Sometimes you get lucky in this business and find someone who can be your other half. Paul had a John. Elton had a Bernie. Cynthia had a Barry.
I never found that co-writer to go steady with. But that's okay. I like variety. I like what different collaborators bring out in me: Things I never knew I had.
But I do have an every-day partner in crime: My wife. Her name is Suzan.
I have a husband too. I had him first. I am extra lucky. I have both. It's not polygamy. There's only one. Of each.
Suzan worked for my first publisher, Hit & Run Music. For a songwriter, an excellent first publisher is as important as a kindergarten teacher to a 5-year-old or a "requited" first kiss to a young girl or boy in love. These firsts can affect the trajectory of your music business career, your academia, and your trust in men (or women) for the rest of your life.
Suzan came onto my scene in 1997 when I had just had a baby and I was too overwhelmed to take a shower much less book a songwriting session. She always had a way of listening to my songs and pointing out the line I knew in my heart would wind up on the cutting room floor. I just couldn't find the scissors by myself. To this day she remembers details of songs I wrote ten years ago, the name of my co-writer's dog and what she (Suzan), was wearing when she first heard the demo. It's nuts. She's just really good like that. It's her passion.
It's also nice to have a wife who remembers things. Because I surely don't. Any more.
When the music business started getting a little wacky and publishing companies began tightening their belts, she pulled herself out of the corporate universe and took a job with Taxi, an independent A&R company which helps songwriters get their music heard. She critiques dozens of songs daily. Writers expressed their delight at finally finding someone who nailed their strengths and weaknesses. She was encouraged to start her own more personal workshop: The Songwriters Rendezvous, where she critiques songs in the privacy of her home, or your home via Skype or with a group.
The two of us often get invited to speak at a school or a seminar, wherever there are aspiring songwriters in need of some perspective. We don't always agree on everything which often leads to an entertaining Laverne and Shelly moment. But that's okay because differences of opinion are not a bad thing. It's healthy for a participant to hear it all and then decide for him or herself what they want to adjust (or not) for, no matter how professional or successful you get, there will always be someone who loves your song and someone who doesn't. At some point, it will matter most how you feel.
Suzan often puts things in a unique way. Like:
- You need to put the passion behind your words and concept. Get horny before you f**k!
- You have to think of the paper (or tablet, or iPhone screen) on which you're writing your lyrics as your therapist. Confess to it in the same way.
- Songs in the 21st century don't just have a hooky hook. Every section (the verses, the "pre-chorii," the chorus and the bridge) is a hook.
- All pop songs these days have a hip hop element.
Really? I hadn't noticed all of this. But now I sorta do. I hear the crowd go "ooh" and "ahh" because they get it. She frames things in ways that are tangible and saucy and fun. 18 years later I am still learning from Laverne. I mean, Suzan. She's still making sense, and staying current.
Why am I telling you all this? Am I trying to drum up business for her? Yes. I don't mind referring my friends to a Pro who they can trust. So it's a little bit that.
But it's this too:
I have a Serial Songwriter Facebook Page—a platform for all things songwriting. I'm making friends daily and if time allows, I'm always up for a chat. Thing is, I am often asked to give my opinion on an original song. At first, I tried listening to everything I was sent. Some of the songs were amazing! But, alas, as I made more and more friends I received more and more material and I found I couldn't keep up. My own work had to wait.
So now, when I'm asked if I could check out someone's song, along with my sincere apologies, I respectfully point them to Suzan. Not just because I don't have the time but because that's what she does. And she does it better than me. I assure you.
Will she do it for free? Any service of value has a cost. But it's reasonable. And if you're serious about songwriting, it's a wise affordable investment.
You will get the truth. If you don't want the truth, don't call her. However, if you want to be a better songwriter you want the truth.
But I'm still available to chat.