I AM a singer-songwriter

I am a singer-songwriter. I write down random lyrics on little slips of paper, only to lose them and then reunite with them like old friends when I find them years later stuck to chewing gum under the back seat of my car among the half-eaten tootsie pops, the dog hair, and the coffee stains. I agonize over finding an upbeat, happy rhyme for the word "dead" before I can go to bed at 2:30 in the morning on a weeknight (dead, bed). I can squeeze 10 syllables into 7 beats in a way that maintains the laid-back feel of the verse, keeps the story line going, sneaks in a subtle middle-of-the-word rhyme, and still sounds like it all just spilled out of my head and onto the paper. I play the same four chords over and over again sometimes until I’m actually grateful when my wife begs me to stop, or threatens to retaliate with… Cher. I sit at home practicing tuning and re-tuning my guitar... standard to open G, open G to standard... so that I can get it under 30 seconds while I'm telling the same story I've told a hundred times and have it sound like I'm making it up on the spot. I study phrasing, and rhyming, and arranging songs ‘till I wonder if I’m over-thinking it all. I drive through the rain on bald tires on Friday nights even though I feel guilty that I’m not putting my kids to bed instead (dead, bed, instead) – I do this so that I can play those two songs I've practiced all week – play them horribly – in front of the same small, dedicated group of people who applaud out of support, maybe solidarity, maybe sympathy, and then I sit in the audience and do the same for all the others. I dream about having a song that gets requested so often that I get tired of playing it; but I will never, ever, EVER turn down a request.

I hear songs on the radio that suck but that have sold millions, and I know mine are better, and I want to sell one, just one song, to somebody famous and then hear someone I don’t know singing it as they walk down the street. I fantasize about being faced with the decision of whether or not to quit my comfortable day job so that I can go on tour to open for one of my heroes and promote my album. I tell myself that someday I’ll do for a living what I do now for free. Eh. Really, I’d be happy cashing in on those literally hundreds of dollars a year just waiting to be made singing songs in coffeehouses.

I don’t know a pile of covers, and I dread the thought of a “jam” session, but I can hold an audience in the palm of my hand if we’re sitting around a campfire drinking a little moonshine and eating oreo cookies. I can move people. Hell – sometimes I move myself. I tell stories, even though they’re usually about myself. I leave my audience with something good. I make them laugh, think, maybe get angry, maybe shed a tear. I write, sing, play, breathe, live and die words and music. I am a singer-songwriter.

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