You won’t be surprised to hear I have mixed feelings about songwriting camps. For those of you who don’t know what songwriting camp is, well, it’s a gathering of producers and topliners in a pre-selected location for the purpose of cross pollenating creativity and writing…songs.
A camp usually takes place in a spacious destination with a lot of separate rooms where writers can be divided into smaller groups.
Often the purpose of the gathering is to generate material for a specific artist. Like Rihanna or Kelly Clarkson or Demi Lovato.
A camp can last for a few days or a week or longer.
The first camp I participated in was in 1991 but it was actually called a retreat. It was hosted by Miles Copeland at his castle in Bordeaux. I know. Bordeaux! I was young and child-free. Those days I went anywhere and everywhere. (At this particular retreat we weren’t writing with a specific artist in mind. It was more about writing a good song and we’d think about the casting later.) I have so many fond memories of people I’m still friends with. But once I became a mom, I stopped traveling so much and so far. I turned down many an invitation.
But I did participate in camps closer to home. As the term toplining came into the zeitgeist, a term I take on with some reluctance (see Confessions Of A Serial Songwriter page 156) the process of songwriting became more fragmented. Lyrics and sections were often contributed in bits and pieces and I started noticing, upon hearing a final mix, that parts of my song were missing…replaced by a sound bite or a line from someone in another room. Or another city. Sometimes the song turned out to be about something completely different from the original idea.
Writing credit was allocated by the gatekeeper of the project at hand. It was, as I say in my book, a strange way to make art…at least for me. Had this been the way songs were being written when I came up in the biz I probably wouldn’t have known any different. But it wasn’t. And I did.
So I un-pitched my tent, rolled up my sleeping bag and opted out of camping for a while.
A few months ago however, my esteemed colleague, producer/songwriter Greg Wells, who hosts a yearly event at that same castle in Bordeaux, invited me back to France.
And here's what I thought....
Ironically, over the last few years while writing a book about my adventures in songwriting, I hardly wrote any songs!! Oh, I’ve jumped into a session here and there but I just as quickly jumped out in order to edit, format, repaginate my book. All good. Loved every minute of it. But, I do miss writing songs. I miss the 3 minute high I get when words and melody marry. I miss waking up the next morning "jonsing" to hear what I wrote the day before. Is it still good? And I miss the company.
Perhaps I’m ready to immerse myself and have nothing but passionate SongSex for 10 straight days—to focus and be able to stay in the zone without distraction...(the lawnmower in the yard, the construction hammering away next door, the doorbell, an empty refrigerator that needs replenishing, a hankering to go to the mall.)
My daughter is grown up and doesn’t need me to make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day or drive her to playgroup.
Yes, there’d be topliners, and I’d be one of them, but the term is more palatable for me when I know that the original writers will have creative control. And I know we will.
Plus, it’s a castle for G-d sakes…with beautiful countryside and history and food and wine. A castle filled with talented people with like minds.
Plus, life is getting shorter every day. So what am I waiting for?
I booked a ticket. I’m off this Saturday. I’m stoked.
But here’s the thing...I’m also a little nervous. That’s right. That voice inside my head asking…
Will I be able to perform? Will I be on my game? Will I be the oldest one there? Will anyone notice? Will anyone care? What should I wear? Is there a gym? Will I be able to text my daughter? Or Skype? What the hell is my Skype password anyway? Or handle. Whatever it's called. Will there be enough juice to power my hair dryer? How ‘bout my curling iron? Hey. A girl can wonder.
Sure, much has changed since 1991. I will have a different experience than the one I had 25 years ago. But it's unpredictability that keeps life exciting. And change is good.
I’ll let you know how it goes.