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Advice to all singer songwriters

Ron Davies 23 May 13 - 06:08 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 May 13 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Breedloveboy 23 May 13 - 03:37 PM
alanabit 23 May 13 - 07:28 AM
Johnny J 23 May 13 - 04:29 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 23 May 13 - 04:08 AM
Johnny J 22 May 13 - 07:17 PM
Acorn4 22 May 13 - 05:04 PM
The Sandman 22 May 13 - 04:04 PM
Jeri 22 May 13 - 03:45 PM
Dave the Gnome 22 May 13 - 01:43 PM
nutty 22 May 13 - 01:42 PM
Johnny J 22 May 13 - 01:21 PM
nutty 22 May 13 - 12:56 PM
Uncle Tone 22 May 13 - 12:54 PM
George Papavgeris 22 May 13 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,Breedloveboy 22 May 13 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Allan Conn 22 May 13 - 11:39 AM
George Papavgeris 22 May 13 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Breedloveboy 22 May 13 - 10:38 AM
GUEST,Grishka 22 May 13 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 22 May 13 - 03:36 AM
henryclem 21 May 13 - 08:48 PM
Big Al Whittle 21 May 13 - 04:39 PM
Jack Campin 21 May 13 - 11:39 AM
Uncle Tone 21 May 13 - 11:24 AM
YorkshireYankee 21 May 13 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 21 May 13 - 09:40 AM
alanabit 21 May 13 - 05:36 AM
Jeri 20 May 13 - 09:32 PM
GUEST 20 May 13 - 09:07 PM
George Papavgeris 20 May 13 - 09:01 PM
George Papavgeris 20 May 13 - 08:46 PM
GUEST,Breedloveboy 20 May 13 - 03:05 PM
GUEST 20 May 13 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Grishka 20 May 13 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Tattie Bogle 20 May 13 - 11:10 AM
GUEST 20 May 13 - 10:22 AM
GUEST 20 May 13 - 10:02 AM
YorkshireYankee 20 May 13 - 09:28 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 20 May 13 - 08:39 AM
GUEST 20 May 13 - 08:37 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 20 May 13 - 08:11 AM
GUEST,Tony Rath aka Tonyteach 20 May 13 - 07:21 AM
George Papavgeris 20 May 13 - 06:56 AM
alanabit 20 May 13 - 05:23 AM
Marje 20 May 13 - 05:15 AM
Backwoodsman 20 May 13 - 04:35 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 May 13 - 03:31 AM
Bert 20 May 13 - 01:03 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Ron Davies
Date: 23 May 13 - 06:08 PM

Acorn 4--direct hit, and smash hit besides.    Should be sung immediately after the contribution of any navel-gazer in any gathering.   Worldwide.

I wonder if they could identify themselves.   Their cocoons are usually pretty snug and their tunnel vision unequalled.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 May 13 - 05:28 PM

Absolute classic, Acorn4 :-) So good/bad I couldn't get beyond 1:30 without my ears starting to bleed. Makes Vogon poetry look like children's nursery rhymes.

:D tG


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Breedloveboy
Date: 23 May 13 - 03:37 PM

100% agree Johnny J, you've put the issue far better than I did, in my rather clumsy, confrontational way.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: alanabit
Date: 23 May 13 - 07:28 AM

That was a classic of its genre Acorn4! Thanks for posting.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Johnny J
Date: 23 May 13 - 04:29 AM

With one or two exceptions, most good songwriters usually have "other strings to their bow" so to speak. At least until they have "honed" their craft.

I don't think the majority of us would really mind too much if somebody went up and sang one or two of their own songs even if they were still finding their way. We would be polite enough to listen and, if it was really bad, go to the loo as has been suggested. Of course, if we had a succession of mediocre singer song writers in the same evening it might be a different matter.

So floor spots or even short sets aren't the issue. However, it's unlikely that I'd want to sit and listen to somebody for an entire evening, e.g. two 45 minute sets if it was entirely self penend material and he or she was still learning their craft.

The best writers will surely be aware of and respect the work of others and will learn much from acknowledging good songs written by others whether recent or traditional. After all, even The Beatles performed loads of covers in their early days.

