Look at this picture. That's recording artist Rachel Crow and I at our session last week. What do you notice? I'm a little, well, more mature than her, right? I have a lot of these: pictures of me with pop stars who are half (ok, a third) my age. I ask myself: When did I get to be the oldest person in the room? Where on earth did the time go?
I don't need reassurance that I "look good for my age" or that I'm attractive. I'm quite comfortable with my appearance. It's more the idea of how did this happen?
When I started out in the business of writing songs I was in my 20's. Everyone I worked with was in their 20's. Or 30's. We were all pretty much on the same planet. Our songwriting foreplay exchange was on common ground: Did you party last night? What will Madonna do next? The nerve of that creep for breaking your heart.
These days, I catch myself pretending to know what my young colleagues are talking about when they refer to some hot new topliner (that's new school speak for lyricist) with a perplexingly random moniker such as Catnip or Carpeting.
Label executives are half my age too. They used to be 40. Some were 50. Or 60! There was a reverence even when they rejected your song. Now when I make a submission I am waiting on the approval of a minor. And with so many career songwriters having thrown in the towel it's no wonder I feel like an elder statesman. It's because I am.
The truth is, most of my younger colleagues could care less about my age. Our mutual goal is to to come up with a marketable song for the given demographic. If you are capable of doing that it doesn't matter if you're 15 or 90. Age is a non-issue. While we're working we are the same age. We'd better be or we'll wind up with a schizophrenic song.
Plus, we all bring something different to a writing session. Perhaps I come with a plot, an angle, or a concept, and they are able to express that idea in trendier language.
I am learning to incorporate words like "dope" into the conversation. Or at least not take offense when it's used as an adjective and is applied to me or a line I came up with. (I am not a dope. I am dope.) Seriously, I can learn as much from a teenage co-writer as they learn from me. If that weren't the case, it wouldn't be worth hooking up. I mean, collaborating.
But let's face it. The generation gap is getting a little elephant in the room-ish. When Rachel's mom dropped her off we got into an exchange about hot flashes. Recently I participated in a "songwriting camp" and was mistaken for a chaperone. At a vocal session if somebody sneezes I break out the Zicam or the vitamin C or I catch myself lecturing on the benefits of a good night's sleep. Sigh.
Anyway, we are as young as we feel and quite frankly I feel younger today than I did 10 years ago. I do. How young is that? I'm not going to tell you. Why? I'd be dignifying the idea that it matters. Because it really doesn't. It's just something of a reality check when I contemplate the juxtaposition of the two of us in that picture.
The one thing that made me feel like we were literally of the same generation that day was the zit on my nose. Right smack on the tip of it. I'm not kidding. If you enlarge the image you'll see it. Well maybe not. I might have given it a little...brush. But it was there. I assure you.
It's all good. Really it is. It's just different. Will it ever get too different? I can't say. All I know is I am addicted to writing songs. I've been doing it all my life. I wouldn't know how to wake up and not be a songwriter. I'd miss the high. At the same time...I'm intrigued by where it's all going...the changing culture of the songwriting business. Right now writing about songwriting is just as fascinating as writing the songs themselves. For me, they're both dope.
Hear her candid interview on the Mulberry Lane Radio Show
Follow Shelly Peiken on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Shelly_Peiken