What’s a Song?

There is so much that can be said when it comes to the music we listen to, sing along to, or the songs that hit us in the feelings when we need it most. Whether it's watching a film, having that PERFECT song lead you to searching for what the heck it is on the Shazam app, or whether it's listening to your favorite apple music or Spotify playlists to try and dictate and shape your mood for the day... what we consume matters.

What we listen to affects us.

The messages, lyrics, melody lines and chord structures we absorb every time we turn on our smart phones, iPad and radio shifts us on - quite literally - a chemical level.

I talk about this quite extensively in two of my previous blog posts in particular:

But whilst the music and media we listen to can have a huge impact on the way we see ourselves, and the world: there's only so much that listening to Adele and Drake can actually achieve... because fact is: their lyrics and musical output is a reflection of them. Their reality. Their lyrics. Their story. And yes - you might very well be able to relate to their stories to some extent, but music can be so much more powerful than that when we give ourselves the tools and ability to reclaim our narrative, step into our vulnerable, and take ownership of our life, story and song.

But before we dive into that: let's take a quick step back first, shall we?

There are several ways one could interpret this question. The first - most literal answer is that a song is "a short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung or rapped". But according to Gen Z, if you are to ask "what is a song?", their response would probably be to turn to their android phone and ask "Hey Google!" or the iPhone and ask: "Hey Siri!", before enquiring about the name of a specific song that has come across their periphery and has somehow made them stop, pause, and feel something in response to that song.

Because music affects us.

And I get it: there are oodles of songs that I've come across in my lifetime that have not only affected my emotional and mental states, but have inspired action, motivated me, and helped me realize some things about myself that I didn't always recognize were things that I needed to know!

Songs like:

  • "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World, and "What You Waiting For?" by Gwen Stefani inspired me to pack my bags, sell my car and move halfway across the world to the land that my mother was raised in, back in 2015.

  • Songs like "Wasted Years" by Iron Maiden, and "Wannabe" by The Spice Girls helped to keep me motivated during my first ever 5K run.

  • "Tell Him" by Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion, and "The Way" by Jill Scott encouraged me to find the words to tell my now-fiancée how I felt [long before we were engaged].

Music affects us. Music inspires us. Music motivates us.

But what if, instead of turning to our favorite artists, lyricists, and musicians to dictate how we feel, think, and behave: wouldn't it be incredibly empowering if we turned the spotlight on our own inner-voices, and recognized our own songs? Turned our own stories, lessons and experiences into melodies, lyrics and personalized masterpieces?

It's vulnerable work, but you know what? Creativity can be such a beautiful security blanket.

If you are familiar with who I am, and what I do at all: I've been a musician, songwriter, and vocalist for most of my life. It wasn't until 2011 that I stumbled across a phenomenal artist by the name of Amanda Palmer [whom I've had the privilege of seeing live several times, and meeting once] who embraces vulnerability like a superpower... much of my own career since I moved to the States [from New Zealand] back in 2015 was impacted by AFP's music, career path, and book/TED Talk: The Art of Asking. It was through her that I learned about Brene` Brown, who's another phenomenal woman [and TED speaker] that also embraces vulnerability as a superpower.

What they speak of, and share around the importance of showing up, being vulnerable, and leading with courage and compassion always made sense to me, but it wasn't until 2019, whilst working with a vocal student who decided he wanted to write his own song that things really started to click into place.

Yes. We can absolutely spend our creative time and energy singing other people's music, and trying to own each song and apply our unique edge to make it our own... but the reality is this:

Their stories are not ours

Yes: we might hear aspects of our own experiences incorporated into their lyrics, but if vulnerability is a superpower, like any muscle: the only way we can strengthen it is to increase the tension. And singing other people's songs is playing it far too safe.

We need to own our song.

And one of the best things about music and songwriting... is that because it's a creative expression: we can not only embrace our vulnerabilities as superpowers as well, but we can wear the concept of using creative license as a shield or security blanket: to protect ourselves in the most vulnerable of spaces.

This is exactly the approach I took when writing my song Faith in You.

Talk about exposed - telling my fiancée that I was ready to commit, lean in, and be vulnerable was scary. But I had the security blanket of music and creative expression to assist me with my honesty.

I did the same thing for my recent single Barbed Wire, which is about understanding, expressing and overcoming my experiences with sexual abuse. Granted, it took me 20 years between the experience and the actual recording and releasing of the song... but even still: when I sing, perform, or play the song to anyone: it's scary. But the musical security blanket allows me to feel somewhat protected, even when discussing super vulnerable subjects.

In fact, most every one of my songs to date has been a creative outlet for the feelings, thoughts and ideas that I have that are difficult to express in normal conversation.

  • Proud - processing the passing of my father back in 2018

  • Sold - expressing my difficulties with sexism and my own experiences with the #metoo movement in the music industry

  • Save You From Yourself - exorcising my inner demons, self sabotage and imposter syndrome.

Music and lyric-writing quite literally give us permission to explore, and dive into some sensitive parts of our own psyche that we might be nervous about sharing with our friends and community... but when it comes to our mental health: the only way to ensure our well-being is to lean in - not away.

And that's why music, vulnerability and creative expression go so well together. They can truly help us to go deep in a way that feels safe to sing, express, and connect.

As much as I've been doing this work for my own music discovery of self: since 2019, I've been actively helping teens, in particular, lean into their truth, their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences safely using the lens of music, songwriting and creative expression.

Here are some of the lyrics I've seen them come up with over the past several months:

But it's not easy.

And I get it. But damn: when it hits - it hits. When people - no matter what age, color or creed - feel safe enough, with that musical security blanket and powers of vulnerability, to show up authentically, honestly and bravely, and sing their truth?

That's when mountains can begin to shift.

It has been said that one of the key components to anxiety is attributed to feeling overwhelmed to the point where it's difficult to even understand why or how... and much of that is because there's so many compressed emotions that it's hard to know where to begin when it comes to tackling and overcoming them.

Songwriting gives people permission to slow down, pin-point key triggers and pain points, and then turn those struggles into song!

And not just any song - empowering songs. Positive songs. With the right coaching, support, and safe space: we have the ability, skills, and know-how to let ourselves lean into the pain, understand the how's, why's, and where's, before then recognizing how to shift our focus on the blessings within the mess.

The power within the pain.

The anthem among the adversity.

And once that song is written, who knows? You can create your own artist identity, record your song, release it to YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, and soon enough: other people struggling to find their voice will be using the Shazam app, "Hey Google", and "Hey Siri" to search for your song.

But that's a topic for another day.

For now: just know that your vulnerability is not something to run away from. Quite the opposite. You can use it to fuel your creativity, and use that creative security blanket to transmute your pain into power. Lean into the vulnerability, and sing your song loudly and proudly.

If you'd like to learn how to do this, simply click here to book a free breakthrough call to learn more about Empowerment through Songwriting coaching - which can be done either virtually or in person.

We all deserve to be happy and healthy, and recognize songs that live in each and every one of us. I can't wait to work with you to write yours.

~ Emma G

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