If you are reading this, more than likely you are a songwriter at some stage in your career or development. Even for those of you who may be reading this that aren’t songwriters, it is a good bet you are involved in some sort of creative pursuit, likely in support of songwriters. So, even though this letter may seem directed specifically at songwriters, it is really for everyone who has a creative spirit within and looking to express it to the best of their abilities.
I will tell you right up front, this letter will take you about 5 minutes or so to read, but I promise you it may be the best five minutes you spend all day to feed your inner artist. I intend to address you right in the heart of that place within your own self that vacillates in ambivalence about whether or not you should REALLY commit your self to realizing your dream of living the artist’s life, or whether you should shrink from that calling in the face of fears and anxieties that tell you, you’re not good enough, don’t have the right connections or even that you can’t afford to waste either the time or the money to pursue your creative dreams.
Believe me, I know these voices all too well in my own experience. Perhaps, you are one of the fortunate few creatives who are not haunted by these kinds of self doubts. If so, I sure would like to talk to you. However, notwithstanding these anxious inner voices we listen to from time to time, there is also a perfectly unfazed, confident, creative artist at the very core of our beings, mine and yours. THAT voice will never stop urging us forward to our own creative blossoming. Even when we may shrink back, it will continue to resonate within us, bringing us back time and again to that crossroads of decision where the universe has placed opportunities in our paths to support our creative and artistic growth.
The universe wants you to succeed at what you most deeply desire to do, and despite what the fears may attempt to get you to believe, the world is full of opportunity. In fact, the music business itself is in a very exciting time and the future will bring ever increasing ways for us to get our music heard and get paid for it. These are times for expansion, and we should be doing everything we can as artists to prepare ourselves for the world that is unfolding daily before our very eyes.
You can stay at home and let these experiences bypass you, or you can get out in the world shake it up, take a chance and experience first-hand the support the universe has in store for you. One thing is for sure, certain experiences cannot be had while you are sitting at the house wondering where you can go to get yourself connected to like-minded creatives, so you can get excited about being engaged in the flow of the artist’s life. As ASG Executive Director Lee Duffy likes to say: “You have to be present to win.”
The end of the year is an interesting and active time here at ASG for me and Lee. While everyone else is spending time winding down the year with family and friends, and setting their resolutions for the coming year, Lee and I are busy each year managing a mountain of details in preparation for the annual Songwriters Symposium we hold each year the week after ringing in the new year. We do it on behalf of the group and its members, and every penny ASG earns throughout the year goes directly into supporting ASG sponsored events, as well as the office that houses The Mockingbird stage, where ASG hosts house concerts, publisher weekends and workshops throughout the year, as well as hosting the weekly Song Doctor Sessions on Tuesday nights.
I tell you this so you all will know that, ASG is literally a not for profit organization. Every penny we earn goes directly into supporting the programs, workshops, house concerts, song contests, publisher weekends, Song Doctor Sessions and showcases, as well as the annual Pre-SXSW Threadgill’s showcase held each March, the annual Merle Haggard Birthday Bash Benefit each April and the annual Symposium held each January. All the human support it takes to produce and administer these events is supplied by volunteers, including Lee and myself, and many others over the course of time.
I have to tell you all, we are very fortunate indeed to have someone like Lee Duffy looking out for us and putting on events that support our creative lives. From first hand experience, over the past 8+ years, I can honestly say I have never seen someone work so hard or so selflessly on behalf of others, for so little financial reward. To me, it is a shortcoming of ASG’s economic realities that an organization this vital is unable to compensate Lee for her tireless efforts on behalf of so many. If I could have one wish fulfilled in 2012 on behalf of ASG, it would be that this organization would grow to the point where it can support Lee Duffy for doing what she does on our collective behalf.
While I am certain Lee would love nothing better than to make a living running ASG, I also know that for her the real reward is being able to observe the creative and professional growth of an ASG member. I have seen her time and again celebrate the successes of ASG members, and she does everything she can think of to help place worthy music in front of professional ears that can help turn it into royalties.
