Shannon McMahon

Wishing On Planes

Filtering by Tag: songwriting


Happy New Year! 2013 is unfolding around us, and as it's traditional to think about change, and starting fresh, I am looking at what I would like to see happen in my life of music. I refuse to call my goals for the coming year resolutions. They never come true. I'd prefer to call them wishes. These are things that I want to achieve. Looking back at 2012, I see that I played open mics at some new places, had a few more gigs than in 2011, and made some new contacts. I did not write any songs in 2012. I only wrote one blog post. Not exactly what you would call a productive year, musically, but the experiences do grow, as time goes by.

So here's what's on my wish list for 2013:

*Write songs! (Good songs, of course.) *Record Lost in Montreal *Push harder to get my music out where it can be heard *Connect with fans locally and globally via social media, e-mail, at shows and writing monthly posts of this BLOG (Yes, I know this year was a little short on blog posts), to remind them how very important they are to me *Get a slot as a performer at Musikfest 2013 in Bethlehem, PA *More gigs, of course, if I can

Did I leave anything out? Most of these are doable, I think. All of them are steps required to take my music to another level.

It has always been a dream of mine to make something out of my music, to get to the point where people want to hear it, buy it, and come to live shows, even pay to see me play. I feel like I'm dipping my toe in the water, but the water is ice-cold. I am invested body and soul in this endeavor -- have been since I was young. It's in my blood. My story isn't any different from the millions of talented others who want the same thing, but I keep going...I keep chasing that tumbleweed.


Singer/Songwriter Night

This Sunday, I'm going to be playing an all-originals set for singer/songwriter night at The Outer Space.  I'm the show opener, and will be setting the tone for the whole night. I love to play originals, and yet there is a thread of trepidation. I always wonder if the audience will connect with any of my songs. It goes back to the writing, I think. For me, songwriting is a painstaking process. Some songs are easier than others to write, but each song needs to be coaxed and cajoled out into the open, and finding that conduit is the tricky part. Ideas do not come as quickly as they once did. What could I possibly say that hasn't already been said? The truth is, there's nothing new. With the billions of songs out there, spanning continents and time, everything has already been said...or sung. How the idea is expressed makes it unique. What personal inflection and individual story do I bring to it?

The ultimate test is whether the song strikes a chord in the hearts of others. A very tall order, but nonetheless the goal of each and every song I write. Hence, the fear and perfectionism that most likely hinders my progress. This creates a vicious circle of procrastination and avoidance, which is the opposite of what's necessary. In order to really succeed, I need to push myself to write more, not less.

So, in preparing my all-original set for Sunday, I think of the songs of mine that may have the most impact or universal appeal. I put my words and ideas out there, hoping they will be received and accepted, hoping that my voice and guitar offer the perfect delivery, and praying that they make a connection.



The Song of the Stolen Guitar, Part 2

Back in January, I wrote a blog post about a song I was going to write memorializing my stolen guitar. I finally started work on that song, creating the first verse a few months ago. Strangely enough, this song has taken forever to materialize. As I write this, the song is about 85% done, I think. For some reason, it has been very difficult to express the story without sounding like a sentimental fool. I'm not sure there's any way around that. In my early days of songwriting, the songs would come a heck of a lot faster. If I couldn't finish the song in one sitting, I would trash the remnants. I'm not so quick to do that now.  This is the first song I've written since 40 Years On was finished back in November of 2009. EmmyLou Harris talked about her fear of songwriting in a recent interview. I can surely relate to that. I am lucky that many seem to connect to my songs -- that is such an amazing feeling. I want to make that connection EVERY time, so that puts pressure on me to create a song that people can understand and believe in.

I have been playing the new song, in its fragmented and experimental state, to my Second Life audiences for the past week or two now. I'm not sure whether it's helped or not, in regards to feedback or whatever. In the past, I used to play the song over the phone to a friend when I was finished, just to get someone's opinion. Playing an unfinished song is uncharted territory for me--drawing the listeners into the songwriting process and allowing them to see the song evolve.

This song is moving SO slowly. I'm not sure what's keeping the words and music from flowing, but I truly hope to finish it by the end of this week. The working title is Lost in Montreal, so be on the lookout for it, and let me know what you think.

Talent vs. Title

This is a repost of a blog entry I wrote back in 2005. The reality show is long gone and my songwriting is back on track, thank goodness, but my sentiments haven't changed.

Can you hear me? Way out there in the cheap seats? Ok, good. I guess it’s working. I’d like to thank the Academy, the fans, and my parents, oh and of course, my agent…Oops! wrong venue! Can you tell I’m a fledgling blogger and a frustrated musician? Anyway, now that it’s my dime and I’ve got your attention, I want to mention a TV show (a reality show, of course…is there anything else?) that really gets to me. I think it’s called “Love is in the Heir” or something catchy like that. The focus is on this princess whose dream it is to get a record deal in Nashville. She writes her own songs and plays the guitar and is an attractive woman, but she is not very talented. The episode I just watched showed her making a video for one of her songs. Ugh! Why doesn’t someone tell her she’s embarrassing herself? I think the fact that she is a princess opened doors for her that wouldn’t be opened otherwise. As someone who has similar dreams myself, I can understand how important the dream is, and I know how difficult and unkind the music business can be, but selfish little old me feels like why can’t I have a shot? The sad truth is, the older I get, the further away that dream gets. I know what the odds are, but what would it take for the right person to hear my stuff? The chances, I fear, are slim to none, realistically. But that won’t keep me from playing and singing any chance I get. Now, if I could only get my songwriting back on track…and a booking agent…And for the princess, well, I hope she doesn’t read this, but if she does, she should know that I wish her luck and think she seems like a really nice person (as much as one could glean from a half-hour TV show), just a little misguided.

When Songs Leave the Nest

I am a songwriter. I wrote my first song when I was 10 or so. Of course, it wasn't any good, but that's not the point. That song was the beginning of a new way of expressing myself. A number of years later (too many to mention), I am still writing songs, despite a 12-year gap that made me wonder if my songwriting was a fluke. When I was writing these songs, I never stopped to think what the end result would be. I assumed I would perform and record them, and that was pretty much it. So when a Second Life musician friend came to me and asked if he could play one of my songs in his set, I said no. I never really thought about what it would mean for someone else to play my music -- my thinking didn't go that far. I had to revisit what my goals were for myself in regards to my music. My dream has always been about performing, recording and writing. And what happens if I let go of one of my songs? I don't mean give it away, but what would happen if I lent it to someone else, for them to put their own stamp on it? I wasn't prepared for that. The word mine kept popping into my head.  After I thought about it a bit, and talked to other songwriters, I decided to say yes. The person who asked is a musician whose talent and skill I respect, and I could imagine that his version of the song would sound really good.  It was a strange feeling to hear one of my songs sung by someone else, but also interesting to hear another interpretation, especially since it was a great rendition.

The upside of letting other people play my songs is the possible broader audience and wider exposure it might garner for my music. It is also very flattering to have written songs that resonate with other musicians and songwriters. Other musicians have asked to play some of my other songs, and I am still a wee bit tentative. I do draw the line on songs I myself have not yet recorded or released. Even if Elvis himself, or anyone topping the charts asked, I would have to say no. Maybe it's selfish, but I want to be the one that gets the first shot at it. The songs I write are like children to me -- little pieces of me that I unveil and scatter into the world. They develop and grow in my heart, and I become attached to them, making it ever so hard to let go.

© 2018 Shannon McMahon Music