I Write, Therefore, I Am…a Songwriter

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Welcome to For a Song. I’m your host, Cari Ray. August is upon us as are the dog days of summer. Summer is a busy performance season for me which means that much of my musical bandwidth is taken with rehearsals, show prep, gear tweaking, travel and putting on shows…and, of course, picking out the right hat to wear. Besides pursuits of a musical nature, summer brings another call of nature. No, not THAT call of nature, but the call of MOTHER Nature. Berries need picking, mushrooms need to be found, fish are waiting to be caught, hikes need to be made, canoes and kayaks are in need of a good paddling, bikes dream of smooth, winding Brown County byways, trees long to have a hammock stretched between them, and sunsets are crying out to be witnessed as the bullfrogs and cicadas serenade. And did I mention that fish needed catching?

Now, where were we. Oh, yes, SONGWRITING! With all of the playing and, well, PLAYING, where do I fit that in? The truth is, I do seem to carve out less large blocks of dedicated songwriting time as summer marches on. But once you become clear to your core that you are a songwriter…really step into it…you are always writing. It’s sort of like when a computer continues to run a program in the background…it’s still processing, still moving tasks and ideas forward, but not necessarily in the foreground. So you just learn to trust that it’s still happening. The ideas still flow in…many times when I’m engaged in some of those summer activities like fishing, hiking, pedaling or paddling. But for now, they are often just jotted down or quickly recorded with my cell phone for later.

My first record was made nearly 14 years after I wrote my first song. And in that 15 years, I had been what I would classify a fair-weather songwriter. That’s to say that I didn’t really work the craft, approach the process with any sort of impetus, or even really think of myself as a songwriter. Over those years, a song would just show up now and then and practically write itself. But once I started to perform live and the requests kept coming for CDs, I finally went into the studio and recorded “Always On” in 2009. For a time after that, I was working hard to put myself on the map as a singer/songwriter and recording artist by booking, promoting, putting and keeping a band together, and working on becoming a better musician and performer (which is ongoing, BTW). So when people started asking when the next CD would be in the works, it threw me quickly into a bit of a panic with a splash of identity crisis. Was I really a songwriter? I mean, yes, I had written some songs…songs that folks seemed to like, but they just sort of happened over the course of about a decade. Now it was a year or so later and people wanted A WHOLE NEW CD worth. Could I write any more? Would they be any good? What if I had already shot my creative wad?

Sometimes I still ask myself some of those questions. But the fact is, just when I think the well is dry, another song fills it up and I breathe a little easier. Yes, songwriting is a thing to do, but a songwriter is a thing to be, and once you are clear this is who you are being, you don’t have to focus so much on the do.

Your homework? To spend some time deciding you’re a songwriter until you feel it all the way to that little warm spot in the middle of your chest. Remember, a bell is still a bell even when it isn’t ringing and wren is still a wren even when it isn’t singing.

I’m Cari Ray, join me next time on for a song.