What kind of songwriter am I?

Songwriter David Edward Booth with a guitar on his knee, writing in a notebook
photo by Tony Bell

I was recently having a fairly deep conversation with a friend about what I do for a living and what I do for my own sanity. I’m a songwriter, so in the Venn diagram for those two categories, songwriting appears in the middle bit.

She asked me an interesting question: “What kind of songwriter are you?”
I paused, started to utter something, paused a second time. Then I said something to the effect that I feel like I know what kind of songwriter I am, but don’t currently have the words arranged in a neat sentence or two. “Perhaps I should explore this in a blog?” said I.

Why blog? Well if I publish this thing, it has to be honest and it has to make sense outside of my own mind. That feels helpful to me. And perhaps there are a few people out there who would like to know what makes this songwriter tick. I’ve already done a blog on how and when songs appear for me, so this is more about the why and what.

Am I allowed to start here with what I’m not? Yes? Thanks.

I’m not someone who writes songs for purely commercial reasons or to make people dance. I don’t write songs because I want to be famous (I really never have wanted to be famous and am rather happy that I’m not). I don’t write songs because I feel like I should or someone has told me I must.

I started writing around age 16 (I can’t remember exactly when) because I needed to find a way to get negative emotions out of my system. I was a musical child and young person, so when I discovered the power of songs, music gave my words an instant vehicle. And continues to do so to this day. My songwriting tutors, although they didn’t know it, were Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Chris Cornell, Nick Drake, and later but almost certainly very importantly, Neil Finn. Now you can see why I didn’t end up writing dance tunes.

So essentially when I write a song it has to mean something to me. When I’m co-writing or helping another artist to write, I make sure it means something to them. The other considerations come later. I’m not saying I’m unaware of the commercial potential of being a successful songwriter. Of course I’d like my songs and those of my clients to reach a wide audience. And yes it would be nice for my copyrights to bring in a nice pension and inheritance for my kids. But that’s not why I’m a songwriter.

I’ve ended up doing this stuff as part of my job, which is crazy, and wonderful. But I’m old enough and industry-battered enough to know that there is more happiness to be had from the pure art of songwriting than from 100,000 streams on Spotify. That said, I am on Spotify (and the rest), so feel free to go find me and add a stream or two! 🙂

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