I thought I wanted to be a songwriter until I realized what went into writing a good, popular song.
As a child, I grew up in a religious (and sheltered) home, so I patterned some of my first songs after hymns, which could have up to seven verses. Not until I was older did I realize most songs have only two verses, because that’s all that can fit into a song most people will listen to.
As I wrote more, I became more creative with beats and instrumentation, but my songs were still overtly religious. The famous saying goes, “Write what you know,” and that really was all I knew. But my musical tastes began to change, and I listened to more mainstream music. My eyes opened to a vast world waiting to be explored. I had had no idea just how big and diverse the world was until I entered college.
A lot of songs you hear these days revolve around love, breakups, sex, and going to clubs, among other experiences, many of which I have never encountered. I have learned much just by listening to songs many deem shallow or cheesy. Songwriters will say they write from their experiences, and people relate to them. I desire to relate, not because I want to be just another crowd-follower, but because I want to understand the people around me. I want to understand what public school was like, how young people learned about the world around them, how they experienced pop culture.
I cannot write mainstream music because I do not have mainstream life experience – whatever that is. I have been in love before, but I have never had a boyfriend, or gone to a club. Not that these are the only things I need to do to “fit in,” but I still feel very naive about the world. I yearn to grasp the way people interact with each other, what they do on weekends, how they have fun, what gives them meaning. Every person is different, but some life experiences are more common than others.
My lack of common experience limits my ability to write catchy songs. I am not denying that I have something of value to offer the world, I just haven’t figured out what that is and how to do it yet.