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In Pursuit of…Swagger

In Pursuit of…Swagger
A Guest Post by Songwriting Scene

swagThis is, after all, a blog about songwriting, so I have to explain why the title of this post is about the pursuit of “swagger.” Otherwise known as “swag.” Meaning, according to an urban dictionary, “to move with confidence, sophistication and to be cool.”

I promise I’ll get to how this connects with songwriting, if you’re willing to read on.

Here’s the thing: For the past eight months, I’ve been regularly taking hip-hop dance classes. That’s right: This white, Jewish, middle-aged Long  Island gal who took ballet and tap as a kid has been tying up her Adidas sneakers and attempting not to look ridiculous shaking her booty and hopping around to grooves and staring in the mirror with an attitude.

Here’s an example of a class I’ve been taking:

To look good doing hip-hop, you have to have swagger. You might know the steps perfectly well, but without the down and dirty attitude and the ability to stay grounded and look cool, it just doesn’t work. You just look silly.

I do look silly. Really. I know I don’t have swagger. Once in a while I’ll come home excited that I had a moment, one little moment where I felt strong and sexy. But mostly, I don’t have any swag. So why do I dance hip-hop when I know I could come across better, say, in another dance style? I do it because it’s challenging. It’s totally out of my comfort zone. It’s completely not intuitive. And, it’s so freakin’ fun.

Get Out of Your Songwriting Comfort Zone

We tend to stick to what we’re comfortable with in our songwriting, whether it’s the style we write in, the chord progressions we use, the topics we write about. Sometimes I think it’s great to bust out of a creative rut.

How about getting out of your comfort zone and trying a new style that you never thought you could do? Writing and singing a blues song, perhaps, when you’re typically a soft folkie. How about a country song if you’re really a rocker? Why not try some new style of fingerpicking if you’re always used to banging out a strum? Or writing a third-person story song when you’re used to writing first-person love tunes?

Bring some Swag to Your Songwriting and Performing.

One thing I like about dancing hip-hop, as well as other street dances, is that to have any chance of coming across well, you need to be confident. You need to take on the character of the dance, even if you feel silly. However silly you feel doing it, you’ll actually look far less silly if you really commit to the style rather than backing off and doing it half-arsed, so to speak.

Here’s an example of another kind of street dance class I’ve been taking. Talk about being out of my comfort zone andneeding to commit!

So if you sit down to write a song in a style you’re not naturally comfortable with, or if you perform a tune that requires you to leave the tried-and-true, bring some swagger to the table. And even within your own natural style, stay true to yourself even in the face of others who are different. Let’s say you’re a sweet, folk-style singer-songwriter who is in a room full of bluegrass musicians. Does that mean you need to change your style to fit in with theirs? No — you can get out of your comfort zone once in a while, sure, but you can also bring your own confidence and groundedness to your own presentation.

I may never have the swagger I want to make my hip-hop dance look great. But every little bit I improve boosts my confidence and allows me to go back to my regular life and bring that confidence and commitment to the other things I do in my life, like my songwriting.

It makes me feel like there’s nothing I can’t at least try.

Is there anything you do that helps you get out of your comfort zone and try something new in your songwriting?

Songwriting Scene is a blog founded by New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Sharon Goldman, written for songwriters about songwriting -- including tips, interviews, inspiration and thoughts about the creative process. 


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