As an accompaniment to the Nakedly Examined Music podcast, I’m launching a project to collect song explanations from our musician listeners: Song Self-Exams. Now, I’ve long been doing something like this intermittently through my Nakedly Self-Examined Music posts on this blog, but video, where the song and the explanation are on the same video, is better, I think. Here’s my pilot attempt to create one of these, which using iMovie was really damn simple, and I hope will demonstrate to you songwriters out there that this is really no big deal to create:
Watch on YouTube.
The typical submission should have a short (introduction of the artist and the song, then play the song (use any reasonable visual; no need for anything dynamic), then talk for maybe 2-5 minutes about it. Since this was the kick-off of this project, my own video here is much too long for reasons explained in the video, but hopefully you get the idea.
I’ll try to anticipate some questions here and hope you’ll send me more:
1. If I already have a video up of my song, can’t I just create a second video of me explaining it? It’ll make it easier for me to post these all in a flexible format if you can just do a re-edit and suck the entirety of your song video into the Song Self-Exam video, but if you can’t or don’t want to do that, that’s fine. Just send me the URL for your music video and your talking video. I do want you to actually have the music in some video; don’t just record yourself talking and then link me to your SoundCloud or website or expect people to go look you up on Spotify. The more effort we put the viewer through to find the pieces, the less likely your music will get heard at all.
2. I put a lot of effort into making my music and presentation professional. Why would I want to dash off a crummy looking video like this? Get real. In the Internet age, people love hearing from the artist, e.g. getting Instagrams and Tweets from you while you’re eating breakfast. So no, even if you’re Madonna (really, ESPECIALLY if you’re Madonna), this is not going to make you look bad. It’s going to humanize you and let us connect better to your music.
3. I don’t want to reveal the secret meanings of my song lyrics. People should put whatever meaning on them that they want. Dissecting a song destroys it. As on the podcast, what counts as a “self-exam” for a song depends entirely on your approach. Gary Lucas started out his interview with a version of this objection, but still had plenty to say about the songs. Even in my video here, I didn’t get into the meaning of specific lyric lines; I just talked about the narrative stance of the song, i.e. was I being serious, and about the subject matter (my own non-career and thoughts about how music should be listened to). I’m really trying with my various guests to adapt on the fly in my approach: Should we just talk about the life of a musician, or the philosophy of art, or what equipment and production techniques were used, or what? If I get a particularly political songwriter in, I’m sure we’ll talk about politics, though the emphasis I’d prefer even in that case would be to talk about how having political views should (or does) influence art. If you’ve got a particular song that you really think should stand on its own and not be explained (or its subject matter is too private to gab about on YouTube), then just don’t pick that song to talk about.
4. I’m not experienced like your podcast guests. Why, that’s why a Song Self-Exam is perfect for you! Though doing one of these can serve as an audition for you to be on the show, even if you only wrote one song in your life, 20 years ago or just now, you may still have something interesting to say about it.
5. Will you post all the submissions? That’s my plan right now, yes, but until I watch what you send me, I can’t predict whether there’ll be something about it that will make it totally ususable for this series. Any style of music is fine, the sound quality needn’t be awesome, you needn’t be especially profound, but I’d like you to be comprehensible (in terms of audio quality and style) and to make some sense. People are not going to want to check out this video series if some of them are unwatchably dreadful. One line in the sand is that it has to be a song you wrote or co-wrote, unless you did something innovative with the arrangement and want to talk about that.
Listen to more tracks from the Mark Lint and the Simulacra project, all of which feature ace lead guitarist Mark Doroba.