Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Write The Songs

Hi. I'm Becky.

And I am a songwriter.

I wrote my first song when I was six years old and got really serious about it when I was about twelve. That was when I joined up with my dear friend, Lorrie, and we formed a group called The Sonrise Singers.

We spent many hours a week, after school and on Saturdays, playing our guitars, singing and writing songs. A couple times a month, we got asked to go somewhere and perform and that was majorly, mega exciting especially since we got to wear one of our two sets of matching maxi dresses. (That's what long dresses were called in those golden olden days of yore. ) Lorrie, being an accomplished seamstress even at fourteen, made all of our dresses. We were quite sure that whenever we put them on, we were "stylin.'"

I think we ended up writing 20-30 songs together, songs that were actually pretty good considering we didn't know the first thing about writing. We both just had a love for words and an ear for melody and that's about all we needed to "write the songs!"

After our family moved from Wisconsin to North Carolina in 1977, my two younger sisters and I started playing and singing together. (Ruth on bass/keyboard, Debbie on drums, and me on guitar/keyboard.) And it seemed like a pretty natural thing for me to just go on writing, even without my Wisconsin friend and cohort.

And so I did. I continued to write the songs and while they didn't make the whole world sing (like Barry Manilow's songs did) they at least gave my sisters and me something to sing in our Campbell Sisters concerts.

And then when I was nineteen, I married the daddy of Princess Groovy Chick and The College Dude, although at that time, of course, we had yet to meet the aforementioned wonderful children. :-)

The fine fella I married was a singer. A bass player. A guitar player. And (drum roll, please) a songwriter! It wasn't long before the two of us were tossing melodies and words around the room, arguing over lyrics, and pounding out chords on the piano. And I kept on writing the songs!

We entered a period of life where, over the course of fifteen years or so, we traveled with both of my sisters and then later on, with my sister Debbie and her husband, Randy.

As it turned out, Randy was also a songwriter! (Deb, I always knew you would marry well.) And so Steve, Randy and I (with Debbie--who is quite the wordsmith--throwing in helpful advice) wrote enough songs for about a dozen recording projects.

The recordings were mostly CD's, but we have actually been at this music thing long enough to have recorded one LP. Can you believe we're that old? (Don't answer that.)

For fifteen years I wrote songs like a maniac, just about every day working on some part of some song. I specifically remember a time when Nathan was six, Sarah was a newborn and Steve and I (we were a duo then) were headed into the studio to record. Only problem was, having a baby a couple months earlier had been just slightly distracting and I had gotten behind on writing the songs for the project. And since I was the primary songwriter, I was feeling just a wee bit stressed.

I distinctly remember that I actually felt relieved when Sarah would wake me up at 2 am because I would settle down to feed her and then, in the middle of the night silence, start working on lyrics in my head. Getting up with her gave me a chance to concentrate with no interruptions and it really worked out pretty well--the CD got written and recorded. But just barely. (Thanks, Sarah, for your help!)

So life went on--traveling, raising kids, home schooling, writing, recording, performing, setting up and tearing down equipment. And then came May of 2002 when my nocturnal infant songwriting partner was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.

In one blink of an eye, the traveling stopped. The singing stopped. The writing stopped. The music stopped.

Full stop.

I whipped off my full time musician hat and stuck on my full time cancer mom hat faster than you can imagine. I left the road and the music behind with very few glances back over my shoulder. Life catapulted us into a new chapter which we hadn't asked for and hadn't, in our wildest nightmares, anticipated.

That was seven years ago and I haven't written a song since. It's not Sarah's fault, it's not cancer's fault, it not leaving the road's fault. It's no one's fault. It just is.

I've still stayed in touch with songwriters, gone to some songwriting conferences and joined a songwriting discussion group whose members have been a huge blessing to me over the years.

About three years ago, I received an invitation to a small writer's weekend which would be attended by only a couple dozen people, several of which are responsible for writing the songs you hear on Christian radio every day. It was a chance to spend a weekend co-writing with established writers and up and coming writers; to receive an invitation to something like that was certainly an honor.

But the smushed down songwriter in me regretfully declined. The following year, the invitation came again and again I declined saying, "I'm just not writing anymore."

This year, that songwriter's weekend once more took place and once more, I wasn't there. And I saw some of the pictures from the weekend and they made me sad because I saw all those people doing and being what I used to do and be. They were in a lovely location, separated from all distractions, and they were enjoying chasing ideas, and melodies and word and thoughts. They were hammering out ideas and arguing over melody lines. In other words, they were speaking my native language. A language I no longer speak. At least not out loud.