Sometimes, I can't help but get the impression that some singer songwriters have never listened to anyone else other than themselves.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 23 May 13 - 04:08 AM

A lot of people here would do well to bear in mind that everybody, whether musician,singer or songwriter, has to start somewhere. This is just as valid for Woody Guthrie,Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl, Richard Thompson etc. as for Fred Bloggs who has just plucked up the courage to sing one of his own songs at his local folk club. Some of us develop, some don't, some go on to pop groups and/or talent shows and possibly fame and fortune. It wouldn't surprise me if the singer-songwriters listed above eventually consigned their early efforts to the flames or the shredder long ago. I know that I did that with my early attempts and that I've since written other songs which have meanwhile long since passed their 'sing by' date.

The important thing is to realise and accept that music, be it 'folk','jazz' or whatever is not something static, cast in concrete at a particular moment of time. People have always written songs and tunes and always will do and, in accordance with evolution, the fittest compositions will survive. Those who have something against singer-songwriters can always go to the bar/toilet, take a cigarette break outside or plug their ears whilst the person in question is on the stage. That they may be missing out on a future Guthrie/Seeger/McColl or whoever is their problem, not mine.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Johnny J
Date: 22 May 13 - 07:17 PM

I've been going to folkclubs for almost 50 years too so I think I am also qualified to comment.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Acorn4
Date: 22 May 13 - 05:04 PM

Must admit that I'd never though of using staring at one's navel as a source of inspiration, but after three hours of doing so here is the result:-

The Bleeding Soul of the Poet (Drowning in an Ocean of Abject Misery).

Inspired by a visit to a certain local acoustic club which will remain nameless to protect the guilty.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 May 13 - 04:04 PM

Closing date for postal entries to The Fastnet Maritime Song writing competition is may 31st, competition is sponsored by IMRO CASH PRIZES TOTALING 250 EUROS, Evereybody welcome even breedlove boy, providing they perform their song at 3 pm, sat 15 june in vincent coughlans ber ballydehob
https://sites.google.com/site/thefastnetmaritimeandfolkfest/


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Jeri
Date: 22 May 13 - 03:45 PM

Music should make people feel. When it's not about that, I don't know why anyone would listen. When you apply rules that won't allow it to change, cut off any tendrils escaping, put up doors to keep foreign things out, you kill it. I think that rigidity is what closes folk clubs, but I've never witnessed any organization so xenophobic that it would rather die than change. I HAVE seen examples of music organizations and venues surviving because they chose to welcome the different.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 22 May 13 - 01:43 PM

Just out of interest, and to let people know what I like, the artists I would follow anywhere are few. They include such traditionalists as Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick but, at a much more local level, Anthony John Clarke and Stanley Accrington who both do primarily their own songs. What all the above have in common is that they are good entertainers. Maybe I am shallow? I don't really care as long as I enjoy it!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: nutty
Date: 22 May 13 - 01:42 PM

I'm sure there was as much 'navel-gazing' going on in the sixties as there is now. And as I said before - they didn't all start off being brilliant. But folkclubs gave them a platform for their material to be heard and folkclubs still have a hugely important part to play in moulding and shaping future performers.
I've been going to folkclubs for almost 50 years so I think I am qualified to comment.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Johnny J
Date: 22 May 13 - 01:21 PM

Nutty,

It's important to note that most of those you mentioned had abackground in the tradition and other music and didn't just start writing songs "in the bedroom"!


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: nutty
Date: 22 May 13 - 12:56 PM

If there is concern about the future of folk clubs it is almost entirely due to the attitude of people like Breedloveboy not being welcoming or encouraging enough.
I say ' if ' because in some parts of the country ( like the North East UK where I am fortunate enough to live) it is still possible to attend at least one folk club (within a radius of 30 miles) on every night of the week.

But then I also live in an area where singer songwriters are not just tolerated but actively encouraged. Jez Lowe, Vin Garbutt, Graeme Miles, Richard Grainger are all from this area and I can assure you that their offerings were not always brilliant when they first started out.

Forget about door takings, get back to basics and folkclubs will flourish, Let singarounds and singers nights be the heart of your clubs activities and you can be assured that folk music will be in safe hands for the future.

