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May 2024
Vol. 23, No. 8

Talkin’ Craft

Cannonball! Diving into Vulnerability in Songwriting

by Lindsay WhiteMay 2024

Lately I’ve been wondering where songwriters even get off. Not like that—gross. I mean where do we get the balls to write the things we write and sing the things we sing in front of rooms full of people? (Okay, maybe not full in my case, but still.)

In her book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, adrienne maree brown (one of my faves) writes:

“Are you actively practicing generosity and vulnerability in order to make the connections between you and others clear, open, available, durable? Generosity here means giving of what you have without strings or expectations attached. Vulnerability means showing your needs.”

Inexplicably, I think performing songwriters have an easier time with vulnerability than being generous of themselves without expectation. We manage to find magnificent words to describe agonizing pain, then clamor for a chance to share those vulnerable words (aka our needs) with others. It is our little gut-wrenching gift to the world, and we sincerely hope it resonates with our listeners. But one of our biggest needs, as it turns out, is some sort of acknowledgment, or we probably wouldn’t be doing it in public. (Admit it.)

We do cannonballs in the deep end of the human vulnerability pool, where most people wouldn’t even dare to doggy paddle, but you can bet your ass we’re gonna use our egos as floaties.

Anyhoo, if you wanna check out some of my most vulnerable songwriting moments, might I recommend Deep Dark Down (a mama grief song) and Whiplash (a breakup song). One, I have a hard time performing in public because my eyeballs turn to soup, and the other gives me actual whiplash as I try to exorcize the zombie demon living inside my body who remembers the way I poured everything I had into a relationship that still failed. (Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment—jkjkjk).

All right, enough of my musings. Let’s get to our featured acts for this month’s Songwriter Sanctuary on Friday, May 31.

Hugo Anché. Photo by Daniel Roblado.

Stucky Leigh. Photo by Sydney Valiente.

Ashley E. Norton. Photo by John Hancock.

I first caught up with Hugo Anché, a versatile musician known for his eclectic blend of Latin, funk, soul, and jazz. I asked how he approaches songwriting when processing mentally or emotionally challenging experiences.

“I tend to be more focused on vulnerability, and I write what I feel. I’d rather write things as metaphors or comparisons than explicitly saying something; I find there’s beauty in the mystic and enigmatic.”

He brings up a good point. Metaphors are particularly useful tools for writing about vulnerable topics. They give listeners something familiar to sink their teeth into while allowing writers to examine their feelings and experiences in a clever way, sometimes from a safer distance. (In the scary space between coming to terms with my own sexuality and coming out, for example, I wrote almost exclusively in metaphor.)

I posed the same question to Will Stucky (read his profile in this month’s issue. He is one half of the dynamic Americana folk duo Stucky Leigh), who shared his step-by-step method for turning life’s lemons into songwriting lemonade.

“Step 1: Trauma dump. Step 2: Process, articulate, sort; View the past, present, and future of the situation and figure out if or how that can be conveyed to an ignorant stranger. Bonus points if allegory and metaphors exist. Step 3: Make it rhyme and give it a melody.”

I’ve played the role of ignorant stranger in this scenario, and I can assure you that Stucky, Leigh, or Stucky Leigh have no trouble in the conveying department. Check them out at this month’s Songwriter Sanctuary and you’ll see what I mean. Their songs are all slam dunks; prepare to be posterized.

Final Thoughts
Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect with our third act, Ashley E. Norton, who is currently out on tour, so we’ll be sure to ask her at the show to share a bit about how she navigates vulnerability in songwriting.

Make sure you mark your calendar for Friday, May 31. I was joshing around about the whole ego thing but, in all seriousness, each of these artists contribute so much value to our community, and they deserve all the acknowledgement and applause from local music lovers. Hope that’s you!

Thanks for Talkin’ Craft with me!
Hugo Anché photo credit: Daniel Robledo
Stucky Leigh photo credit: Sydney Valiente


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