In my first post, I talked about the journey to composing and writing lyrics. Now I want to explain what I’ve realized about my sources for inspiration. Growing up was rough. But that is true for many people. Growing up is never easy. I was 13 when my parents announced their divorce, and I remember thinking……”yeah, this is going to be the best choice for everyone I think...” I suppose I have always been very self aware….a bit too much at times.
I seem to have always been surrounded by addictions of one kind or another. I wasn’t alone. Millions of people go through it. We often feel neglected – like we don’t matter. We make choices very early on to either continue or change patterns.
I got through it. As I learned to understand and to forgive, things got better. It helped that my family support system was strong. I kept seeking out relationships that caused me to be a caretaker. The older I got, I saw how many people seemed to suffer in silence. They cope with substances, rage, isolation, abandonment and dependency. I learned that people are not their problems, and that their problems and pasts can’t be their identity.
I came out to my family at a very young age, 11 or 12 I think. I was truly grateful to be supported and loved for who I was. Whatever problems faced our family, that was never an issue. I wish, so very much, that could be the case for everyone.
Like many kids, I fell in love with the “Wizard of Oz” and I decided I wanted to play it on the piano. When my dad bought me the easy piano version, I got mad – I wanted the real version. The full score. Fortunately, my dad humored me and drove back to the store to get it. But there was still the small problem that I didn’t know how to play piano. I locked myself in my room for an entire summer and figured out how to play it on my own. I think when I am determined to do something…I do it.
Through my teenage years, my love of Broadway broadened.
At 17, I was ready to break away from what my life had been, and head to college. I was accepted to Emerson in Boston; however, the paperwork for dorm housing never made it, so, if I was going to go…..I needed a place to live. I was determined not to stay home – nothing was going to stop me.
I took a Greyhound bus to Boston with $300 in my pocket from my job at Friendly’s. When I got to Boston, I had nowhere to stay so I slept on a park bench in the Boston Commons for two nights while looking for a place. Finally, I found a guy willing to accept my $300 as a deposit. After securing a place, and returning home…I felt proud of myself for handling the situation on my own. That was the first time I realized that I was capable of surviving on my own. Over the years, when I think about that trip, I remember what it was like to be on that park bench at night – looking up at the stars – wondering what those stars held for me. I knew that I was on my own. There was no turning back. Nothing was going to stop me from doing what I had set out to do.
If you read my previous post, you know that my dreams of being a great performer took a few wrong turns. Feeling isolated and a failure, I left the world of theater and all my dreams and found myself working in mutual investments and miserable. We’ve all been there, doing something we hate because it’s what we think we need to do to make a living and pay the rent.
Once I became a composer/lyricist, I found my purpose. Forever the little boy locking myself in my room to perfect something, I also taught myself to become a composer and lyricist. I let my instincts guide me. At first, I only wanted to write music, but when I worked with other lyricists, the songs never really felt “my own”. I wanted to use the empathy I developed to give similar people a voice through my songs. So I forced myself to write my own words and thoughts so that I could share something deeper.
We all face challenges throughout our lives. I wrote the song, “If the World Only Knew,” because I was asked to write a song for autistic children at a nearby school. I wanted everyone to hear their voices and recognize that we all have been misunderstood at some point. I never expected the song to change my career the way it has, but that’s the beauty of writing. You really just never know.
The most autobiographical song I have written to date is called “I Am” and it’s a song about accepting yourself as you are – there is nothing wrong with being ordinary.
So, that’s who I am. That’s what my songs are about. I still wonder everyday if what I create is good enough. I still send my songs to my mother first, before anyone, as an added security blanket. It also helps that she’s my biggest fan. But I think the self doubt never goes away, it’s how you either let it hurt you or encourage you that matters.
When people recognize themselves in my songs, I want to inspire them to get through whatever comes. I believe music helps us understand ourselves in ways that nothing else can. I want my music to be a voice for people that feel that they don’t have one, and it’s something I will continue to strive for.
As always, I would love to hear from you. Please comment with your thoughts!