I am suggesting a difference of ethos and attitude and a divide in folk culture between the north and the South of England and I am assuming the BLB lives in the South.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Uncle Tone
Date: 22 May 13 - 12:54 PM

I have just struck a deal with the management of the Last Drop Inn in York. On the 2nd & 4th Sunday evenings, we will hold a singaround in the bar. Performers will get a free pint and their parking fee paid in the nearby multi-storey.

The best performers will be offered a paid gig at the pub on a Tuesday evening or a Sunday afternoon.

Already there is a lot of interest from the regulars. Obviously the trippers will be dropping in. The singarounds will be tied in to a cider festival in late July.

Is this the way to go for singer-songwriters (and traditional performers) in the future?

Tone


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 22 May 13 - 12:23 PM

We'll shake on that, Breedloveboy. As for the future of folk clubs, I too am concerned about that (indeed most of us here are, I think), for a number of reasons, and that is why I am trying to play an active role in the Folk21 initiative: Folk21 Website . Everyone is welcome to join their local "chapter" and do their bit. We are meeting with the EFDSS in a couple of weeks to take things forward.

If we're going down, it won't be without a fight.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Breedloveboy
Date: 22 May 13 - 12:00 PM

George, I'll settle for partially correct. I know I'm swimming against the tide here on Mudcat, because only committed people post. However, in the wider non performer context there is problem, and if we are not careful Folk Clubs will die out as and when its current generation drop off the edge, and nobody want to see that.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 22 May 13 - 11:39 AM

You are not going to solve the problems of folk clubs by asking quite a few of the participants not to attend because they write their own songs! It's complete stuff and nonsense. All you'd do is thin the ranks even further speeding up any possible demise. As for the acts of yesteryear well surely the mid 60s and early 70s had their own posse of singer songwriters anyway - and of course there are plenty of comparable bands around nowadays! The problem for small folk clubs is that the amount we can pay acts pretty much ensures it is normally one person or at most two we can book. £250 is maybe worthwhile for one person; less so for two people; but probably not worth the bother for a larger band. The only time we have booked a band of three or more in recent years was for North Sea Gas and even at that we had help from the pub itself. As to singer songriters all being morose and introspective well that sterotype simply isn't true. The best laugh we had for many a year was when we booked Dave Gibb who was hilarious and provided a great fun evening.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 22 May 13 - 11:39 AM

Hi there, Breedloveboy, the argument you make now is much clearer (i.e. that of the impact of s/s on the world of folk clubs), and I would be the first one to say that I think that you are at least partially right in your assessment. How big a part in "partially", I don't know, and I would probably give a different answer to that on different days, depending on where I've just been and who I listened to. Working it through though, I see two main types of impact: Loss of punters/membership due to boredom, frustration, lack of entertainment; and loss of the old material, in the sense that there are so many songs that can be sung in an hour, and for every newly written one there is one traditional one that is missing an outing.

Starting with the loss of audiences due to too many slow, introspective, whining songs: I'd like to think that these songs are self-limiting ones in the sense that if people don't like them they will not be repeated so often. In the case of guest performers, they will simply not be booked again; in the case of floorsingers or singers in a singaround, only the most hardened of perception will fail to detect the lukewarm applause that such songs would elicit (though having said that, I know several with skin thicker than an elephant's). I like to think that good songs will "bubble up" whatever the environment.

In this, I think it is less important whether the singer sings only self-penned material or also chooses the songs of others. The reason why I say this is that I think that people's motivation for singing their own songs only (or otherwise) varies almost from one singer to the next. With one exception - the songwriter will always feel a more pressing "need" to sing his/her songs... More about my own motivation at the end.

Taking the second type of impact now (that of the loss of old material), that is indeed a real threat and cannot be disguised. Fads and fashions play a role too here of course ("oh, not Fields Of Athenry again!" etc) but the simple fact that there are new songs coming out all the time will push some of the older ones out, especially those deemed to be less "relevant to today", or "too twee" etc etc. The only thing one can do here is to impose numeric limits - so many new songs every night - but setting them and enforcing them would be a nightmare and more likely to lose one friends.

My personal love is for traditional song, that is what brought me to folk clubs in the first place. And it is precisely that which caused me (in part) to start writing songs, because I was too embarassed to stand next to luminaries such as Johnny Collins, Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman, Graeme Knights, Kitty Vernon and sing a traditional song, what with me being Greek and all. I felt a fraud, and more to the point, I felt that I was not adding anything with my rendition of traditional songs. I love the Mayday traditions and so my first self-penned song was a May song that I could get up and sing and not fear any comparisons. Things snowballed from there.

