One of my oldest friends is a wonderful singer/songwriter named Stephen Bishop (www.stephenbishop.com). I met him through a mutual friend, John Jarvis, a fabulous keyboard player, with whom we were coincidentally writing for the same publisher, William H Morris, and we were both signed to them by Steve Morris. So we had to connect, you see?
And what we use to do when we were coming up, was get together and show each other what we’d written. There was a tacit competition between us and we were both enamored of the Buffalo Springfield and then Steely Dan and through it all the Beatles, so that’s where our songwriting took us.
Then Severin Browne (www.severinbrowne.com), who has written for datamusicata, gave Stephen a Mel Bay Chord book and Stephen’s writing took off.
He went on to compose the hits, Save It For A Rainy Day, On and On, and One More Night (the Phil Collins hit).
Stephen and I still hang together and still show each other songs and the most interesting thing happened a while back when I showed him my latest tune, Let’s Get Out of Here.
I wrote it after my first guitar lesson last August and raced home with what I had learned and immediately incorporated into a song. I had a lot of very fun stuff to play behind the song and, as many of you know, I like every song I write to have a guitar part that could be a piece on it’s own without me singing over it.
So we sat down in Stephen’s living room and I proceeded to play him the tune, which I sincerely believe is one of the best songs I’ve ever written.
Here’s what Stephen said. “I was so busy watching all that fancy guitar work, I didn’t really hear the song.” And a bell went off.
I remembered having the same reaction to hearing one of my favorite Little Feat (www.littlefeat.com) songs played by the extraordinary Paul Barrere at a party where we were trading songs.
His playing was so involved and so brilliant that I literally didn’t listen to the song. I just was wowed by the chops he displayed. And then I realized that I actually wished he had played a little less brilliantly during his singing and let me focus on the song before he took off like that. I mean, as a guitar player I couldn’t help but be hypnotized by what he was doing.
But I missed the song…
Stephen had the same reaction to my song. So the lesson for today is to suggest that you save your really flash guitar for the musical interlude and the rest of the time serve the song. It’s amazing how many times I have to keep coming back and learning that lesson.
Serve the song.