As for me, let me give you a quick overview of my own story first as an ASG member, then as a Director and finally President. I am now entering my 9th year with ASG. My very first ASG experience was the 1st Songwriter Symposium held at The Embassy Suites in Austin in the fall of 2003. Having released my debut album, Soul Diving, earlier that year, I was there purely as a songwriter to learn, to network and to seek ways I could nurture and grow my own artist’s life.
At that first Symposium, I met Hall of Fame Songwriter, Sonny Throckmorton right out of the gate. He was my Dad’s favorite songwriter, and when my father passed away in 1996, me and my two brothers sang Sonny’s signature song “The Cowboy Rides Away” at Dad’s graveside service. At the Symposium, I was honored to have a moment with Sonny where I told him the story. It was literally like a dream, and I know my Dad would have loved me having that moment with the man that Willie Nelson calls “THE Songwriter.”
Throughout the first weekend, I also met, then future and now newly minted, Hall of Fame Songwriter, Allen Shamblin, who was the keynote speaker that year. What struck me most about Allen that year was that, despite his success, he was one of the most down to earth and genuinely humble persons I have ever met. He was generous with his time and demonstrated an easygoing willingness to share his experiences for the potential benefit of others. He felt like the proverbial “everyman” to me, and helped me to believe that if it could happen for him, it could happen for me too. Allen’s keynote inspired me to “really” believe that I too could lead the songwriter’s life, even though, I had spent most of my adult life in other creative and entertainment business pursuits.
The first seeds of a divine creative appointment also revealed themselves that weekend when I also met Producer, Stephen Doster. I could not have known, nor foreseen, that this meeting would one day lead to Stephen producing my second album. Yet, that is exactly what happened when we went into the studio in November and December and created a brand new album that for me, as a songwriter and artist, could not have been a more perfect or satisfying collaboration. The album, A Chance In Heaven, is presently being mastered and will be released in Spring 2012. I cannot describe in words how amazing the experience of recording an album with Stephen producing has been; but, it is not an overstatement to say that it is one of THE peak experiences of my life, if not the peak itself. Well, at least, the current peak.
In addition to Sonny, Allen and Stephen, I met many other songwriters and music business professionals that weekend, and I am happy to say many of those relationships have grown and continue to thrive more than eight years later. However, it was the thrill of meeting Sonny right out of the gate at the 1st ASG Symposium that caused me to find Lee Duffy and volunteer to help with ASG in whatever way I could.
Since that moment, I have been a member of the ASG Board of Directors, and have had the privilege and honor of serving as President of this vital creative group since 2008. I could go on and on about all of the experiences I have had during this time, and perhaps one day will do so in book form, but let me just say this for now: I cannot imagine the last 8+ years of my life without ASG.
My life has transformed in so many ways that now define who I am in the world, that to erase ASG from my path would mean being a completely different person in a completely different life. To me, seeing the view of my life as it is now, any other life is unimaginable. I am absolutely positive that choosing to follow this path 8+ years ago was, and still is, one of those moments in life when I knew I followed the universe’s lead and that I was doing exactly what I came here to do. But, all I really did back then, in those first days, was be willing to take that first step onto the path the universe had presented me.
So, I took the next step and the next step, and the step after that, and along the way, I have met a number of other world-class, platinum songwriters, including Chuck Cannon, Skip Ewing and one of my top songwriting heroes, Rodney Crowell, who performed a benefit for ASG at my home church, for which I was the MC.
Allen Shamblin and Coach Darrell Royal were seated right in the front row. During the concert, Rodney asked Allen Shamblin to take the stage and perform a song. Allen accepted the invitation and then played a song he had written some time back with Tom Douglas. The song, “The House That Built Me,” soon thereafter became one of the biggest critical and commercial hits of the year when Miranda Lambert recorded it. What was interesting was that this all took place at the 6th ASG Symposium and Allen Shamblin was still supporting ASG, and still does. This past fall, Allen Shamblin, riding the wave of success “The House That Built Me” created, took his well-deserved place in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. And, the ASG adventure continues.