As songs started coming thick and fast, I of course felt the pressure to air them, at least to get a reaction. Those that worked, got repeated; those that did not, did not. And when the gigs started, people were asking to hear "my" songs, I had no reputation as a performer of the songs of others (quite right too). Occasionally I would slip in one song or another from someone else's pen, but mainly to show to people what kind of songwriters I admired, and to demonstrate that good songs can be found in all genres (for example, "And so it goes" by Billy Joel). But then...

...with the sudden sad loss of Johnny Collins I found that our club (Herga) suddenly lost a large percentage of traditional singing on our singers' nights; and several songs that only Johnny sang were at risk of being left unsung in the future. So for the last couple of years I have consciously begun to sing some of my favourites of his - at least the ones that I could not damage too much - during our club nights. And once or twice I even dared to sing some of them in gigs (like the "Ox-Plough Song"). And still I write new songs, and still my preference is to listen to traditional ones.

There are plenty of top performers out there who sing mainly the songs of others. Bob Fox, Whaley and Fletcher, James Findlay etc etc, the list goes on and on. Some of them occasionally make forays into writing their own, sometimes successful and sometimes not. As for "normal" singers in singarounds, where I go there seem to be mainly people singing the songs of others, not their own. There is a bit of an "osmosis" effect (a club that has one or two songwriters might see others trying their hand at it also), but if I take Herga as an example (we have three songwriters), this has not resulted in an avalanche of songwriting from the other members.

Still, going back to your point, I think you are partially correct. Or perhaps correctly partial, but that's all right too (just teasing).

Thanks for adjusting the spelling, by the way :-)


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Breedloveboy
Date: 22 May 13 - 10:38 AM

To George Papavgeris, I apologise for spelling your name incorrectly, but not the rest of my admittedly rather harsh criticism. My view is simply this, the balance in Folk Music has swung too far in favour of singer songwriters, and whilst they do have and always have had their place, it is now in danger of obscuring all other forms of Folk. What has happened to the type of artists we used to get in the early days of Folk, The Corries, The Dubliners, The Spinners, Peter Paul and Mary, Derek Brimstone, Wizz Jones, The McCallmans, and many many more. True all these artists wrote a few of their own songs, but sang predominately music collected from all around the world. The artist who only sings his own songs is then controled by his own limitations, and in my view there are too many of them.

Folk Clubs are currently under pressure with dwindling audiences, increased costs, the high price of alcohol, petrol, and however, unpalatable it may be for some, slow introspective songs about loss, heartache, and conscience, are not going to bring the people back.

So I would say to all you singer songwriters, wake up and recognise that in the wider context you may be assisting in the eventual demise of Folk Clubs.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 22 May 13 - 08:42 AM

Don, what you write is true in some cases, at least ex negativo with streamlined heartless professionals. But it is at most half of the truth, and unfortunately exactly the kind of statement that damages the reputation of singer-songwriting - the other half often being ignored.

Take politians for a model: as a rule, those who get listened to at all are those who had years of training in rhetorics. Being convinced and convincing may add to their success. An actor like Ronald Reagan can well fake being 100% convinced, even when in fact 0% (e.g. announcing, as an exercise, "to outlaw the Soviet Union", if you remember).


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 22 May 13 - 03:36 AM

Attitude in the presentation is not to be underestimated. If you're obviously 100% behind your song then, no matter how dire or cloying the lyrics may be, the audience will put that in your favour. On the other hand, a meek "If it's alright by you" mumbling of hang-ups into the sound hole of the guitar so that only the front row can hear them will sporn the negative views and attitudes shown in quite a few of the postings in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: henryclem
Date: 21 May 13 - 08:48 PM

I reckon all of us songwriters would like to show a steady improvement in technique, quality and accessibility - which must involve an increasingly ruthless attitude towards what we write. Once you know your audience, whether local or spread further, and they know you, new songs can have a sympathetic hearing when they are tested out - that doesn't mean friendly and uncritical acceptance however, as it is often the performance in front of an audience which tells you yourself the worth or otherwise of a particular work.

