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Mitch Emmons / Performing Songwriter / Blog

Autumn Ridge

The brilliant summer sun has set Green turns to brown and gold Across that autumn ridge is met Youth comes to terms with old The change is not to dread or fear The colors only different From atop that autumn ridge it’s clear It’s just a new arrangement … Copyright 2014, Mitch Emmons - BMI I am finding myself unusually reflective these days. This may be the start of a new song lyric. I don’t know, but it seems certainly like a good place to pen a blog. I love the month of October. I love it as the month that summer begins to truly quiet down and fall starts to fill the air with the cool foretelling nip of things to come. I love donning a soft, warm sweat shirt and sitting on my screen porch in the early morning -- hugged up to a steaming mug of hot coffee. I love how the leaves begin to change into the brilliant shades of yellows, reds, orange and gold. I love watching the lake reflect and mix those colors like an oil painting against a canvass sky. I love that October is baseball, football and great bass fishing all in a single month. Perhaps mostly, I appreciate how – at least to me – October is filled with the representation of fortunate change. This October has been all of those things and more. It feels particularly reflective as I write this in the final few days of the month while also thinking in great detail as I prepare within the next year or so, to leave the comfort zone of a 30-something-year working career. As I anticipate jumping full-speed-ahead into a new life focused on the pursuit of music and songwriting, there are unknowns that I am trying to figure out. Also, I find myself sometimes questioning the wisdom of it all. The commercial world of music is a youthful one. Notwithstanding my child’s mentality, I am definitely no longer among the youth. So is it abnormal that I still see things as though I am? Here I am about to dive head long into the pursuit of a dream that I put on hold three decades ago and I am jumping in with the open-mindedness and naivety of a teenager. Can I do this? I believe I can. Can I write a great song? I believe I will. Can I get a cut? I did before. There is a possibility of it happening again. Am I too late for trying? Hopefully not, but those things are not what is most important. Life is a journey. The choices that we make and the routes that we travel are sometimes of our choosing; sometimes they are not. Sometimes the way is clear; sometimes not. The only thing certain – as they say -- is change. The importance is in how we make the trip. As I look from atop that “Autumn Ridge” at the path I have traveled, it all really looks okay. There have been some disappointments and difficulties, some gains and some losses, but I see where I have been with no deep regret. I see behind me a truly fulfilling journey. And as I look ahead, I see a change that offers more colorful beauty than at any other time. With apologies to Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings -- seasons change and so have I – and I need not wonder why. All I need to do is look at October. Remember that although it represents the end of one season, it is the beginning of a brand new and beautiful one. -30-

Turn on the Faucet and Let it Flow

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison Thomas Edison toiled for countless hours working on the development of his numerous inventions that greatly influenced our quality of life as we know it. He conducted experiment after experiment, and most weren’t successful. But he didn’t just work without a method to his madness. He followed a productive method that involved planning his work, doing the work, checking his work, and adjusting where the results failed. As the quote above shows, he kept at it. Before his death in 1931, Edison held more than 1,000 U.S. patents and many in Europe as well. That Edison quote translates so well to the songwriting journey. To succeed at becoming a writer of great songs involves countless hours of work and perseverance. It is no secret that the odds of “making it” are not in our favor. Despite a difficult playing field, I choose to believe that one can greatly improve the odds by working purposefully – as Edison did. I do not presume to offer songwriting advice here. I am no better than the next person trying to get better and write great. Moreover, I’m not an inspired writer – not in the poetic sense anyway Truth is, I have never been an “inspired” writer. I have to work at it and I have found countless ways that won’t work. I’m a plow horse in my writing. A journalist by trade and training, my writing chores have never been allowed the luxury of waiting on that “spark of inspiration.” I have always been up against one type of deadline or another; one assignment to another; a seemingly endless production line. I learned early that the most effective way to start is with the headline – or the hook. Write your headline and next, the lead paragraph. Follow the formula of the inverted pyramid covering the essential who, what, when, where, why and how in that wide opening at the start. Tell the guts of the story quickly then, fill in the lesser details as the pyramid narrows the bottom. The reason is to catch the reader’s interest in that headline and the opening paragraph. Otherwise, you risk losing them. Edit later. Right, Journalism 101! Over the recent years, my career has placed me working with manufacturing and other process-oriented industries, where I have come to even more fully appreciate the value in following a plan, do, check, adjust methodology. I don’t approach songwriting any differently. Back to the inspiration question -- what inspires me is a good idea that comes together. Mostly, that comes from doing my homework. The sources of ideas are virtually limitless, and I search everywhere and everything around me for ideas. When it comes time to begin turning that homework into a song, I just sit down and go to work. I don’t think in terms of being inspired, but in terms of my basic journalistic training: Write the headline, tell the gist of the story in that first verse, and drop in the rest of the furniture as I progress. And I am getting better at it. I have no hit songs to my credit. I have no publishing deal. I don’t yet get asked to write with the hit songwriters and hot artists. It is quite realistic to think that I might never, but I don’t believe that will be the ultimate result. I don’t believe that because I am doing like Thomas Edison did. I am working to improve, following a process that leads to positive results, adjusting when I fail. More often than it did in the beginning, I am able to click on that good idea that comes together. That is my inspiration. It’s simply like the great Westerns author Louis L’Amour said: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” I will find many more ways that it won’t work. I am certain of that. But I’ll stay true to my process, sit down, write my headline, turn on the faucet, and let it flow. #songwriting #mitchemmonsmusic #mitch emmons

Just Do It

I venture to speculate that most of us in this forum have “day jobs.” We all are blessed to have this gift of song, but few of us are blessed to be able to pursue our songwriting dream and passion without having an external means of support to ensure our livelihood. My professional “day job” background involves more than 30 years in one capacity or another in the media biz. Much of it has been in the areas of advertising, marketing and public relations. We all know about the power of advertising and how commercials affect and influence our daily lives. I have made a game of finding messages among advertising slogans and campaigns that I can repurpose and channel toward motivating me as a songwriter. It is fun, and it helps me to keep moving forward, even when – ESPECIALLY WHEN -- the “noise” gets so loud that I begin to veer off course. Some are old, some are newer, but the game goes like this: Michelob “Because Some Days Are Better Than Others”: When the day’s “noise” level exceeds my decibel tolerance threshold, it is a good time to remember the Daniel Powter song, “Bad Day.” “Sometimes the system goes on the blink.” Breathe deeply. Remind myself -- everybody has one! This too shall pass! This is a means to an end, not the other way around! Did I hear a cold can pop open?  Apple “Think Different”: It is probably realistic to believe that everything has been written as a song. There really are no new things to write about. The only thing left is to write about those things differently. Not to say this is easy to do. On the contrary, it is very hard, but therein is the challenge to writing a great song – make the familiar seem fresh and new. Wendy’s “Where’s The Beef?”: This one relates to the rewriting process. Go back into every song that I write. Take off my songwriter hat and put on my editor cap. Look for the “beef.” If my song doesn’t have it, that is a good indication that it is not finished. Disneyland “The Happiest Place on Earth”: This one is just to remind me that I am on this songwriting journey because it is my dream and passion to write great songs. That is where the focus should remain. If it does, I am in my happy place! Adidas “Impossible is Nothing”: Throw down the gauntlet! Ignore the doubt! Keep moving forward – Ok, I’ll stop with the Devo lyrics, you get it! McDonalds “I’m Lovin’ It”: Celebrate the little successes. As hard and as difficult as it is, once in awhile, I am going to write something that I really, really, really feel good about. Savor those times and channel that toward growth. It means that I am getting better at my craft. Give myself, some small reward. AT&T “Reach Out and Touch Someone”: Music is emotion. Lyrics that truly touch are based on emotion. Emotion runs deep. Dig deep to pull out that emotion when writing. My song will thank me for it. Nintendo “Get N or Get Out”: If becoming a songwriter who writes great songs is truly my desire and ambition, I have to approach the process that way. Be disciplined. Give it all that I can. Write to learn and I will learn to write. If I do not give it my best and truly my all, stop. Stop and do something else. I did quit once. I don’t recommend it. It feels bad! The National Lottery “It Could Be You”: Yes, the odds of getting a cut that becomes a hit are not favorable. But it happens to someone every day. Just sayin’.  Nike “Just Do It”: I try in earnest to write every day. If I don’t work on writing an actual song, I work on ideas, work on melodies, work on lyrics, work on rewriting. I have to stay on track, even on those days when I seem to be dragging a wheel in the ditch. There is one thing for sure, if I don’t go after it, I surely will not get it. #songwriting #mitchemmonsmusic #mitch emmons

“The Adventures of Songwriting”: A Study of Lessons Learned From Mark Twain

A good writer is supposed to be a good reader – so I have read. I am a little ashamed to admit it, but I am not a big book reader. I read little books (sorry)… articles, short stories, quotes, song lyrics … but not a lot of novels and the like. I do enjoy a good book when I can, and one author that I admire greatly and have since my youth is Mark Twain. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” are two that hooked me at a very young age. Even to this day, I can fantasize about rafting on a care-free adventure down a mighty river. Along my songwriting adventure on that mighty flowing creative river, I can draw inspiration from great authors like Mark Twain. Mr. Twain has a lot to offer a songwriter honing his/her craft. Humorist Jarod Kintz notes: “He (Mark Twain) could say the same thing quicker and with more force than almost any other writer.” That is a great quality to strive for and an important thing to note as a songwriter. A commercially viable song has 3 ½ minutes to get the entire story told. There aren’t limitless pages and multiple chapters in which to get it done. A songwriter has to wrap up the complete package … theme, plot, characters, conflict, the beginning, the end … in its entirety with the confines of three verses, a chorus and a bridge. Even a quick study of Mark Twain offers some great lessons and guidance. “Write what you know.”: It was Mark Twain who said that. Every song critic that I have gotten feedback from; every songwriting “how to” article or book that I have ever read; every pearl of advice ever received or offered; even song lyrics I am familiar touted that little gem. A commercially viable song has to resonate with the listener. The songwriter has to know the subject to make it broadly connect with an audience. “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”: We strive to create strong, powerful lyrics. That almost right word can result in a good song. The lightening bug is fun and cool to watch, but to write a great song – especially one with hit potential – we need lightening words. “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”: Any writer of anything will tell you it is the editing process that often turns good work into great work. Write. Then re-write. “Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts or happenings. It consist mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever flowing through one's head.”: I believe that good songwriters never stop hearing those “voices.” Moreover, good songwriters have a responsibility to listen to them, to capture them, and then, to develop them into stories with lyrics that paint touching and beautiful pictures. “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” : Most of us are songwriting with the hope of one day turning this drive into a product that makes us money, but if that is really ONLY why we are doing it, we are fooling ourselves. We can’t NOT do it! “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”: Do it. Believe that you can, and you can. Enough said on that. “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”: So let’s go write songs! “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”: I just liked this one and thought it made a good place to stop. POST SCRIPT: Mark Twain was 40 years old when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and 49 when he penned “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat.” – But perhaps my good friends, there’s another story in that! . . . #songwriting #mitchemmonsmusic #mitch emmons