Did you ever go to summer camp? Do you remember what it felt like to come home? You know, that sinking feeling that nothing about everyday life was ever going to match the electricity of a week of the most real emotional connections a 13-year-old had ever made? Maybe it took days to shake the emptiness of that crater sized hole that was left after you had to say goodbye to your new best friends. I remember coming home from a choir tour once and getting a call from my friend’s mother. She asked if I would talk to him and help get him out of the post-tour funk. Even teenage boys are not immune to the emotional rollercoaster of an intense week of bonding. This is the only way I can describe what it felt like to come home from the Hawaii Songwriting Festival this year. The Brotman family always put on a tremendous event that is fantastic on so many levels not the least of which is the bonding that takes place. It took me a good three or four days to come out of that post festival low (which by the way hurt in that good way like a middle school crush.) I did eventually recover, but I will forever be grateful for the many blessings of the week and I am counting the days until I can experience this life changing event again.
For me, the event had unique significance this year because I was selected as one of the finalists in the songwriting contest. After performing with several others, I took third place in the competition, winning alongside two fantastic writers! As a winner, I got a looper and a beautiful handmade Cajon’. More importantly, perhaps, was the opportunity to play for those in attendance as well as the many professional industry mentors. As one of the winners, I also had the opportunity to perform in the final concert which featured Kenny Loggins… pretty cool. That opportunity as well as the song I chose (my first co-write with the incredible Warren Sellers, a song simply called “A Daughter”) did a lot to open doors and start conversations for the entire weekend. More than any other song I have written, this one touches people. All kinds of people (not just dads and daughters) go out of their way to talk with me when they hear it and let me know how it moved them. One little boy came up and gave me a hug. His mom said, “he just wanted to do that.” Honestly, I’m not sure why, I guess that is the power of a song. The video of my performance on Facebook has recently reached over 3.4k views, a milestone for me. In addition, the “hang time” was better than ever this year. It is true that friendships grow fuller and richer with time and the weekend was an excellent opportunity to savor the friends around me. The late night at the jacuzzi with 40 people was particularly sweet. Of course, I enjoyed all the new friendships begun and I look forward to enjoying those relationships as they deepen in the future.
One story really sums up the spirit of the weekend and exemplifies the breaking down of barriers between the mentors and attendees that is so unique to the Hawaii Songwriting Festival. My wife Jen and I had a late flight on Sunday, the day after the conference, and decided to spend a few hours down on the beach. After all, I usually don’t get to spend much time at the water during the weekend, so it seemed like a good idea. After soaking up the sun for an hour or so, we decided to get in the water. As we were getting ready to take a swim. One of the mentors, Steven Ray, borrowed some of our sunscreen and headed to the water with us. We were soon joined by Dree Paterson, a friend and cool “indi” artist. I had not met Steven during the weekend as our paths hadn’t crossed so I was eager to get to know him. I soon learned that not only is he an integral part of pop music history, but he is also a fantastic story teller. As the four of us bobbed in the sea he held us spellbound for over an hour with his stories from working with Michael Jackson on Thriller - Michael singing an unfinished version of “Billie Jean” into his ear- to stories about a favorite band of mine, Crowded House as well as so many others. The more he shared, the more questions I had. I feel as though we connected over music and became friends that day. Honestly, where else could that happen? There is SO much more I could share about this weekend, but it will have to wait till some other time. For now, thank you HSF for existing and for giving a “grown up” a chance to experience again the thrill and sweet ache of summer camp.
(As I write this I am on a plane out of Nashville. It was a great trip to the NSAI Advanced Song Camp and I will catch you up in the next entry.)