted! And yet it's something I have to get used to. I need to put in the right amount of effort and yet not push too hard or try to exert too much control.

Now that I've over-analyzed the situation, mixed with the kind of unnecessary worrying that I tend to do, I need to take a page from Nike: Just do it. Stop worrying and just do it. I still have an issue or two. And the world has plenty.

No comments: