Composing Connections

Connection is vital to life, love, chemistry, art, religion – the list is endless and timeless. For a singer there are countless connections to cultivate. Among the most vital are the connections the singer must make with the audience, the music, and the song – the song is the touchstone. If you don’t know what you’re singing, you’ll either sink or stink!

Another connection that’s vital to survival for a singer is finding work. One of the best steps a singer can take is to find a kindred spirit in a composer or songwriter. The writer can help the singer understand a song, to get to know it from its inception. A composer or songwriter will get to know the singer and develop an ability to create songs that showcase the technical and interpretive chops of the singer.

Growing Together

Deborah “Zuke” Smith is a voice teacher, music copyist, and singer-songwriter. She fully understands how important the connection between singer and songwriter can be for mutual growth as artists.

“It is so very important for singers to work with composers if they know nothing or little about the craft,” Zuke said. “I am a songwriter, and I think of the song as colors on a piece of art. The singer has the gift of interpreting those colors so it becomes a picture for the audience. The more a singer knows about the craft of songwriting, the more she has to offer.”

How And Where

In Nashville it’s obviously pretty easy to hook up with songwriters. The best advice for a singer here is to attend writers nights or open mic night at venues such as the Bluebird and the Commodore Lounge or to check out showcases at a variety of live music venues all across town.

The same applies to other parts of the country. Urban areas have vibrant live music venues that attract singer-songwriters and many have open mic nights. But if you’re out in rural parts of the country, that ability to make the composer connection can be frustrating, but it’s not impossible.

I grew up in a town of 500 people in Virginia where my town was the biggest “city” in the entire county. But again, resources are closer than you might think.

Check out school music programs, local churches, community colleges and regional universities to see about opportunities for you to find people who write that might be willing to hear your voice. Many times a writer doesn’t sing or those who sing can’t sing well enough to sell their songs, so they need vocalists for their demos.

Boundless Benefits

Do not underestimate the mutually beneficial relationship that can come from the bond formed between singer and composer. Now it can be tricky and even a stormy relationship, but if you hang in there, the growth potential is enormous.

“It took me many years to let go of my ego and work with other composers, arrangers and producers,” Zuke said. “The more I worked with them the more I realized how songs could explode with exponential inspiration.”

Working with a songwriter may even bring out the songwriter in you. That connection to the creative process will enhance your artistry, your ability to connect with a song and make that most important connection with your audience.

The more connections you make, the wider your circle of understanding. The wider that circle of understanding, the more connections you make as a performer. Those deep connections build your career and are personally gratifying. Those connections feed the soul of the singer and the songwriter.

Deeper Connections

“There are so many special moments in my life as a songwriter but there is one that is like a musical tattoo for me,” Zuke said. “When my daughter was young I used to play and sing with her bedroom door open so she would gently fall asleep to music. One night I had the urge to write lyrics that just seemed to flow out of me. At the same time, I felt as if I wasn’t writing the musical composition but rather it was something that was being transcribed to me. My pencil danced on the manuscript. I had an overwhelming feeling that this entire composition was given to me by my maternal grandmother whom I had never met. I shared the song and the thoughts with my mother and she said my words were very much like something my grandmother would have said and the music was something she would have loved. So, for me, songs are a gift if we open our hearts to the possibilities.”

Many of the singers who come to Brett Manning Studios and SingingSuccess are songwriters. Most of the associates that coach at SingingSuccess also write and stay closely connected to that songwriting community that enhances their artistry.

Look at the singers you most admire and feel connected to. See if there are songwriters or composers they regularly work with or whose songs they often perform. Then, set out on a journey to find writers whose voices resonate in you. Share your voice with them and see where it “grows” from there.

Visit visit www.myspace.com/zuketunes for more information on Deborah “Zuke” Smith.