I go to folk clubs because I enjoy hearing singers, musicians, songs -
not all, but enough to make every visit worthwhile. I perform the best I can - which usually does mean my own songs, because there's always others who perform other people's better !   I don't look for bookings, I'd rather be invited to do the occasional gig.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 May 13 - 04:39 PM

it was interesting to see the guy who wrote Sally Free and Easy , Chicken on a Raft, Sammy's Bar etc.

but he wasn't terrific performer in my opinion. there were many people who sang Cyril's songs better. and the traditional songs were okay, but he couldn't pitch them at you like Ewan or Ian Campbell, or Alex Campbell come to that.

Its not a question of being a great singer or accompanist either. (would that life was that simple!)

what is it that makes some people able to arrest your attention with a song?


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 May 13 - 11:39 AM

This is bloody brilliant: John Grant GMF

I couldn't listen to whatever he was trying to say because the tune was so dull.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Uncle Tone
Date: 21 May 13 - 11:24 AM

"I recall that the late, great Cyril Tawney was no guitar virtuoso either."

He was adequate.

But the point was, he used his guitar to accompany his songs.

He didn't use his songs to show what a 'great' guitarist or singer he thought he was, as do some now.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 21 May 13 - 09:49 AM

Jeri wrote:
Songwriters' circles? Good idea. Who would be better able to offer intelligent criticism of songwriting than a songwriter?

Precisely. I was in a songwriting group a couple of decades ago. It was extremely useful. It's true we didn't say nasty things to each other; we tried to criticise gently - say something nice before saying something critical, etc.

I found it very helpful to have others as a sounding board; to get (hopefully) honest, constructive criticisms about what works and what doesn't. In my experience, friends are often hesitant to sound critical, even though I would prefer to hear about a song's weaknesses rather than unqualified, uncritical praise. It gets to the point where I sort of don't "trust" the opinion of someone who only says nice things; I think, "Would you tell me if you didn't like it?"

I have a few good friends who will tell me when they think a song of mine has problems, and I treasure their feedback.

I'd suggest that I'm not the only singer-songwriter with this attitude. Yes, of course there are plenty of us who over-rate ourselves and are unwilling to take in any kind of negative feedback - but you will find such people in any and every field of endeavor.

And I wholeheartedly agree with alanabit's comment:
I have heard better guitarists than George, but I have not yet heard a performance by George in which I felt that his guitar playing detracted from his song.

One last comment: Someone above (sorry, haven't been able to re-find it in order to quote it) said something about there being plenty of music-writers out there who would love to pair up with a lyricist.

I started off writing parodies, because I find words much easier to play with than notes. I'd love to have someone provide music for my words/give me tunes to come up with words for. Maybe it's me, but it may not be as easy to find a musician to pair up with as one might expect. (Actually, I'd also love to find a singing partner. I keep looking, but nothing's worked out, so far...)


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 21 May 13 - 09:40 AM

Songwriting circles are a brilliant idea. Anything that's about people getting together, learning, improving, sharing and critiquing has to be a positive. I know this from past involvement in writers' groups, which serve a similar function - these are anything but a backslapping exercise, and if they were would be considerably less effective and useful.

I used to be scathing about singer songwriters because I understood 'singer songwriter' to be a genre of music that began and ended with James Taylor and his miserable ilk. Understanding now that it's also a broad description for every bugger that sings stuff they wrote themselves, how on earth is it possible to generalise about singer songwriters? The term covers an absolute multitude of sins, pleasures and all other points in between from the sublime to the ghastly.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: alanabit
Date: 21 May 13 - 05:36 AM

I recall that the late, great Cyril Tawney was no guitar virtuoso either. I hope he never had to endure the rudeness of comments like Breedloveboy's about George's. I have heard better guitarists than George, but I have not yet heard a performance by George in which I felt that his guitar playing detracted from his song. Taste I guess, but that is what matters to me - and I suspect I am not alone. I do know that I have sat through many a techinically brilliant musician, who has bored the pants off me...


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Jeri
Date: 20 May 13 - 09:32 PM

I rather think Breedloveboy has had a previous career on Mudcat being a lot of other people. I suspect he still wants to be someone else. That said, for a thread started as a troll, it has led to some good discussion. I hope we can all avoid responding to the stupid shit, though.

