One of the reasons I like country music is because of the stories the songs tell. For instance, in Tim McGraw’s “Grown Men Don’t Cry” I was intrigued that he sang about his Dad being a slave to his job and not being around. I knew that McGraw’s Dad was a baseball player and figured he was on the road a lot. I’m a big fan of Collin Raye and in the song, “In This Life” he discusses his relationship with a girl that evidently meant a lot to him. It made me feel like I knew them better as people after hearing stories from their lives.
A few years ago I went to a concert at Sundance where the original writers of those songs (as well as many other well-known ones) performed. It hadn’t occurred to me that McGraw and Raye were simply singers as opposed to singer/songwriters, but that’s what they are. They perform songs that other people write, and I have since learned that for the most part, that’s normal in country music.
I should have realized there’s a reason for distinguishing singer-songwriters from singers, but it hadn’t occurred to me. The singers perform music written by others and receive the accolades while the songwriters are behind the scenes sharing their innermost feelings. It’s a strange arrangement, but if there are more writers than performers and it’s harder to become a performer, I guess it provides a way to make an honest living while doing something you love.
I also have to admit that in order to be a successful performer you need to possess a certain stage presence and ability to perform. Some people have those attributes and others don’t, so not everyone who can write music could necessarily become popular singing that music. In a way, it’s like having an actor portray a character you created. If it works for movies, it can work in the music business.
I must admit though, while listening to the stories in the songs is fun, listening to the singers behind the songs is far better. If you ever get a chance to hear about a song from the person who wrote it, do it.