Writing songs is an intimate and personal journey that can build the foundation of where you want your art to go. One underrated but significant way you can improve your songs is by participating in songwriter rounds. Though the format varies, these public forums often involve anywhere from 5-15 people and several rounds where smaller groups are formed. Within each round, each artist plays a song they wrote while the others listen and give their feedback. In essence, it is songwriting within a community. Here are a few reasons why you should participate in one.
Artists test a song’s legs while still in early stages of development. Chattanoogan Scott Bruce (Magic Birds) hosts one such songwriter round, called Scenic City Showcase, at Barking Legs Theatre. The next Scenic City Showcase is scheduled for Saturday, March 4th. He commented that when you perform a raw song still in the works, you are offering the audience and your peers an opportunity to hear your song and the story behind it. “For some artists that are in bands with multiple electric instruments,” he said, “this is a very vulnerable and sometimes frightening spot for them because they cannot hide behind the music of the band. However, as negative as that point-of-view sounds, it is more magical in a sense that it really gets them back to the infant stages of their music, when it’s just an acoustic instrument and a voice, prepping and creating the song into whatever it may become.”
Artists mutually benefit from criticism. Performing in a round also offers you a safe environment to give and receive constructive criticism. It challenges you to make sure your songs are the best they can be before other people give their input into how it can be better. Anthony Quails is a native Chattanooga singer/songwriter and executive director of the Chattanooga Songwriters Association. When asked why he thought it was important for artists to attend rounds, he emphasized the giving and taking aspect of improving a song. He said, “You learn techniques other songwriters use to craft their songs, how to build a vocabulary, and develop discipline to continue to grow and expand your ability.”
Artists build relationships with fellow musicians and new fans. It also gives you an opportunity to network and build your fanbase. By sharing your music, you offer others the ability to work together with you on your song while developing relationships for future collaboration. Rounds can also help build your fan base. While an audience member may come to see one artist in the round, they may hear other music they enjoy and become a fan of others. It is recommended that you bring business cards and samples of your music for that purpose.
Chattanooga has an active music scene with potential to grow stronger, which is why Scott identified the need for a regular local songwriter’s round. By inviting multiple local musicians and their fans to these events, connections are made and musicians grow more comfortable in creating their art.