George, people respect you. This respect has not been earned or give to others. Perhaps that's really what inspired this whole thing. Whatever. It's not worth arguing with people who are incapable of understanding, even if they were willing to try.

Songwriters' circles? Good idea. Who would be better able to offer intelligent criticism of songwriting than a songwriter? People who aren't songwriters occasionally give you criticism that goes something like "I think you should have written about social injustice instead" and "I can't reach some of the notes in the chorus. You should change them." It's not gonna help you OR the song.

Final note: please don't anyone feel like you have to defend yourself against stupid comments. Anybody in this thread you think it's worth talking to or with will get it. The rest don't WANT to.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 13 - 09:07 PM

Breedloveboy is getting much more attention than it deserves.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 20 May 13 - 09:01 PM

Breedloveboy, I noticed that in your last note you are including Degree Courses and Seminars among your examples - I think that they are a very different animal form the Songwriting Circles, Collectives etc. The former are usually attended only once by a participant, one goes to them to pick up some tricks of the trade from someone whose opinion they value. I myself attended one such course given by Harvey Andrews, some years back, and I am indeed grateful that I did, as he had so much useful knowledge to impart. But that is a one-off, I did not go back and take his course again. And indeed I give such courses myself nowadays, but the participants don't come back again for a repeat of the course, there is no need to, they will only hear the same things again. And most importantly, people don't attend such courses in order to pat each other's backs or feed their ego, they do it because they want to learn something.

The latter variety (Circles & Collectives) are the ones that you initially had in mind, I believe; where the same people attend the same gathering week in week out (or month in month out as the case might be). You claim that these gatherings are largely self-congratulatory; I don't know because I don't attend any, but I would give people a little more credit. I certainly would not dismiss them with such derogatory remarks as have been used.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 20 May 13 - 08:46 PM

Advice on guitar playing skills acknowledged, Breedloveboy. Indeed, I am no Martin Simpson or Mark Knopfler. Never will be either. That is a cross I have learned to bear. However that is but a light weight on my conscience, as I have never set out to be a crack performer - I only ever started playing and singing in order to get the songs out, and the gigs grew out of that. I will always think of myself as songwriter first and performer second (or lower).

As for the evidence on songwriters getting together, I confess that I have still some doubts there. I know far more songwriters who don't attend regular "circles" or workshops or whatever one might call them, but work singly and independently. I know some who do collaborate or regularly "show and tell" with others, but at a rough guess they are fewer than 1 in 5 from among my acquaintances. Perhaps it might be a case that I dodn't naturally gravitate towards such workshops, and that is the reason why I don't know so many of their members? I don't think that explains it - I know the majority of the gigging songwriters on the circuit, and quite a lot of of others in most parts of the country except perhaps Wales and the South East. I do know several Cornish songwriters who have formed a circle, but I honestly cannot think of another example of similar size and (I have to say, because they are indeed very good) quality.

But I can sense that you are peeved, as witnessed by your need to score points (see your last sentence). I don't think I offered any advice, I only reflected on the readiness with which others offered it, the sweeping statements used (such as the title of this thread - "all"? really?) and the attitude with which they did so. I will make a request however: I know I have a long surname and it is hard to pronounce it, but I would be grateful if one could at least spell it correctly... There are a few, like Breezy, who have earned the right to do what they like with it, bend it and twist it etc but i don't think you are yet one of them - I can't tell behind the moniker.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Breedloveboy
Date: 20 May 13 - 03:05 PM

To George Pavavgaris, collecting in groups is exactly what so many aspiring singer songwriters do do. Evidence, Songwriting Circles, Seminars, Collectives, Adhoc Groups at Festivals, University Degree Courses, people offerring lessons etc etc. So before you rubbish an opinion that doesn't happen to agree with your own take a moment to consider some of the evidence.

Furthermore, seeing as you are so keen to offer advice, I'll perphaps offer some to you:- Spend alittle more time improving you Guitar playing skills.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 13 - 11:39 AM

""This is bloody brilliant: John Grant GMF "

Agreed - much better than listening to some spittle-bearded bleating traddie groaning out yet another tuneless version of John Barleycorn."

