Struggling singer-songwriters (artists in general) are considered a different breed of humanity and they express their struggles and frustration in creating such beautiful songs. Songs that may address a political or even a religious issue that is of concern, or a song about social injustice, songs that speak to us all. Songs that make your soul drift while listening, songs that talk to us, the struggling listeners, songs that were written for us, we get it.
But what most music-loving folks don’t know is that the wonderful music making them feel and emotionally care about a subject or an issue does have its own effect on those who created it.
Talk about the mental health of struggling artists and you can definitely feel the frustration that emerges from not knowing what’s next. This is a major concern for aspiring musicians, not knowing what that next move might be, the uncertainty of it all.
There is a lot of work and effort involved in creating a song, it doesn’t just happen, although that would be nice. During my very early touring years, we ended up spending lots of time traveling and it was always a treat watching musicians create a song. On a tour bus or even traveling in a van I would catch the lead singer with a notepad and a pen writing lyrics, then walk to where the guitar player is sitting and introduce the song. They would both hum the tune together, the guitar player picks up the guitar and they start playing with the tune and that attracts the drummer. The drummer picks up the sticks, lightly playing a rhythm and banging the sticks on the seat or on a drum training pad. You can watch the bass player walking towards the gathering of song creation and they all collaborate to create a song.
They all have fun and then, you just don’t hear of the tune for a while. That tune gets evolved every day till one night the band decides to try the tune during tonight’s gig, and when you receive the set list, sure enough, there is a new tune, a new song on the list. The song is not done, not by a long shot. The band tried it but it needs work, lots of work. You can hear many different versions of the song, it’s an ongoing process till it reaches a point of completion. For me to understand the struggles of an evolving singer-songwriter, I had a chat with my good friend Genesis Fermin and what I got was pretty right on. here is what Genesis had to say to my question, what struggles come to mind for aspiring, evolving, and struggling singer-songwriters and the answer;
“That’s pretty easy, and I’d like to supplement that answer with two categories—practical issues and creative issues.
Practical issues, which impact the survival of the singer-songwriter:
-Getting paid fair wages for contract gigs (private and public events), fair division of door earnings from shows — ethical business negotiations between artists, venues, etc., like opportunities to perform that actually pay and not opportunities that “help with exposure” — exposure is what kills the artists; it’s exploitation in the long run.
-Gaining fans and listeners who are willing to support the songwriter by going to shows, buying merchandise, paying for music (not just streaming on Spotify because we make fractions of a penny from those services)
-Mental and physical health. This is such a broad issue, and everyone faces this. Some deal with it with grace, some really struggle, and some don’t survive. Our health directly impacts our work. Finding the resources, and community support help mitigate this issue.
Creative issues that many songwriters deal with:
-Songwriter’s block — is often caused by burnout and stress…mostly caused by the three issues listed above, and with this pandemic going on, it’s an issue that a lot of songwriter friends I know are facing. I also have been struggling with this, too.
-Lack of community to collaborate with.
-Not having access to the proper tools and education to expand our work.
And I believe that sums up the answer. Thank you, Genesis. 🙏🙏