Along the way, I met NSAI’s Executive Director Bart Herbison, which is another really interesting story, but suffice it to say that, as a result of that meeting, I have made two trips to D.C., with a third in the works for 2012, as part of NSAI’s legislative committee to lobby Congress and the Senate for copyright protections for ALL songwriters. I could not have ever imagined that one day in the future saying “yes” to attending my first ASG Symposium would lead to such an opportunity. Yet, it’s true.
As a result of performing Song Doctor duties over the years, I have also become a professional songwriting teacher, which has been an incredibly unexpected, yet rewarding, turn in the path. I have had the privilege of working alongside Lee Duffy for 8+ years, and have played a management role in every ASG Symposium since the first one. There has been such a rich and vast array of other musical, creative and relationship experiences over the past 8 years that, were I to actually articulate them here right now, it would sound like I am making it all up. I was there and it seems unbelievable to me at times. However, I assure you, it is all true.
At the end of the day, out of all the very cool events and experiences I have participated in over the last 8+ years, the most rewarding benefit of all has been the countless new relationships and friendships that have come into my life as a result of being part of ASG. I promise you that it is impossible to count them all. In some instances, I have developed friendships with some songwriters that are among the closest friendships I have had in my entire life. Eight years ago, I knew none of these friends, and would likely have never met them were it not for getting involved with ASG.
So, let’s cut to the chase. If you have read this far, consider yourself a songwriter, or a creative, in pursuit of the artist’s life, whether you believe you are active or not at this time. Either way, the path of the artist’s life is right in front of you. In fact, you are already standing on it. The only question at this moment is what are you doing right now on the path, besides reading this?
Are you standing there trying to decide what to do next, or pondering whether you are crazy for even being on the path? Do you have fears that you are not good enough? Too old to start? Too young to start? Do you worry that you don’t know the “right” people? If you are like me, these kinds of questions roll around every once in a while as a way of distracting me into thoughts of self-doubt, fear, anxiety and, in extreme instances, outright depression.
In my experience, there is only one way to still such thoughts: take bold action in the direction of your dream. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Or, as a famous book title once exclaimed: “Jump and the net will appear.” If you have a burning desire to take bold action in the direction of your songwriter’s dream in 2012, then, I can tell you wholeheartedly, without reservation: You need to register to attend the 8th Annual ASG Songwriter Symposium being held next week, Thursday-Sunday, January 5-8 at the Omni Southpark Hotel in Austin.
I promise you; no, I guarantee you that the ASG Symposium 2012 is the perfect way to ignite your songwriter’s dream in 2012 and the only regret you are going to have after reading this is the one you will have if you choose not to attend. It will all be over in a little over a week, and won’t be back again for another year. So, you see time really is of the essence for you.
If you want to see the schedule for Symposium 2012 to assure yourself of the comprehensive slate of events we have planned, go here.
If you don’t need to see the schedule to make a decision, and you are ready right now to register for Symposium 2012, go here.
Whatever you decide to do or don’t do, just know that right now, in this moment, there is an opportunity right now to support your creative dreams, and you are deciding right now what kind of 2012 songwriting year you are going to have. Will it be one of expansion, shrinking or continuing to tread water? The choice is yours. It always is.
Go ahead! Take the next step. You know you want to, so make it happen. I guarantee you that when Symposium 2012 wraps up on Sunday, January 8th, the songwriters and music professionals that do attend will be energized and ready to meet the year with the best they have inside of them. To begin your year this way is invaluable, which makes the already low cost of a 4-day pass, the very best deal you are likely to get all year.
Go on, click through to the registration page and take a bold step in the direction of your songwriter dream. We’ll be there to support you. Jump on in, the water’s fine.