NZ Songwriters have their own take on what makes songwriting a vibrant, creative practice. Laura Griffiths talks about her view.
Never A Silent Second
ex-Sacred Heart Girls College, New Plymouth
The dictionary describes a songwriter as “a person who writes the music and words of songs” - but I think a songwriter is much, much more than that…
Growing up, there was never a silent second. Music was nurtured into my soul, fed to me as a source of nutrition. George Michael, Sting, Take That, Stevie Wonder - they were all ingredients in the soul food that truly enhanced my life. As I continued to grow, I started discovering my own taste in music. I was inspired by everyone from Sam Smith and Adele to Joni Mitchell and John Mayer. Headphones became part of my everyday attire as I would continue to indulge in the creative music and lyrics of these phenomenal songwriters. My foundations were built on good music and I have grown from the inspiration found within these songs.
In primary school, English was my favourite subject – especially on the days when we were allowed to write. I had a fascination for storytelling from an extremely young age. I was engulfed in the world of words. Sometimes, I would quite happily sit in a corner, with my head wrapped up in a dictionary. Inconspicuous and floccinaucinihilipilification were among my favourite words – when I was six.
When I was seven, I wrote my first smash hit “My Grandma’s Kind, My Grandma’s Sweet – She Gives Me Stuff That’s Yum To Eat”. Though this song consisted of 3 chords, badly rhyming lyrics and a melody with absolutely no variation, I became totally hooked. The idea that self-expression, thoughts and feelings could be released through music, swept me off my feet like a knight in shining armour. The discovery that there was nothing holding me back from this world without rules, this exciting place of pure creation, was riveting. I have always been the person that wears their heart on their sleeve, so I had A LOT of emotion to express and this was the way I wanted to express it. 10 years on, I have written in excess of 300 songs.
I will admit, the majority of these are total flops, failed attempts at discovering who I am. But others, have gone on to win national competitions and secure me placement on international music courses.
And that’s the joy of it.
Music is self-discovery and compromise, failure and success, growing and learning. I was once told that performing an original song is like getting on stage naked and reading your diary to the audience. There is something addictive about the vulnerability of bearing your whole, uncensored self and darkest secrets in song. Feeling the tangible joy, sadness or empathy of an audience in response to your own music is special beyond words.
The dictionary describes a songwriter as “a person who writes the music and words of songs” – but the dictionary sells songwriters short. Creating a song is far, far more than writing music and words. Being a songwriter is about being inspired. Passionate. Fascinated. It’s about learning to share and express. I have never met anybody more in touch with their emotions than a songwriter. Because music is an authentic, individualised, innovative form of therapy. Songwriters thrive on the cathartic release provided when creating original music. Songwriting is feeling. It is versatile. It is sadness, joy and every emotion in between. To be a songwriter is all of these things – far, far beyond a dictionary.
Do you hear the song, or do you FEEL it?