LOL

Tone


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 20 May 13 - 11:33 AM

YorkshireYankee (20 May 13 - 09:28 AM), quite true in a sense. What I call an artistic message is often the result of playing, experimenting, and introspection etc. What makes it a message is the act of publishing, which means communicating. If we think this fails, we call it navel-gazing or exhibitionism etc. (Opinions and tastes often vary, which is quite OK. Specific criticism can nevertheless be helpful, but it should be precise about its criterion. Probably there are more incompetent critics than artists; the OP is a mere provocation.)

Those whose message is a clear-cut imperative like "Save the whales!" had better write an essay, with precise arguments that convince those who have not been convinced before, and who would not be convinced by a song or poem either. Political songs should have something to say that cannot be said in an essay.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Tattie Bogle
Date: 20 May 13 - 11:10 AM

I have been writing songs on and off since my teenage years, and still waiting for the "big breakthrough". Oddly enough, one of my stupidest songs is the one that gets the most requests to sing it again: not a great song in anyone's book, but makes people laugh. Of singer songwriters that I know of, I don't think you can make such sweeping generalisations as " good" and " bad" songwriters. Even the world-famous earn-my-living-doing-it ones will have stronger and weaker songs ( in my opinion - someone else will equally think that the song I rate highly is rubbish, and vice versa ). And I can think of one or 2 writers who are highly esteemed by many, but I just don't get why they are thought to be so bloody marvellous. So all in all it's pretty subjective who's good and who's bad, or which songs are fantastic and which are crap.
Johnny J has mentioned the the Edinburgh Folk Club Songwriting Competition, where there are 2 systems of voting: 3 appointed judges who decide 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, and then the audience vote, where each member of the audience can vote for what they thought was the best song. The results from the 2 systems are usually widely at variance with each other: only on one occasion in many years of running the competition did the judges' results tally with the audience votes. (Of course, the audience vote could be swung by those who bring their personal fan clubs in - must start sending out a few emails!)


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 13 - 10:22 AM

Writing good songs is tough; performing well is toough. Trying to do both for an entire set isvery tough.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 13 - 10:02 AM

Advice to all singer songwriters: become dentists.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 20 May 13 - 09:28 AM

My first English class at Uni, the prof quoted someone (sorry, can't remember who) who said that great books/poems are written not so much by people who have a message to impart, but by people who like playing with words. I found it a novel idea at the time, but it makes more & more sense to me as time passes.

I have come to believe that the same thing applies to songwriting...


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 20 May 13 - 08:39 AM

Bah! Me again.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 13 - 08:37 AM

No it's not. I was bored after 30 seconds.

I grant you it might be popular with the naval gazers but it ain't folk, and nobody will be singing it in 10 years time.


Why am I not surprised? Horses for courses, in any case. But the point I was making is that as far as I can see the best singer songwiters these days are not and never have been any part of the folk world - and I pretty much chose John Grant as a random example... It could have been Wooden Wand or Hiss Golden Messenger or Iron and Wine or a host of others. There's some brilliant songwriting out there at the moment, and much of it has little to do with anyone's navels (as if that matters). I don't really care whether anyone will be singing GMF in 10 years time. What counts is that John Grant is singing it now. Music doesn't have to endure or be adopted into some spurious 'canon' to be any good - it equally serves as a fleeting, momentary pleasure. That's good enough for me.

I wonder if those who spurn navel gazing feel that way about this or this ? They fit the bill well enough... To my mind you'd need a heart of stone not to be moved by them, though. At the end of the day that's all that counts.

Suegorgeous - to be honest, I don't get on with John Grant's excursions into 80s style electro-pop as much as I enjoy the more 70s influenced stuff. That's why to me, Queen of Denmark is a far better album than Pale Green Ghosts, not that it doesn't have some mighty fine moments. And the electro stuff sounds a lot better live. Each to his or her own, though!...


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 20 May 13 - 08:11 AM

"If songwriters don't want to know what their audiences think of their songs, they're in danger of deluding themselves about their talent."

I don't think it is really about songwriters not wanting to know what people think of their songs. That is a differnt kettle of fish to what some of the comments have been on this thread. ie that 90% of singer songwriters aren't up to scratch and that they just shouldn't bother. I mean would we stand for people saying we only want to hear the top 10% singers and musicians and that the rest should just give up?

