Singer/Songwriter is one of the most commonly overlooked music genres. It doesn’t have the broad range of vocals heard in pop music or the heavy guitar solos of rock. Its classic sound is a simple guitar riff with soft and genuine lyrics. It is less well known, but there is a certain appeal to this genre. It’s honest. It’s emotional. It’s relaxing. It gives listeners a tragedy to cry about, an adventure to follow, and a story in which to partake.
A common misconception of the singer/songwriter genre is that the musicians are simply artists who write their own music. If this was true, popular musicians such as Eminem, Adele, and Taylor Swift would be singer/songwriters. However, when we think of these artists, we think of rap and pop music.
Singer/songwriter music is its own genre. The classic singer/songwriter is a musician who begins writing his or her own music, then grows to perform in bars or on street corners. They are accompanied by just their guitar or piano, and they are there to tell you about all the pain, suffering, and joy in their lives. It’s real and it’s deep, and it leaves the audience with a personal attachment to the music. Any musician can allure the audience with their words and many enter the stage in this way, but singer/songwriters have a certain sound. According to allmusic.com, this genre came about in the 60s and 70s following Bob Dylan. Musicians drew from folk and country music, more concerned with their words than their performance. Because of this, world tours and screaming fans were less common. Singer/songwriters of today still follow the ways of the early singer/songwriters, recording music with few instruments and background vocals in order to avoid an over-produced sound.
It is hard for musicians continue their journey as singer/songwriters for an extended period of time. Many artists begin their career playing simple and delicate riffs, but they oftentimes succumb to the temptation of making it big. They find record deals, and when they become more well known, they are told something needs to change. It is very common for people to start singing exactly what the focus groups tell them the teenage boys and girls of today want to hear, and it is because of this that the initial identity of the musician is lost. They are forced to choose between fame or writing and performing music they love, so when they begin playing for bigger audiences, their focus shifts from telling their own story to eliciting a more simplistic emotion for the sake of their listeners. They begin writing what others want to hear instead of what they want to write.
In many cases, singer/songwriters are unknown except by those who come across their music by chance. They don’t have the popularity of the more common genres, such as pop and alt-rock. They only become known once they reach the point where they switch to a new genre. Have you heard of Tim Myers? Ed Tullett? Joe Purdy? Most people haven’t. This is because they still remain singer/songwriters. Their music isn’t something you would expect to hear in a concert, and you may not readily listen to this type of music on your own. On the other hand, nearly everyone has heard of British singer Ed Sheeran, whose popular songs "Shape of You" and "Perfect" have swept the nation. His most recent pop album has gained worldwide popularity, but he wasn’t always a pop singer. His first album, +, was labeled as part of the singer/songwriter genre and his song “A Team” sounds very different from his newer songs. Perhaps Ed was told he needed to change his style. Perhaps this is the reason he has drifted towards pop music.
While many do end up changing their sound, it is not true of every artist. Some, like Norah Jones, continue with their music until they reach popularity. Some decide they would prefer to do something new, and turn to a new genre. Though there are singer/songwriters who have become famous, the genre cannot help that it is not dance music or love songs by boy bands. And so the genre fades to the back of people’s minds. Singer/songwriters were once excited for the opportunity to show off their talents to those ready to listen, but the world is rarely willing to accept people the way they are. We are always expecting more, and so, regrettably, this genre will continue to be overlooked for years to come.