First, it seems important to ask what kind of songwriting do you want to do? Do you want to write commercial hits, be a folk icon, or simply enjoy writing for the sake of self-fulfillment, which in my opinion would lead you to success more than any other approach? If you want to be the folk writer, you need to start by getting in touch with yourself. What I mean by this is that when you get really in touch with yourself, you are in touch with the human condition and then can empathize, which is necessary for a folk song writer. Songs that you write might not conform because you are a non-conformist and are not in it for the money.
To be a writer of commercial songs today, it is important to adhere to a strict formula that is not necessarily in sync with the tenets of great literature and leaves the writer very little “room” to relate to the listener. However, this kind of writing can be quite lucrative if a writer can find a way to “touch” the masses and to penetrate the solid walls of the commercial industry, which is quite well guarded and well protected from those who would want to make a statement. If this is your path, then get ye to a major music city ASAP. You need to be in a physical space where you can network with industry insiders; it is a myth that you can make it from nowhere via modern technology. Things change but stay the same. In-person connections still matter.
As my mentor Edward Albee would say on the first day of his playwriting workshops, “I can’t teach you how to write.” If you want to write a commercial song, I can point you to the formula and help you refine your product, but I can’t teach you to write from the heart. If commercial success is not your goal, I can help you explore songwriting as a process of self-discovery and self-expression.
No musical skills necessary. This focus is on the lyric. Those who can play an instrument may. Those who do not play, may sing a cappella. People may meet and pair up if so inclined.
Each week, we will listen to a representative song and discuss the writer’s or writers’ technique. We will also perform original songs and exchange recommendations for improvement in a casual, relaxed, and friendly environment.
Glenna Bell is a graduate of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program where she studied with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Edward Albee, who chaired her dissertation—a collection of original plays—Glenna Bell has gone on to forge a path in music as a modern day Texas troubadour. This year she released Lone Star: Songs and Stories Straight from the Heart of Texas, the newest installment in a series of albums showcasing original songs recorded in Houston, Austin, and on the East Coast, and her songwriting has been honored by the State of Texas in a House Resolution that was read in a special ceremony at the capitol in Austin. Her songs have been aired nationally and internationally on NBC, CNBC, Fox TV, NPR, BBC, and non-com radio as well as a recent permanent placement for “Be My Valentine (On Christmas)” on the Spotify Acoustic Christmas playlist. She has performed on live stages from Houston to Austin to Nashville to New York City and has received two ASCAP Plus grants from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ Pop Music Division panel recognizing her “contribution to American music.” Her “Cougar Anthem” from the album, Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder, was a USA Today top ten pick and she was featured in an ASCAP AudioPortrait that showcases her music and her approach to writing and performance:
She is also a member of Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA) and the Recording Academy, and she teaches writing at Houston Community College.