I consider myself a songwriter before anything else. The fact that I have been able to write both of my records and establishing myself as a songwriter is super-important to me. Some people have that gift, where they can take on anything and make people believe it. I like to do a song from personal experience.
Being singer/songwriter implies versatility and being able to create more than one medium, and R&B artist is a box, simple as that. It is 'that's what you do, that's what you are', and that's a little unfair, to me, because I don't just do that. So I like singer/songwriter because it allows me to move a little bit more freely.
But the more you thing about it, I think the best songwriter is the one who makes you feel like you are in the best place in the world when you are listening to his or her songs. The one who makes you understand yourself a little better when your ears hear their words. At that moment, that songwriter is the best. That's the beauty of a song.
Billy Joe Shaver
I don't think people really understood what I did. And you know, in my book, 'A Helluva High Note' deals with my back story, that I was a songwriter, that I spent years trying to hone my craft and being rejected and then finally becoming a successful songwriter, record executive and publisher.
I built a reputation as a songwriter in the industry before my own hits. People were used to coming to me for songs. There were songs like 'Clown' and 'Mountains' that were my songs that I wanted to keep. But the record labels saw me as a songwriter. It was hard to get people to believe in me as an artist.
As a songwriter, you tend to develop your own style, your own technique, based around what it is you're trying to write and perform, in terms of your own music. So a way of evolving a guitar style as a songwriter is much easier, I think, than developing a true style of your own just from listening to music or playing other people's music.
As a songwriter, you're allowed to write anything, and as a person, I am all colors in the rainbow. I've been through everything, you know, so I can write a positive song like 'Better Get to Livin'' because that's my attitude. But that doesn't mean I'm happy all the time. You can't be a deep and serious songwriter without feelings. You kinda have to live with your feelings out on your sleeve and get hurt more than most people. The fear I might get hurt means I might not be able to write another song.
Especially on Broadway, composers and lyricists fretted over their creations, obsessed over every rhyme, every critical chord or interval. The stakes were so high. On Broadway, people were watching and judging, especially newspaper critics who knew a thousand ways to slice and dice a songwriter for the entertainment of hundreds of thousands of faithful readers. There was no anonymity for the Broadway songwriter. Even the best could find themselves stripped naked the morning after by the tastemakers and their readers.
That is what diminishes the artist and his song. The artist is now hermetically sealed. The publishing company got him his deal and they expect to profit from his songs. So what if he is a better singer than a songwriter; let's put him in a room with a real songwriter. Something great is bound to come...except very often nothing great comes out of such contrived match-ups. Nobody knows where a great song comes from, and that's why so many writers credit the Lord as a co-writer (though I notice they never offer Him half the writer's royalties) when they come up with a real gem.