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Writing Between The Lines

As a musician and songwriter, creating a song is such a beautiful privilege, yet painstakingly difficult. Over the last two decades, I’ve filled pages upon pages with words, some becoming songs that made it onto albums, others becoming building blocks of my songwriting progression. Some of these pages have simply held but a few words. On some pages, you can see the words getting smaller and smaller as they approach the bottom of the page… as if every last ounce needing to be spilled onto the current page. Songwriting is indeed a craft and the more I seem to improve, the more I feel I have to learn. Unlike breathing, It’s not just something that you do without thinking. Very rarely does it all come together flawlessly. You work at it, like many things in life worth putting effort into. I’ve found that more often than not, the songs I create tend to touch upon the human condition… the experience (or set of experiences) of trying to understand oneself within a specific social or personal context.

Oftentimes, I find myself theorizing that the one thing we all have in common—our shared experience— is searching out our very purpose. In relating ourselves to the environment we exist in, are we able to gain understanding of how we impact and influence all the things that surround us. I have always secretly wished that when people hear my songs or read my lyrics, that they might be able to feel certain emotions. Maybe even be challenged to better understand themselves or others.

These days, so many are caught up on the word “happiness” and what that entails; how it relates to one’s life and others. Most of my songwriting doesn’t just focus on “being happy” or “being sad” but rather on the ups and downs of blessings and joy. Even if the song is about grief, like Six Feet Above or One Last Light, it is important to me as a creator that a redemptive element always exists.

I recall a conversation I had a few years ago with musicians in New York City about music and songwriting. I brought up Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell as a few of my favorite and influential songwriters. Around that time, I had also read an interesting article in Rolling Stone magazine in which Bob Dylan spoke about “happiness” being a “yuppie word.” To him, he felt that what really mattered was being “blessed or unblessed.” Honestly, I didn’t know what to think about that.

Eudaimonia is the Greek word that translates to “happiness” and in its most classical Greek sense, doesn’t even really equate to what we call “happiness” today. The word doesn’t point to a subjective emotional state, but rather an objective state of being… a state of being that includes living well and doing well (integrity and good prosperity). Many of us believe that happiness consists of being free to do whatever. To be able to come and go as we please. We talk about how “self-aware” we are, but if we’re being honest, the only thing we are truly cognizant of is our mood (state of mind), and even that changes from one moment to the next. We can sometimes express how we feel at any given moment, but how many of us truly know ourselves.

Effectively balancing my thoughts has often been supported by the constant struggle that involves my faith and beliefs. Songwriting has given me the platform to rest in this struggle and take the time to let it percolate. It is both a humbling and astonishing concept to be able to use the words, thoughts, and emotions of my own life, to evoke and ignite thoughts, feelings, and emotions in another individual. To do this through something as universal and expressive as music, only magnifies this.

“To me, the only way songwriting works is if you write the truth. It’s the only way it works, period. Where I’m going as a writer, what I’m looking for is an expansion of the truth, finding out more truth – especially about me. It’s easier to write about me, because I know where I am. As a younger man, it was easy to get to my truth: I was a simple man, having fun. As you get older it gets more complicated – but it’s also about opening up a lot more places. After all, that’s where the deeper truth resides.” -Pat Green