One of the things I struggle with as a songwriter is answering the question people always ask me when they find out I write music. “Oh, so what kind of music do you write?” Um, well, I’m not exactly sure what to call it. Musical genres seem incredibly unhelpful to me in describing a song.
Genres are overly broad. Take pop music, for example. According to Wikipedia it is “very eclectic, often borrowing elements from other styles including urban, dance, rock, Latin and country; nonetheless, there are core elements which define pop. Such include generally short-to-medium length songs, written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure), as well as the common employment of repeated choruses, melodic tunes, and catchy hook.”
Overall, it seems the similarities binding songs to the “pop” category are more about format than style. But I thought genres were categories of style and not format! We don’t have other “format” genres masquerading as stylistic genres. Case in point: a ballad is a format of song, yet we identify ballads within several genres—country ballads, folk ballads, jazz ballads, etc.
So what do I tell people when describing my style? A laundry list of genres hyphenated in a long train, of course! Pop-folk-indie-jazz. Everything’s a fusion these days anyway, right? [and don’t get me started on the whole “indie” genre posing as a genre. . . that’s a whole other post]
Which leads me to my second point. . .
Not all of my music sounds the same. My style changes even within an album. Some of my songs are quieter and delicate. Others are jazzier and full-band. It doesn’t fit into one neat little category. Should it? That would help others identify my music, develop a niche market, establish a brand, etc. I also can understand the value in producing an album that flows together, conveys a unified theme to the listener. But generally I’m not writing for others, and I’m not writing with an album or overall theme in mind.
So I want to know: how do you describe your music to others? Do you try to stick to one kind of style when you compose?