Syncing With Your Audience

Methods That Work For Me
Wilbur Witt

Keeping in the flow of community is important when you are in the business of writing. Being disconnected is a deadly sin, and you can readily see that in blogs that get very few reads. This comes from not being in sync with what’s trending. The rule is simple. You have your interests, and they have their interest, and if you’re going to achieve some level of notoriety you must find a way to unify the two or you will be forever dancing with yourself.

The whole idea of writing, any writing, is to communicate with people. You acquire this trait, you’re not born with it. In the music business, those of us who aspire to actually write songs go through this learning curve. Here in Texas, back in the day, everyone wanted to be like Willie Nelson. Consequently, we all started turning out songs that we wanted to sound just like Willie. What we didn’t understand was the world already had a Willie. When someone hits everyone thinks they can jump on the bus. Like Waylon Jennings said in a song, “Old Hank made it hit, we all ride the freeway, but I don’t think Hank done it this way.” No truer words were ever sang. By the time you hear the first hit on the radio the bus has already left the station, and all the riders are already there. They’ve BEEN there!

I wrote in the vacuum of the studio. My ability was being able to grind out a song anytime someone needed it. They were good, had meter, melody, and my lyrical abilities surpassed everyone in my circle, but that doesn’t buy one beer when you go on stage and no one is listening, or worse yet, keep requesting a Willie song. You have just ceased being an artist and become a DJ!

My solution was to do comedy. Back then, Ray Stevens was the man to be if you wanted country comedy. His parodies, and style had a spot on the Opry, and all the tourists could take their kids to his show. Unfortunately, I wasn’t playing to mommy, daddy, and little Philipe at OpryLand, I was playing in Harker Heights, Texas, five miles from Fort Hood, sixty miles from Willie’s house, to soldiers and bikers. I had to go with the trend. I could mount the stage, sing, “Sixteenth Ave,” and they would just get mad! And I believed in that song. I’ve lived every line of that song, and I’m not ashamed to say it still brings tears to my eyes. I would one day live in that room “where no curtain ever hung,” but that didn’t mean shit to the bikers and GIs at Crocodile Dundee‘s, and that’s where you learn the value of the rewrite. The next time I did a show I took the same idea, with a few key changes, and presented, “F’d, F’d Over and Hungry!” I broke through the language barrier.

Did I like this? Well, you do the math. I’ve written around 3,000 serious songs, and I’m not kidding, we’ll get to that later in this article, but I’ve written less than 50 gag songs, so where’s my interest? However, I had to sell product. One thing I’ve been blessed with is always having my back against the wall. There are many times when the power was about to be shut off in the studio the next day, and all that saved it was doing a show and selling a case of albums the night before at the WaterHole Bar and Grill. In Nashville we got down to nothing to eat, and I sold albums at Pennington’s lounge, right across from the Opry, and we ate catfish later that night. That’s the other thing you have to develop. Even though you should sing (or write) like you don’t need the money, don’t FORGET the money. In the words of Billy Joe Shaver, “I declare to my soul when you have no way to go, you better know I’m gonna get my share of mine!” Billy Joe came out with this video while I was working in Nashville. We were both from central Texas, and more than one person told me at the time that I was imitating his style, but by then I’d touched the golden calf and untold them he was imitating ME! Fact was we had the same background, grew up fifty miles apart, and had the same influences. He even had momentary lapses of musical sanity just like I did. I wrote the “Anthem,” and he wrote ” White Man’s Watermelon!”

Now, you will not pay those kind of dues blogging on Google + or WordPress, but you have to develop that spirit if you are going to succeed. And by success I don’t really mean money. Money is just one thermometer of success. In this new world, getting people to read what you write is just as important. The underlying factor is ego. Forget what your therapist tells you, if you don’t have ego in this business you are doomed to failure. When I sing for anyone, be it a group of people in a bar, or one girl in front of a fireplace, I am fully aware that i AM Weird Wilbur, I HAVE sold songs to total strangers, and I HAVE been married five times, stand up Christian. You must believe in yourself, and you must believe you have something to offer. If you don’t have that then go punch a time clock. If you make the plunge into publishing of any kind you will eventually go head to head with someone just like me. And just like Michael Lee told me years ago, no one asked you here. You have to kick in the door, but If you build a better burger they will come. When you hear anyone blaming the system for their lack of success, just ask yourself, is ANYONE succeeding in this medium. I’ll guarantee you there are. Don’t imitate them, but figure out what they do, and then use that, and be you! That brings us to the some final thoughts.

