Professional songwriter Greg Johnson instructs students on the process
Westfield Middle School eighth-grader Sam Solomon held his pencil to his face as he looked at the sheet of paper resting in front of him on the table before telling his group the idea he had for a song – “I’m Going to Save Myself from Loving You.”
“A guy really wants to change for this girl, but doesn’t want to change too much and lose his personality,” he said.
Each group, or sometimes pair, of eighth-grade students participated in one of two two-and-a-half-hour songwriting workshops Sept. 12. The workshops were led by professional songwriter Greg Johnson of Nashville.
“I know more about songwriting, because I listened to someone who does it for a living,” Solomon said.
Before beginning the assignment of writing a chorus and lyrics, Johnson performed a song he just sold and instructed them on the six traits of songwriting.
“I’m a pretty good writer, and I really enjoyed learning more about songwriting,” said eighth-grader Julia Barker.
As the students worked, Johnson and his sister WMS teacher Becky Brock walked around the school’s large group instruction room reading over songs and helping students focus topics, rhyme words and harness their writing potential.
“It’s neat. I enjoy getting to work with my sister,” Johnson said.
Before each workshop session concluded, Johnson picked a song and played the guitar as he sang through the lyrics illustrating to the students how the process worked. The result astonished the group as they heard the lyrics of one of their peers put to music.
“I’m surprised that girl was that good of a songwriter. I didn’t know she could write songs like that,” said Solomon of his classmate whose song was picked.
After Johnson returns to Nashville, he will critique all of the songs to inform the students what was good and what they can improve on. He will also pick the best writing from each session and record it with music onto a CD and send it back to the school for the students to have.
“It’s really cool. I’m really excited for my classmates,” said eighth-grader Stephanie Cadwallader.
“I’d be really happy. I’d probably listen to it all day,” added Barker.
Johnson said he hopes the workshop provides the students with a greater awareness for the craft of songwriting and how it pertains to country music.
“I think it’s important to have that difference between songwriting and other creative writing,” he said. “They are more likely to listen to the lyrics now, and it will broaden them culturally. Lyrics in country music aren’t much different than lyrics in other genres of music.”
After briefly reading over some of the papers turned in, Johnson said he was surprised at how hard and serious some of the groups took the task.
“Some of the students have a lot of potential. Some were surprisingly good,” said Johnson. “It helps another generation of songwriters to come along. Any little thing we can do to promote that will be better for Nashville in the end.”
By Robert Herrington in the Noblesville Daily Times.