Sing a (Not So) Simple Song

A roundtable with five Twin Cities songwriters

           Matt: That's sounds great to me...

           Stuart: I'm not discounting that, but I think there's a distinction to be made between that and between somebody who comes to a show, maybe not even in a mood to listen, but sitting there in the course of the evening, some song takes them by the command of its language and grabs them. And pretty soon they're transformed from one mood or emotion--they can't help it, because the song is in charge--and by the end of that four or five minutes they're put into this place, they're just soaking in this emotion or this feeling that you'd have to ascribe to the song. Somebody working with these lyrics has done that. So those are two different experiences...

           Wendy: But that can happen with the music too, though. I completely hear you on the lyrical thing, because I'm a lyric freak too. But I think it can be incredible to set up an audience where they do take their own bouquet home afterwards that has nothing to do with what you wrote. Because--and this is just a thought--you can't speak to every person in your audience afterwards and find out how they took your song, and even the most precisely written song they may interpret in a way that you could never imagine. And maybe that drives you crazy.

           Stuart: It does.

           Wendy: Like "Oh my god! How could you get that from that?"

           CP: So what about the response that listeners have to stuff? As songwriters, do you feel that people appreciate the craft of songwriting?

           Matt: Well, I think it depends on who your audience is. But yeah, I think that people listen closer than I ever thought they would. And when I said that people have their own interpretations of songs, I saw a review of our [Balloon Guy's] record where there's a song called "Springtime in Ho Chi Minh City," and somebody had written this elaborate thing about it being about a Vietnam vet. And it makes perfect sense and it's not, it's not what I was thinking of at all. So I think that somebody somewhere is really listening. I think it's noticed...

           CP: Fans as well as critics...

           Matt: Yeah, I think so, definitely.

           Wendy: Well, I think everyone comes to it as the individual that they are, and they take out of it what they do, and that is the thing about music. It's so subjective. Lots of art is subjective, but music can keep going and going and going and changing. There's a song that I listened to 10 years ago I could listen to now and it's an entirely different experience to me because my life is different. Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the lyrical content, that I didn't really get that same way... That's the weirdest thing about music, you write this thing, and you put it out there, and it takes on its own life...

           CP: It's really created once it's out there.

           Wendy: Yeah, it's like a cell that keeps multiplying...

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