Laziness is the one thing that will defeat you. Ever wonder why so many songwriters get on drugs, or turn into alcoholics? Is it boredom or a bad life? Not really. You can’t be bored in the a business where everyone’s trying to take your food away, and everyone has a bad life. We all have crap in our lives. No, it’s that to be a successful writer you have to be obsessive compulsive. I said I’ve written over 3,000 songs. Well that’s an estimate. I have heard people sing my stuff, and honestly can’t remember writing it. That’s because some days I would turn out as many as ten songs for someone, always on an open license, allowing them to edit, arrange, any record them anyway the artist saw fit. If you don’t believe that’s the way it’s done just find the original form of “Crazy” demoed by Willie, and compare it to Patsy Cline‘s version. All hit songs have to be “cover able” or able to adapt to an artists particular style. The Beatles learned this early on by trading songs with other groups.

The hours of doing this takes the lazy out of you. The ability to write an article like this one, read it, not like it, scrap it, and write it all over again, and again, and again. My book, Dobbit Do, was edited ten times, and finally rewritten twice. The public does not forgive slovenly work. They can do that themselves. Everybody has a brother in law who plays a guitar From you they expect perfection! Do this for 42 years and you’ll just about have it. Twists your life a bit. Medication may be required. Mine is dry Martinis.

When I finish this article I will read it, and then read it out loud. It must roll off the tongue, or it won’t work. Did you ever read a blog and think, “Good points, but OUCH!”. That’s because it doesn’t “cook.”. The human mind searches for form and flow. The brain is set up to look for patterns, and repetitive flow. When listening to a song, you may not even realize your ear is searching for what the songwriter calls the “rule of 13.” Listen to your favorite songs and note how many times the hook line is made up of 13 syllables. That’s not an accident, folks, and i cant tell you how it works, I just know it does. It’s what makes one song sound “lumpy” and another sticks in your head. It’s like breathing in and out.When I see the blog, or hear a song without this mental flow it comes across to me as a bumpy road. And you can’t be taught this, you have to learn in through experience. When you read your blog out loud take note where you stumble, and if you were reading into an audience at a lecture hall those would be the parts where you would say, “I’m sorry,” or “I mean,” or any number of things required to explain why you’re having to step back and do that part again. When you read out loud, and this happens, CHANGE THAT! Remember, if it rolls off your tongue, it will roll into the mind of your readers. People search for patterns, order. I hate Rap, but I can’t stop listening to it because I’m fascinated with the meter.

And remember sync. That’s important. This morning I searched for a topic. I read the news, watched about ten videos, and then read my email. I follow everybody I can. I scan the subject lines of about 300 emails a day, and read the ones that catch my eye. Today I noticed there was a great deal of interest in blogging methods, the software, the various platforms, and a host of other things all related to this new form of communication. Now normally this would bore me to tears, but I took a step back and realized that I had something to offer. The bloggers, while honestly trying to help, were dancing around the surface while not delving into the real meat, which is the spirit. As a songwriter, who really did quit his day job, and leaped into the fire, I knew some things that I’ve already paid the dues for that perhaps will help some blogger struggling to communicate and just not quite being able to put their hands on it. I hope I’ve done that. I hope this article lights one candle for someone, and brings them the joy I’ve felt, as a writer.

If you find something worth while here please let me know. If you have questions please ask. You can even disagree with me, I don’t mind. I love interaction, and I’ve made mistakes. This is a new medium. It’s developing. I hope I’ve added something in some small way.


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