Music and Your Teenager – it’s Scary Work.

But songwriting works - when done right.

As a child growing up in the 90's, I spent a LOT of time watching music videos on TV. I was only allowed 10 hours of television per week [which seems like a lot now that I'm an adult, but as a kid: that was a LOT less than my peers], but I spent 100% of those hours in front of the box watching musicians videos, learning dance moves, and reveling at my favorite artists as they performed on UK's Top of the Pops, or the RTR Countdown and MTV.

I started my entrepreneurial journey early: saving all my busking money to buy cassette tapes, CD's and music magazines. My favorite magazine included the song lyrics for four different songs every week, and - while sometimes I knew the songs - often: I'd never heard them before. So, the creative child's mind did what it did best, and I would take each mysterious song lyric, and give it my own melody.

I had no idea that what I was doing was pivotal for career as an Empowerment through Songwriting coach - taking a random set of lyrics, applying my own melody and rhythm, and turning it into a completely different song simply by not knowing any better. Sometimes it worked - sometimes it didn't. But it taught me one key lesson in songwriting: a well-written song will be able to hold its own despite what melody, chord structure, rhythm, or genre is given to it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before we can attribute melody and music to any song: we must first write it, and that, dear reader, can be the scariest thing of all.

First: hello. My name is Emma G. Singer/songwriter, speaker, ex-front person of the New Zealand hard rock band Static Era - now turned solo artist in Washington, DC, and youth empowerment through songwriting coach. I have a relatively rare neurological condition called hydrocephalus, for which I've had ten brain surgeries and 14 additional surgeries, and like many other women around the world: I've also had to cope with a various number of other traumas. Depression, suicidality, losing people to suicide, drugs and alcohol addiction, losing my father, having a brief stint on being unhoused, emotional-, mental-, physical-, and sexual abuses... but thankfully: I've always found solace in creativity and musical expression. Granted, I was practically born making up my own songs, but as a child: I often found myself turning to those same music videos I mentioned earlier as a way to try to understand and communicate my thoughts and feelings.

I thought Pink's "Eventually" from the Miss Undaztood album was the answer to my loneliness. I thought Linkin Park's "Numb" was the answer to my anger. I thought Enigma's "Return to Innocence" was the answer to my lack of spiritual practice.

But then I realized something:

The answer was actually me. It was my voice. My authenticity. My vulnerability. My musical heroes certainly had lyrics and messages that resonated with me, but they weren't my truth. I needed to figure out how to find and express that for myself.

Which is where the incredibly powerful art of songwriting comes in.

Since the age of five: I've written close to 1000 original songs - some of them terrible: others pretty damn good, even if I do say so myself, but it wasn't until one of my vocal students back in 2019 asked me if he could learn to write his own songs too that I realized something.

Many generations of teenagers - especially Gen Z - haven't been as blessed as I have been to know early on how to identify, simplify, understand, and communicate my thoughts in a way that felt safe. Creativity and music have a sneaky way of feeling protected, even as I would write and sing about hideously personal topics... it was easy to shrug it off as "creative license", or "just a song", even when it was clearly so much more than that.

But it's not just about the ability express oneself honestly.

Throughout the five and a half years I wrote, sang, recorded and toured with my ex-rock band Static Era: I learned the valuable skill of using songwriting as a tool to turn my angst into fuel, and quite literally transmute my pain into my power.

Songs like Addicted to a Dream helped me break free from a toxic relationship. Dear Me helped me step outside of depression, and give my current self a lot more compassion, empathy and love. Fire Away helped me embrace my inner badass, and recognize that I'd survived 100% of my bad days thus far: so whatever else life was going to throw at me, I was big enough to handle it.

But like I said: I was lucky.

Not every young person was born with a rare neurological condition that results in them leaning more towards gratitude for each and every day given, rather than a bad attitude at what life hasn't presented us.

Not every young person recognizes that the wind from a door closing quite often blows open a window.

