Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tom Russell on young songwriters

What do you think is the biggest misconception or mistake of young songwriters?

(Laughs.) I could go on and on. At South By Southwest, I wasn't there, but Little Steven got up and made this speech. People asked me if I wrote it for him. He said: You people come from all over the world, and you're all trying to network your way to fame. None of you young songwriters are doing your homework. You're not learning other people's songs, staying home and learning the craft. You're not playing bars for 10 or 15 years, paying your dues. And that's true. When Dylan came to New York, and he's the supreme example, none of these people will top that catalogue, he knew a thousand songs. He could steal from Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, and he could play blues. He came through that scene very fast because of the homework he'd done. You could say genius, but he did a lot of hard work. We've made it very hard for young songwriters, with these stupid bullshit conferences, South By Southwest, Folk Alliance, Songwriter Magazine. There's this idea that there are gimmicks, tools, networking that can help you. But they haven't helped anybody. They've limited people. The Beatles had four tracks and a guitar. All this science, this introspective look at songwriting, it's put hobbles on songwriters. It was a heavy scene that Dylan and Cohen went through. Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, those guys, were in the Navy and Marines, and had been exposed to hard drugs. By the time they hit the scene they were adults, they had character. You don't run into that type of kid anymore.

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