I drove to New Hampshire on Tuesday with the Danelectro and a bag full of sweaters and knee socks. Winter hit New England in the middle of fall this year. Some towns saw a foot-and-a-half of snow and lots of people lost power and Halloween was actually postponed in a few communities. The horror. The farmhouse is freezing but Gary had a fire going and within 20 minutes of my arrival we were drilling into the question of what is the difference between a songwriter and someone who writes songs. Naturally I posted the query on Facebook and the conversation has been lively. One gets paid and the other doesn’t, suggested one friend. But I know plenty of songwriters who don’t get paid. Perhaps quality is the differential? Hardly. Bad songwriters roam the earth with impunity. Another friend noted that the late William Stafford expected, as a poet, to write a poem a day. I hear Elvis Costello has the same standard: a song a day. Yet another friend believes that it hinges on how deeply one feels that the act of writing a song defines oneself, and another says it’s a question of commitment. For a while Gary seemed to be trying to connect being a songwriter with intention. He asked if I intend to perform my songs or have someone else perform them. I said no, that I have no plans beyond engaging in the process of writing them, but that I didn’t think that was a dealbreaker. It’s a little like the if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest thought experiment. If you write a song and no one hears it, are you a songwriter? Emily Dickinson was a poet before anyone read her poems. It’s a semantic question, really, one of identity and perception. I am writing songs. I hope to one day be a songwriter.
singer and songwriter by Margareta Jungerth Boo