Songwriter or casting show contestant?
How to start a successful career in music
© Alexandra Eigendorf
zur deutschen Version
Singing competition series have been a huge success on TV over the past years – in Germany as much as in my adopted home country, the United States. Many people have considered these shows as springboards for launching their music careers. Some contestants audition expecting that if they sing well enough a manager or producer would come along and turn them into stars. It is true that several of today's stars, like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, launched their careers through a talent show. It is also true that the contestants of series like American Idol or X-Factor are exposed to millions of people as of day one. And they receive a lot of professional support early in their careers. At the same time, there is also a disadvantages: These competitions provide singers with a lot of publicity during the shows, but as soon as one competition is over the next one starts. In many cases, fans lose interest quickly. After one or two years, careers are over.
Everyone needs to decide for themselves but for me participating in a TV singing completion series never felt like an option.
My parents tell me that I sang before I could speak. Early on, my dad encouraged me to learn how to play the piano and the guitar. With 11 years, I started vocal training. I gained a broad range of musical skills. Probably this is the reason why I have always been eager to be creative and write my own songs instead of singing what others had written.
My goal is to place songs in the charts – either my own songs that I sing myself or songs that I have written for other artists. Writing songs is extremely important to me. I consider myself a musician. It is not my primary focus to become famous. Instead I want to touch people and write songs that others enjoy listening to. This is also why I decided to choose a musical style close to country music. Country music has its own special sound, it is real and authentic. Songs often tell stories in a very honest way. I do the same with my music and I feel that this style suits me.
I have recently recorded my first album in Nashville, the capital of American country music. I had worked on the songs for many years and I am glad that the album has become very authentic. These are really my songs. People believe what I have to say, because they feel that it is genuine. I am really excited that I have published the album in April.
It is a great feeling to be on stage with my own songs. On one hand, I feel very vulnerable because in my songs I tell very personal stories and with them I am presenting a part of me. On the other hand, it is great when people come to me after a show and tell me that they see themselves reflected in my music, that they have the same feelings and find courage in my lyrics.
While the dream of my first album has just come true, I continue to grow as a songwriter. One day, I said to myself that if my goal is to write a Top 40 hit I should write songs with people who have achieved this before. So I sat down and wrote a list of my 70 favorite songs – from Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson to Taylor Swift. I checked who wrote these songs and then contacted more than 70 songwriters. I asked if they were ready to work with me. I know it is a simple idea. Still, about one in five songwriters came back to me. This means I heard nothing from 80% of the people I contacted. But it also means that I am now in touch with 15 of the best songwriters in country music. This way I also met Nick Turpin who once produced Justin Bieber and he agreed to write songs with me for other artists.
Of course, I can write authentic songs with my guitar alone in my room. But can I write hits all by myself? Experienced songwriters can fit an entire story into two verses and three minutes. They know how to touch the audience and what to pay attention to. If you really want to be successful it may not be enough to write music that is close to your heart. It must be from the heart but it also has to be presented in a way that it is digestible for the audience. This is why I write songs with people who have composed songs that I really like. I learn a lot from them - and this is what I am after.
This brings me full circle to my initial comments about TV casting shows: In this business, no one will turn you into a star. Everyone needs to work on themselves in order to grow. Chances are incredible low that someone picks you out and establishes you as a star. Most people who succeed in the music business are great songwriters. For people who primarily sing well a talent show may be a good choice. But I want to lead a complete music life. I prefer to start slowly and grow continuously. And I am sure that the best is yet to come...