Not every young person understands the power of their voice.

Which is why, in 2019 when my then-vocal student asked me to help him write and record a song: I couldn't wait to help him recognize how important his honest truth was, and how - by letting himself feel his emotions - he would be better equipped to understand and move through them.

After all: character is built in times of adversity - not during times of ease.

Not long after we finished his song, one of his friends asked to do the same... and not only was Sydney Witt's album PACKED with phenomenal songs, but it helped her college application for the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts [or LIPA], which was founded by none other than Paul McCartney.

Here is the official music video for one of the songs she wrote, recorded and put up on YouTube.

There's so many incredible benefits to using music, music videos, performance, listening to music, and singing when it comes to our emotional and mental health and well-being, but again: I get it. It's scary work.

So I've put together a 9 step PDF guide on how to use songwriting to help you, or your teenager first identify those overwhelming, vulnerable or difficult thoughts, before then allowing yourself to understand them, before communicating about them in a way that feels safe and comfortable.

Check it out.

Here's one of the most powerful parts of this process though: You don't need to necessarily be musical in order to write a good song.

With the right support, the right coaching, and knowing the rules of music [which, to be fair: are there to be broken, if you know how]: you or your teenager can really turn struggles into songs.

For the past few months, I've been working with an exceptional group of young people [between 12 and 14years old], who - up until recently - would have laughed if you asked if they were musicians. But this past week, they performed two truly moving songs that they wrote themselves about their authentic thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Here are the lyrics to one of these songs:

I’ve been feeling in the dump for so long

Like I’m not being heard, it’s absurd

Every time I try to express myself

You’ve always got to get the last word

It’s like I’m a younger version of you

And who I really am doesn’t count

So every time I try to show up

You block me out and then shut me down

My feelings are important

What I have to say: you have to hear it

My life is not about you

Why can’t you listen to what I’m going through?

I’m very lonely most days

As if I’m living in the dark\

It feels as if nobody cares

I'm being attacked by huge sharks

With my family over here

Making assumptions that aren’t true

School community over there

Judging me for things they never knew

My feelings are important

What I have to say: you have to hear it

My life is not about you

Why can’t you listen to what I’m going through?

I’ve been feeling like I can’t trust

I have the urge to run away

If everyone is going to leave

I need to find somewhere that’s not gray

My feelings are important

What I have to say: you have to hear it

My life is not about you

Why can’t you listen to what I’m going through?

Now, I don't know about you: but as a woman in my mid-30's, I can relate to this song as much as I could when I was a pre-teen or teenager... but the most important part of this entire songwriting experience for these students was this:

For the first time in a long time, they not only allowed themselves to identify, simplify, understand and communicate their scary or overwhelming thoughts, but as they performed their songs: they felt heard.

And feeling heard is of huge importance to Gen Z.

Actually: it's hugely important to all of us. As the first president of the International Coach Federation Cheryl Richardson said: "People start to heal the moment they feel heard".

Even though it's "scary", it doesn't have to be difficult.

Giving our teenagers the safe space, creative tools, and effective coaching to help them recognize and step into the power of their authentic selves is patient work, but believe me: they want to show up. They want to be healthier, happier, and more resilient. Wrapping that healing journey up in creativity and musical expression is simply there to facilitate your teenager's process more enjoyable and more stick-with-it-able.

I mean, who doesn't like music?

The only difference is that empowerment through songwriting coaching is about taking the power back from their favorite artists [sorry Drake, Cardi B or Panic at the Disco!], and giving that power to your teenager instead.

To help them understand that the ability to rewrite their narrative is - quite literally - in their hands, and their voices.

The Time is Now

If you've read this far, and you'd like to learn more about how songwriting and music can facilitate your teenager's journey to mental-, emotional-, social-, and even academic wellness [happy students make for better students!], then I'd love to hear from you!

Click here to book a free, no-obligatory discovery call with me to learn more about how I can help you or your teen today!

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

~ Emma G

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