How songwriting has helped navigate my mental health. For me it has been a great way to exorcise my demons & create anthems of hope, love, & the power of breaking through hard times.
I look back to when I first started, I was fifteen years old, listening to Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest and many other rap and hip hop groups writing battle rhymes to their beats. Then as I got older, I got into punk, grunge and hardcore such as Unwritten Law, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Deftones, Hatebreed and Sick Of It All and my lyrics and focus shifted into more anthemic and introverted music.
Around this time, I bought my first guitar, a reasonably cheap but sturdy Epiphone Les Paul, probably because I saw Dave Grohl with a Gibson version. However, I couldn’t afford Gibson at the time as I was still in high school working in a pizza delivery store at night. I started writing simple punks songs about feeling abandoned like a “stolen car.” My biological Dad left before I was born, having suicidal ideation, dealing with physical and mental abuse from my alcoholic Grandfather and being bullied all the time. Because I kept everything inside, I struggled to connect with people and was always considered a loser by most people because I didn’t want to fit in because of trust issues that come from abuse.
Still, songwriting was and will always be my refuge, my calm in the storm and a place I could explore my feelings and dissect my trauma without being judged and ridiculed, well, at least until I first performed in public. When I first started, I couldn’t sing or play guitar to save my life, but over the years, I have developed and grown to hold my own and create a lot of great songs that I am really proud of. I have also discovered that as I have evolved and grown over the years I have discovered a grace in my songwriting and subject matter that has been a self revelation: I have developed a knack for breaking through hard times.
If you struggle to express your feelings, find a positive avenue for self-reflection, and work hard to deal with emotions, then songwriting is a great way to achieve this. Your first couple of songs will probably not be great, but once you are on the path and learn from great songwriters and how they channelled their trauma into their songs, you will find more confidence and hopefully find your own unique voice to share with the world.
Songwriters that have inspired my journey have been people who have had traumatic or challenging life experiences but have also made a difference in how they viewed the world and stepped through it. Johnny Cash is a great example. Dave Grohl after Kurt died, and people like Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, and Jimi Hendrix all overcame immense odds to share their songs. Their love of music inspires me to pick up my guitar and write melody and lyrics.
Whether you’re a beginner or hardened veteran, there is always something new and exciting to learn from songwriting. Hopefully, you found that encouraging. Learning to be creative and having an outlet can be a great way to deal with tough times. Much love.
Top 5 Books to get you started:
Writing Better Lyrics – Pat Pattison
Teach Yourself to Play Guitar: A Quick and Easy Introduction for Beginners Paperback – David M. Brewster
Forever Words : The Unknown Poems – Johnny Cash
Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting – Mary Gaulthier
Tunesmith : Inside the Art of Songwriting – Jimmy Webb
If you want to take your songwriting and guitar playing to another level, check out my blog about Finding An Online Guitar Community Helps. If you would like to support me and my songwriting endeavours, buy my new album, The Love at Bandcamp.