The story behind the songs…
I’ve been writing songs for most of my adult life. Like many, my first forays were focused around emotional tribulation. Broken hearts, failed relationships, protesting the war… you know the drill. These songs made me sad. They made my audiences sad (or worse).
Eventually I realized that the things I was writing were not helping at all! It was at that point I made a deal with myself… I could write about “what was wrong” only if I also provided at least possible positive solution to the problem. From that moment on my song writing began to take on a new life.
I have performed as a solo artist and in various combinations of bands over the years. I started out in garage bands and later in clubs, bars and even the occasional large venues. It wasn’t until I played in coffee shops (remember those?) that I ever performed any of my original tunes.
It was in the coffee shops that I learned my next big lesson. I was performing to small group of people in a little place called the White Whale in Mission Beach, California. I was a bit of a regular there. Performers would play 3 or 4 songs and then the next player would have their turn. When my turn came up I did a couple of standard folk tune covers and then played on of my originals.
As I played I noticed that a couple of patrons seemed to be really into my song. They kept looking at each other, nodding and smiling in what appeared to be some form of understanding and agreement and then looking back at me. So after my set I stepped down and walked over to their table. They asked me to join them. They seemed excited to talk with me about the last song I played. I asked them what they thought about the song.
This is where the lesson began… the gentleman began to share his understanding of the meaning of the song to us. As he spoke his partner began to show signs that she was surprised by his words. Then her turn came and she revealed an entirely different interpretation of the song. The interesting thing for me was that although both interpretations could easily apply to the words I had written… neither had anything to do with the meaning I had originally intended!
At that point I realized another aspect of the magic of lyrics and music. I did not tell them that they were both “wrong” because I had just realized that there is no “wrong” in these situations. I merely nodded my head and smiled and let them both know that I was pleased that my song had touched them.
So… what was the lesson I learned? It was that interpretation of lyrics is in the mind of the beholder!