There’s a reason why art is so compelling – it’s because it has the power to change lives. Great art can completely change your outlook by offering a new perspective. The art of songwriting is no exception. Here (in no particular order) are six classic songwriters who have changed my life:
1. James Taylor
He showed me that it’s possible to write profound and introspective songs without throwing a pity party. Watching his live show in 2007 was one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life. He also helped me find a husband – when Cuan first told me how much he loved James Taylor, I took it as a sign that we were meant to be!
2. Bob Dylan
An obvious one, I know. I don’t know many songwriters who haven’t been deeply affected by him in some way. Dylan opened my eyes to a whole new way of telling stories through songs. He caused me to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about putting words together. He inspired me to push boundaries and gave me the courage to allow words be the focus of my songs.
3. Jeff Buckley
When I was a teenager, I was so obsessively passionate about Jeff Buckley’s music that my friends teased me mercilessly. It was my own fault really – I was fairly incapable of letting a conversation go by without bringing him up. From Jeff I learned the importance of delivery when it comes to conveying the message of your song. He also showed me that it’s okay to explore different genres – a great song is a great song, no matter the style or the era in which it was birthed. Additionally, he taught me that it’s good to be innovative, and to create music that you love regardless of whether or not it’s congruent with what’s popular or current.
4. Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne is the king of clever, relatable and passionate songs that awaken the romantic in me. He reminded me that heart-wrenching love songs are timeless, and that some songs just need piano.
5. Nick Drake
From Nick I learned to not make fame the objective. If you allow the goal to simply be making beautiful music, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and disappointment. He also taught me that shrouding your story in metaphor and mystery can be totally amazing, if it’s done with continuity and mastery.
6. Joni Mitchell
Where to begin? She taught me that the best songs are born when one has the courage to explore the deepest recesses of the human soul. That you can be a total introvert and still be an engaging performer. And that if you ever have the opportunity to have James Taylor play guitar on your songs, you should definitely take it.
Are there any songwriters who have changed your life? Share your experiences in the comments section below!
Photo courtesy of Bertrand Bosrédon on Flickr.