I like to ponder things. I like to tinker, too, but that’s another story. This morning I’m pondering my recent experience at Rodney Crowell’s songwriting camp. I attended the camp along with 125 other songwriters. First off, it was a great experience and I was thoroughly entertained. But I want to do a little pondering beyond that.

I hope this post is okay. There was an unsigned “what happens at songwriting camp stays at songwriting camp” kind of thing we discussed on the first day. Sorry, if I’m stepping out of line, Billy.

I’d like to reiterate that my overall experience at the camp was wonderful. What did I learn? I picked up a few helpful bits of information on songwriting. However, as a college professor myself, I thought the curriculum could have been slightly improved. The camp is great for beginning and intermediate writers, but might be stronger for advanced writers with more rigorous material for the level.

I consider myself an advanced songwriter, one who continually pushes myself to master the art. I walked away with some inspiration to continue on that path, but I’m left pondering. Why?

It seems to me that success in the creative world is for the young, the few, the driven, the lucky. I’m almost 60 years old. I missed the boat a long time ago. So why do I keep writing songs? The chance of my work gaining commercial success recedes the more I focus on refining the art. It’s true. The best songwriting is not always what the masses want to hear.

But in my pondering I’ve come to a conclusion. I continue to write songs for the same reasons I compose ambient music and write books and poetry. Because all of this creative work that I do is a form of pondering. And as I said at the start of this piece, I like to ponder. The definition of ponder is to think about something carefully before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. That’s exactly what good songwriters do.

So with that definition in mind, Rodney Crowell’s songwriting camp was a smashing success. I’ll be pondering Joe Henry’s songwriting process for years to come. I’ll continue to work toward more innovative chord progressions and melodic structures as Joe Henry, Beth Nielsen-Chapman, and Lera Lynn all demonstrated so beautifully, and generously. Instead of running from, I’ll keep leaning into the hurt and pain of this life as Mike Reid preached so wisely. And I’ll stick to hard rhymes, Rodney, except when I don’t.

Maybe, I’ll be back next year. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.