But the truth of the matter is this: Once a songwriter. Always a songwriter. (As Sue G so nicely reminded me in the guest book.) In fact, I am SUCH a songwriter at heart that I can't even listen to music and clean out my closet at the same time because my brain is so focused on the song and what's happening in the lyric.

When I'm out shopping, I can be going through racks of clothes and not even SEE them because there's a song playing over the store's PA system that every brainwave in my entire head is tuned into. I'm analyzing it, and listening to where the bridge is going to go, and wondering where the writer is going to take the second verse, and trying to guess why they chose to do this with the melody instead of that. Before I know it, I've looked through three racks of clothes and haven't seen anything.

Does that sound like a songwriter to you?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

So all I can say at this point is even though I called myself a "former songwriter" the other day, the truth of the matter is that I am still a songwriter. Can't get away from it and really don't want to.

As far as knowing when that gift will show itself again, I don't know. But it's still in there, still waiting in the corners of my heart, readying itself for the time when this blog writer starts writing songs again.

I'm looking forward to that day.

I'm looking forward to being able to say once again, "I write the songs. . . "

7 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Sue G said...

Get on the phone. Call the people who kept inviting you to that song writing conference. Find out when the next one will be. Do whatever it takes to wrangle your way in. And write. Once back amidst others who write, writing each day, and sharing what you write, you will pick up where you left off.

You're still doing it every day, every time you hear a song, every time you take a shower, every time....

The time is now. Now.

(Hey, don't blame me for this comment. You wrote the blog entry admitting who you are.)


Anonymous said...

Anonymous Mary H!

Becky, you are a song writer - your words on this blog and on Sarah Smith's Spot have been music to my ears (and I am sure many, many others) for years. They may not be put to a tune or have musical notes above them or wound around them but they are the ballads of your lives. They have been as eloquently versed as any great song. So, my dear, you have never ceased being a songwriter, you just took it to a different level. Every entry you post has at least one specific line that provides such a picture in my mind that I am amazed at the clarity - like this one from a few days ago -
"I wasn't at all surprised that he stuck a proverbial finger in the air and got a 'reading' on which way the emotional winds were blowing."

Loved that grouping of words. So, get a little notebook and start jotting some of these things down and the next time you get the chance to meet up with a group of people who call themselves songwriters, you join them - because you ARE ONE of THEM!!!

Like you said, you took off your songwriter's hat and put on the cancer mom hat - in so doing, you just switched how you used your ability to tell a story - not in lyrics but in journals.

I remember Maxi dresses! Oh, my goodness - what were we thinking?

Anonymous said...

Do you have perfect pitch?
Just wondering...

Kim from TN

Anonymous said...

Do you have perfect pitch?
Just wondering...

Kim from TN

Pam D said...

Hmmm.. I know that one of your most faithful and gifted commenters happens to be a writer who spent time "away" from writing (and still doesn't update her OWN Caringbridge page even whilst scolding others for not doing the same). Sue? Sue G? *ahem* It would appear that writer's block is pretty common; for those who truly TRY to hear God's voice, His timing doesn't always seem to be in sync with our wants. But perhaps.. if I'm reading this latest post right.. He is nudging you back toward the writing path, Becky. One thing that really, REALLY blew me away was discovering that you wrote "Like A Blanket" BEFORE Sarah was diagnosed with cancer. It's as if God was preparing your heart and giving you a very special gift to hold close through those dark days. I know that Nicole Sponberg recorded "Resurrection" before the death of her precious little baby Luke. And yet, you would think, to hear it, that it's the cry of her heart after losing him. God is so amazing, in ALL of His ways. Praying that Steve's interviews will lead to a place that you can truly call "home", at least until it's time to REALLY go home. And when THAT time comes? I hope we live nearby... so we can sit on the porch and visit, and I can listen while you sing.

Sue G said...

Ahem, Pam D. Where exactly will I be while you and Becky are sitting on the porch visiting???? Huh?

I'm going to be on that porch, Sweet Lips. Or else out interviewing God.


Pam D said...

Well, of COURSE I meant a collective "we"... of course, I can see Gabriel stalking over and saying "pipe down, wenches!" a time or two.... (obviously, I've gotten Gabriel mixed up with Blackbeard.. how in the heck did THAT happen?)