Folk Singer - Songwriter

On Being the Only Sound In the Room

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Every conductor has phrases they mutter when things aren’t going well in rehearsal. I’ve had a good number of them, which my students (I’ve come to understand) affectionately call “Ewer-isms.”

One expression I continue to use to this very day when any of my groups aren’t performing up to their standard is this one:

“Don’t let the fact that you’re the only sound in the room be the reason why people are listening to you.”

The thing is, if you are the only sound in the room, people will stop what they’re doing and listen. But it’s a lousy reason to listen. What you want is that you’re performing so well that people feel that they must listen — that they want to listen.

This expression has a direct application to what you do as a songwriter. Every time you write a song, you’re giving a performer a chance to do something unique, to present music to an audience that’s never been heard before.

It might be you singing your own song, or it might be someone else who’s singing it, but in any case, you are presenting the audience with a unique musical experience.

If you take that opportunity and merely write music that sounds like everything else out there, you haven’t given audiences any good reason to stop what they’re doing and listen. You’re simply the only sound in the room: a lousy reason for people to listen.

For every song you write, once you’ve finished it, you need to ask yourself: With this song, am I giving an audience a good reason to stop what they’re doing and listen? Or am I just adding to the noise?


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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