Speaking personally of course I want to know what the audience thinks and it is the songs that get the best reaction that tend to get rolled out again and again. I have many songs that remain unheard out of the home and others that were tried and kind of put to bed. That is the nature of the beast. Admittedly no-one is paying to see me and I might only sing a handfull of songs at our open mic. So I understand that people want paid performers with long sets to be up to par - but that is the same for all pro-performers and not just those who write their own material. We've maybe been lucky here in Kelso but we've had many an artist visiting here who writes their own material - and with the odd exception they have been really good. I just don't recognise this idea that 90% of them aren't up to it.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: GUEST,Tony Rath aka Tonyteach
Date: 20 May 13 - 07:21 AM

This thread is of great interest to me as I have been working with Luke Brown aka Monktyon Wyld who is now on the acoustic folk circuit for a year on various aspects of his voice - guitar playing etc. See his stuff on Soundcloud. Needless to say I like it a lot. To me going to a venue and paying over my dosh I want to be entertained, if someone can do this with their own material for two good sets. Good luck to them. BUT singer songwriter takes in a lot of territory. George, needed Ira Gershwin to write his lyrics. Rodgers used Hammerstein and Lorenz Hart ditto. So. someone who can do good interesting lyrics and good tunes is a really good writer and performing as well. In modern parlance a big ask. Cyril Tawney yes but others definitely not


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 20 May 13 - 06:56 AM

Marje, you said "just because I don't write songs - not serious ones, anyway - I don't see that this prohibits me from expressing opinions on songs I hear, or trying to explain what's appealing or cring-making about them".

Quite right, too. Of course everyone can have an opinion, a view about what works and what doesn't, and they should be free to express them. But that is short of offering "advice", as if from a position of absolute knowledge. It is that high-and-mighty tone that objected to, in the earlier post, as well as to the aphorisms about songwriters gathering in "little mutual appreciation societies", as if we spend our time patting each other on the back and feeding each other's egos. That is pure poppycock and belies a down-one's-nose and derogatory perspective with which I will have no truck.

Expressing opinions and criticism on the other hand, is not only perfectly fine, any songwriter who is at all engaged with the world around them would welcome it.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: alanabit
Date: 20 May 13 - 05:23 AM

"If it is telling someone else's story it will still have something of you in it. I think."

Nice post from Rockhen there. In a way she has nailed what I like about George's or Big Al Whittle's songs. They tell the stories or show the characters in their own way. It would probably make quite an interesting challenge to invite a group of writing students to tell the story of say Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You could probably get a bunch of entertaining versions of the same story. Although you always hear George's and Al's voice in the songs, they always concentrate on showing the story. I suppose that is the balance which marks out the good from the mediocre writer.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 13 - 05:15 AM

Great to see Anne Lister contributing here (18 May, 3.07 pm). Anne's songs are some of those I had in mind when I wrote about the "few gold nuggets".

If you're still reading this thread, Anne, your song "Icarus" is a great example of what I was talking about; at first when I heard it I thought of it just as a re-telling of the myth from another point of view, and then at another listening I suddenly thought "This is about every parent with a headstrong, creative child. This is about me and my daughter .." and filled up with tears (as I still do when I hear the song). That universality, drawn from a a specific example, is at the heart of all good lyric writing.

And (not directed at Anne but at others above) just because I don't write songs - not serious ones, anyway - I don't see that this prohibits me from expressing opinions on songs I hear, or trying to explain what's appealing or cring-making about them. I don't write novels or make films either, but I can tell bad writing from good writing, and a great film from a turkey. If songwriters don't want to know what their audiences think of their songs, they're in danger of deluding themselves about their talent.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 20 May 13 - 04:35 AM

Everything Al, Leveller and George said.
IMHO.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 May 13 - 03:31 AM

yes Malvina had it right. (I wonder if she was English, would she have been called Falkland?)

yesterday was peach yoghurt and cup of coffee song. but today I'm going for the full English song with an extra sausage instead of the tomato.


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Subject: RE: Advice to all singer songwriters
From: Bert
Date: 20 May 13 - 01:03 AM

It is said that Malvina Reynolds wrote a song before breakfast every morning. How many of them do we know? If 10% is normal then I guess we are in good company.

Of course the secret is - Don't sing your bad songs.


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