As songwriters, we all have unique assets that we bring to the process of creating music. While the quality of your voice or your knack for writing hooks might come to mind first, the way you funnel emotional intuition and passion into your music shouldn’t be ignored. Feelings are some of the best music-creation tools a songwriter has. Learn to embrace and apply them to your music. In doing so, you’ll have a powerful way to connect with audiences by making your work relatable and human. But by ignoring your feelings or trying to artificially change them to make your music more palatable, you’ll make your life as a songwriter much harder than it has to be.
Nothing beats the power of emotional connection in music
Think about your favorite music and how you discovered it for a moment. Chances are, emotions played a big role in how you formed a relationship with the music. Audiences are wildly emotional when it comes to the listening experiences they have with music, whether it’s during live performances or tuning in to the radio at home. The emotional potency of music helps us do everything from weathering the losses of those we love to celebrating at weddings and everything in between.
It’s easy to forget when we create music that listeners will eventually hear the result of our work. If authentic emotion isn’t at the foundation of what we do, most audiences won’t be drawn to our music. Rather than asking if what you’re creating will please everyone, the question should instead be whether your music authentically represents your feelings, emotions, and insights in a successful way or not.
Authentically representing your feelings in music
One of the worst things we can do as musicians is to underestimate the intelligence of our listeners. Faking your feelings will probably result in music that gets ignored. Listeners can often tell when something sounds inauthentic and forced. However, this doesn’t mean you should transform each and every emotional nuance you experience into music. It’s about funneling your experiences and emotional insights into work that’s artful and compelling. Some of the best music out there is emotionally complex and challenging to listen to. You might start out feeling morose and end up writing a song that sounds deceptively joyful. It’s not inauthentic to begin the songwriting process feeling one way and writing something that feels and sounds different. Inauthenticity is forcing emotion in your music when it just isn’t there.
The act of noticing
To write with genuine feeling, you must pay close attention to yourself, the world around you, and your place in it. Some songwriters find journaling a great starting point when it comes to writing with emotional authenticity. Others take long walks, have conversations with friends, or listen to other music to help decipher how they’re feeling. Find what works for you, and start paying attention to your feelings, intuitions, and observations. What you discover will end up fueling your music in a profound way if you work at it.
Noticing isn’t just something we do as young, unestablished songwriters. It’s an exercise we’ll need to turn to again and again for as long as we want to make the kind of music that reaches listeners in a meaningful way. If it helps, try checking in with your feelings every time you write new music. If we’re honest with ourselves during this process, we will inevitably come up against feelings we’d rather not acknowledge and experience. It might be uncomfortable or even painful at times, but these are the sort of potent emotional experiences that have the power to shape our music in huge and lasting ways.
Audiences want to hear themselves in the music they listen to. This means not dumbing things down or glossing over difficult realizations, but also not feigning emotion when it isn’t there. Paying attention to your feelings in a way that translates to impactful music is like everything else we do as songwriters: it takes lots of practice, and you might not be successful the first time you try it. But the more you notice, the easier it will be to make authentic music out of what you’re experiencing.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.