.Unpopular Opinion

Authenticity is the thing fans connect with. Being “real” is really important. For everyone making non-instrumental music you are making verbal statements, or better yet telling stories. The most compelling stories are either based on real experiences or are an amalgam of real experiences sorted through, filtered and reconfigured in song form.

The average person can smell when things are not authentic. When an artist is 17 years old and 12 older people (over 22 in the music biz) write a song for them in a board room about love and loss, it just doesn’t feel real. How can a 17 year old have experienced these things in such a powerful way (I suppose its possible), but there is nothing like experiencing loss and truly being lost and alone while experiencing it (as opposed to experiencing it in a bedroom or basement paid for by your parents).

A few weeks ago I was encircled by a group of serious heavy weight musicians. Not a recording session just a hang at the studio, lots of fun, lots of bullshit being thrown around, all light and good spirited. An interesting thing happened. Some of the younger generation started criticizing singer songwriter types saying they were all the same and that singer songwriters are basically musically stunted having only access to 3 or 4 chords to build songs on. What they said about emcee’s was even worse.

Then, one of the older (and most respected in the room) musicians, who had been quietly taking the conversation in started defending the singer songwriter. He said these people tell beautiful personal stories that others can relate to. The singer songwriter is important, because they make others feel less alone and understood.

Musically what they put together is purposefully basic and simple. The music itself is not the emphasis. Its not the art form per se. The realness and the authenticity of the artist, which comes across through their songs, IS the art form. The singer songwriter takes their humanness and human experiences, mixes and reformat’s, then through a combination of metaphor and phrasing they give us a song. The best of these songs is like 100% pure human oil (extracted directly from a human tree), cooked up in someones song writing kitchen then given to the world. The label on the packages of these songs (if there were a label and physical package) would read 100% organic made with 100% natural ingredients.

This is why the singer songwriter will always have a place in this world. No they don’t have the musical chops that so called great musicians have (people studying jazz, contemporary classical, technical prog metal, etc.), what they do have though is something outside of musicality. They have authenticity and they express it through a high level of song writing craftsmanship. These people don’t work in odd time signatures, rarely modulate to other keys, their songs are built on diatonic derived harmonic foundations, and the beat is never hidden with fancy sophisticated syncopation.

What they do instead is something more like shinning a light, or focusing a lens, which allows others a glimpse into areas of human experience normally shrouded in darkness. Through their craft and their commitment to authenticity the best singer songwriters make powerful lasting impressions on their fans. As long as they keep it real, people will always love the stories that singer songwriters tell.

All musicians (instrumental or not), regardless of which idiom you are focused on, can learn something about authenticity from singer songwriters. So instead of looking down on that girl with the acoustic guitar and flower dress, I suggest you listen carefully to what she has to say. It might not be the best song ever sung, but I can almost guarantee it will be authentic…and that is today’s lesson

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