I think this has been touched on before, but lately I’ve had a lot of time to think. And as some new songs come along I can’t help but reflect on some of my old ones, songs that have been discarded. Why were they tossed? A lack of authenticity.
Writing started for me in college. I can still remember staring out the window of an English Lit class and hearing a new song form in my head. It was pretty cheesy, your standard heartbreak song, but it made me realize that I didn’t have to just play other people’s music… I could actually create new music.
And so I did. I wrote about heartbreak, hardship, and rambling around, which is (coincidentally) what most of my favorite songs were about. Since blues music was my cornerstone I wrote some blues songs, and since I was from small town Texas there was some country involved. Generally you could tell what I had been listening to by what the songs I wrote sounded like. I made no pretense about hiding my influences.
But good lord were they fairly awful songs.
What the hell did 19 year old me know about heartbreak, hardship, or rambling? The worst breakup I’d been through was my old high school girlfriend and it didn’t really hurt. Traveling around? Yeah, summer vacations with my family.
19 year old me didn’t know a breakup so bad it would still hurt many years later. 19 year old me didn’t know what it would be like to watch an ex get married. 19 year old me didn’t know what it was like to be in a bad relationship that wore you to the bone.
So when I wrote about having to head to the steel mill and work like a slave, it was absolutely untrue. I was at a private University on my parent’s dime. I’m just glad that Youtube wasn’t around then so these songs exist as memories instead of videos.
Nowadays I try to stick to what I know. I’ve made enough bad decisions in life that there’s real hurt to write about. And I’ve been happy enough times to know what they should sound like as well. There’s been hard times that turned out okay in the end, friends lost and new ones made, and enough time spent with the wrong girls to know when it’s time to go.
My songs are better. Not because they’re true (many aren’t), but because the feelings are. When I write and play a song about feeling blue now, I tap into what it felt like to be blue. When I write a song about feeling peaceful it takes me back to those times.
19 year old me couldn’t do that, because he hadn’t been through those things yet.
That little bitch didn’t know anything.