Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mary Gauthier / Singer-Songwriter

This week's TT Test is taken by the great American singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier [link]. Her songs have been covered by many artists including Tim McGraw & Candi Staton & her albums have all been highly praised culminating in the masterpiece 'The Foundling' which tells her own story of being abandoned as a child,the struggle for her own identity & birth mother & ultimately the triumph of love. What is your wake up song at the moment ? 'Lorraine', by my dear friend Lori McKenna. Which work of art or single event has most influenced you in your chosen profession? I got sober from drugs and alcohol in 1999, and songwriting followed. I would never have become a songwriter without recovery from from my addictions. If you could travel back in time, which period would you most like to visit and why ? I'd go back 40-50 years in Nashville, to the time when the songs coming out of this town were great, and I'd hang out with the my songwriting hero's when they were in their prime... Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Marijohn Wilkin, johnny Cash, Tom T Hall et al. I'd find my way into their scenes, and they'd make me a better writer just from being around them. I love eating out & discovering new restaurants,can you please recommend one to me ? Margot's Cafe [link], in Nashville,TN. My favorite restaurant of all time, The chef is the owner, and she is in the kitchen every night cooking fresh local ingredients with passion and love. No one can cook fish like Margot, and she changes the menu every day to reflect what's fresh in the market. I am a huge fan. What is the best advice you ever been given relating to your professional /creative life ? Unless they are giving you a big check, don't sign anything. BONUS QUESTION: I am intrigued that you also teach songwriting - what sort of guidance are students looking for ? And what is it that you try to bring out of them? I teach songwriters to look for their own voice, and look inside themselves for the truth of what they are trying to say. I can teach the craft (song structure, chord progressions, rhyming patterns) but I can't teach the art, the art being the subjects which the writer is called to write about. I try to teach the students to listen to the voices in their heads and hearts, and reveal what's being said in there. I try to teach them to allow themselves to be vulnerable, and expose their hearts. I try to teach them that songwriting is more about re-writing than anything. and most of all, I try to teach them to connect with themselves and their listeners. I let them know that if they are not connecting, it's not the listeners fault. Basically, I give them a ladder, show them the rungs... and it's up to them to do the climbing.