Songwriting vs “songwriting”
Quote of the day, from Casual Observer:
If you’ve ever read a press release for a new album, you know that the challenge is to distinguish the project from all the others vying for shelf space at the local Christian bookstore. They do this by presenting a list of “bullet points” - a string of trivia type “sound bites” regarding the group, or the album itself, that will hopefully pique the curiosity of the store buyer or the consumer. Since most new projects lack an intriguing back-story, the PR person must rely on the group’s past accomplishments, song titles, and the obligatory list of those involved in the making of the album, to fill space and to create interest.
One tried-n-true selling point, that is intended to set a group apart from others, is the mention of one of the members involvement in the writing of the songs. In an industry of “singing heads” this provides and added dimension of artistry and authenticity that seems noteworthy. This is not lost on the fans. Of course, how could they miss it when the artists, themselves, trumpet that fact from the stage…night after night. “And now here’s another song that our bass singer, Brother Bloodbought, wrote in the back of the bus on the way to Tunica.” We all know that not even Obama writes his own stuff! So anyone who can sing AND write is naturally elevated to legend status among those who are easily impressed.
So yes, being a singer/songwriter has its advantages both real and perceived. But…the dirty little secret that you won’t hear about at The Singing News Fan Awards, is that Brother Bloodbought has never finished a song by himself. His producer is always nearby to put the finishing touches on his Tunica tunes.
I can still hear George and Glen…, “Now here’s a song that our own Ernie Haas wrote” (cue the track for “He Made a Change”). Did anyone ever hear them mention that Ernie Haas AND Joel Lindsey wrote that song together? Probably not. Ernie has even introduced it, himself, as a song he wrote. Joel’s name is conveniently left out, but those of us who know what Joel’s written over the years, and those of us who can’t name anything that Ernie’s written alone, know the score. And heck, while this can of worms is open, has anyone ever seen Jim Brady’s name on a song without Tony Wood’s and Barry Weeks’ names in tandem?
There may be some out there, but I bet you can count them on one hand. And yet, Jim is lauded as the Songwriter of the Year at this year’s Diamond Awards and he’s gaining a reputation just short of the second coming of Fanny Crosby throughout the industry. Tony Wood is a Dove Award winning writer with astounding credentials in both the CCM and Southern Gospel markets. He can, and has, written amazing songs by himself. Barry Weeks has been The Booth Brothers’ producer.
If it means getting a cut on a decent project, most songwriters will agree to write with any artist who will show up and do nothing more than serve coffee. Smart move on Barry’s part to introduce the artist he’s producing (Brady) to his award winning songwriter friend (Wood). As the conduit who brings the parties together, he gets a piece of the copyright pie by being in the room. But the “Tony Woods” of the writing world are not the ones the fans know about - so the “Jim Bradys” of the SG world will continue to be heralded as songwriting wonder boys. And now, as Paul Harvey would say…you know the REST of the story.
Not much to disagree with here. It’s often hard for ordinary fans to know or tell when the symbiosis of collaboration between performers and bonafide writers ends and a more parasitic relationship of harvesting someone else’s writerly talent for a group’s PR begins. And this confusion is, to a large extent, by design. Of course as the reader notes, professional, non-performing songwriters allow this to happen to some degree (they must if they want to work), but the greater responsibility for this paradigm falls to those with the greater power.
Among other implications of Casual Observer’s analysis, it suggests that artists and labels have a vested interest in elevating the alleged “singer/songwriter” profile of group member/writers at the expense of giving adequate due from the stage to the professional writers and composers without whom many of the songs artists claim to “write” would never be written.Email this Post