Have you noticed the illustration at the top of this blog? I should tell you more about where it came from.
I played at Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse a couple of years ago, opening for the great Vance Gilbert. It was a fun show, and Texas is becoming one of my favorite places to play.
In the audience were some young people and one was an illustrator. He doodled through the whole show, and at the end, he asked me to sign his doodle. I snapped a picture of it and made a note of his name...and then lost the note. So if you are out there, young artist, please come forward. I want to give you credit for your awesome work.
He captured some really fun things from the show: my tall boots. My trademark, toothy smile. the little bird from my "Drop of Gold" song (and, did you notice? He had a gold ink pen, so he gave the bird the drop of gold), a tree for the Man Who Planted Trees.
An unexpected and extraordinary gift from a talented artist.
I may be the worst of the best. Is that still good?
Every year I can't stop myself from entering songwriting contests, because I would really like to win one. It seems to be one of the few ways the industry has of acknowledging songwriting skill, apart from crazy good album sales. Of course, I'm too chicken to put my songs into the big contests, like the John Lennon contest or some of the other national competitions. I'm not completely naive. It is highly unlikely that my stuff will rise to the top with so many entries. But the smaller ones seem within reach.
I get into one or two contests as a finalist, usually. And that is super wonderful. It makes me feel really good. When you look at the "odds" of getting in, if odds really apply, being one of 10 or 15 people selected from a pool of 100-250 is pretty amazing. Of course, it isn't really a game of odds. Statistics are at play when the outcomes are the result of absolute chance, and that is not what happens here. There are variables which make it not by chance.
Once one is a finalist, it would seem that it could be pretty easy to deliver a fantastic performance and be in the winner's circle. I know I've stepped off the stage more than once feeling like I nailed it, only to find out later that my songs bombed with the judges. Because there's more to it than a good performance. Usually, scores are given for lyrical content, musicianship and performance and sometimes other things that are a little less tangible. Most of the time, you never know where you were strong and where you were weak, because no one ever tells you. A few of the contests give feedback, for what it is worth.
I've entered...geez. I've lost count. Lots of contests. Most send me the famous "not selected" email. Some select me as a finalist. I've won one.
There is no formula. Knowing how I did in one is not going to make me more successful in another. All I can do is keep writing, keep submitting. Follow my heart and know, deep down, that I am doing what is true and right for me. And how I measure up, that isn't for someone else to tell me. That's for me to decide.
So I think I'll embrace being the worst of the best for now.