In my career as a psychotherapist, I have come to value things like authenticity, transparency, emotional availability, self-awareness, insight, and personal growth. And typically, these are the same traits I seek to foster in my clients.
And as a folk songwriter, I relish precisely the same things in myself, and strive to put them into my original music. But doing so can be highly intimidating. We all love to be naked, but rarely in full view of others, and some of us only with the lights off. As a folk songwriter, there have been times when it would have been more comfortable to stand naked on stage than to perform my original music. Somehow letting you see my outside (even all of it at once!) is less intimidating that letting you see my inside.
When I write a song, it becomes a sonic snapshot of a certain period in my life. Any given song tells a story, and sometimes weaves together my thoughts and feelings about a variety of different things happening in my life at any given time. And if I’m writing the song the way I aspire to, it contains not just thoughts and feelings, but those that are my most honest, naked, and vulnerable.
Folk songwriter Mary Gauthier said something like this about songwriting: “If you aren’t scared, you aren’t doing it right.” I try to remember that thought in effort to counter the competing thoughts in my head that sound something like: You’re too open, your music is too vulnerable, people don’t want to hear this introspective crap because they don’t want to dwell in the same vast emotional seas in which you appear to take permanent refuge!
But then I remember the most important thing about being a folk songwriter: That at the end of the day, it’s about me, not you. In other words, what you think and feel about my music is really secondary to my own experience. And as soon as I start writing songs based on your experience (or the experience I want you to have), I lose myself, and my music will suffer.
Instead, I write songs because I love to; because my soul demands expression in precisely this fashion; because it helps me stay tuned; and because I believe in the power of doing things that frighten me and make me feel vulnerable. Writing from this space feels true, and often results in a song I’m proud of. But nothing brings the creative process to a half faster than fretting about what others will think.
As a folk songwriter, a father, a therapist, a brother, a son, a partner and a friend, I stay tuned to vulnerability. It’s the first thing I look for in you, but often the last thing I want you to see in me. Despite fear and pain I endeavor every day to stay open. And I hope that my own display of vulnerability encourages yours as well. Let’s get naked together.
Americana singer songwriter Jeremy Dion puts as much energy into his guitar playing as he does his songwriting. Dion is an Americana Singer Songwriter Psychotherapist.
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