JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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As I walked to a songscreening I snapped this photo and wondered... is this ship for me?

About a month ago, I joined West Coast Songwriters, formerly Northern California Songwriters Association, as a way to have the music biz come to me, rather than me go to it, because of my issues with flying (it really wrecks me, but not always, just often enough that I have kept air travel to a minimum since my accident). My first experience with WCS was, um, not that positive. The visiting Music Industry Heavy did not offer much in the way of insightful feedback for me or anyone else, in my opinion, and took over half the songs for further consideration, which, to me, indicated either an insanely low bar or an inability to make a decision.

Yesterday was different. But first, a quick refresher on what goes on at these events:

You enter a big room, hand your CD/lyrics to the host, sign your name on a list, and… wait. When the Music Industry Heavy arrives, he or she gives a brief talk about the business and where the opportunities lie and then proceeds to go down the list, playing the tunes on a cheap ass boom box -- usually but not always stopping them before they’re over -- and critiquing the performance and the song. And that’s where things can get really interesting, IF the Music Industry Heavy is a good critic.

Yesterday’s Heavy was Antoinette Olesen, out of Nashville, and she was a good critic. No, she was great. She arrived under a crimson bloom of long read curls and greeted everyone with a huge smile and a super personable style. My hopes soared. And as she started into her first critique, I knew I was in the hands of someone who loves and can talk clearly, knowledgeably and compellingly about music and songwriting.

Oddly, I wasn’t nervous. My stomach was butterfly-free and I wasn’t thinking to myself, “You know, it’s kinda warm in here.” But I was uncomfortable. Sitting in a folding chair with my head unsupported was pure torture, so I finally dispensed with decorum and sat on the floor with my back against a wall.

Finally, my moment came. Antoinette said, “Happiness. Love the title.” Play was pressed and when the song concluded she exclaimed, “Cool song! I could hear this on a pop radio! But… not without a little re-writing.” She then proceeded to parse the lyric and pretty much every line she felt didn’t quite work, I had agonized over, wondering whether it was “right” or not.
Unfortunately, to re-record the song right now is not practical, and if I can’t makes some changes, I’m going to leave it for the next album. Am I bummed? NO. I thank Antoinette for pointing out the flaws in my song, before I put it out there into the world.

And so, that big ship coming in was not for me. Next time.