I’m Mark Simos—a songwriter, tunewriter, musician, and teacher. Since Summer 2005 I’ve been teaching at Berklee College of Music, where I’m currently Associate Professor in the Songwriting Department. Before coming to Berklee, I taught at many summer workshops, classes and workshops, where I developed many of my own approaches.
In May 2014 my book Songwriting Strategies: A 360º Approach will be published by Berklee Press/Hal Leonard. This blog will include additional detail and reflections on some of the material encompassed in that book. It will also include discussions of my own songs, and example songs of others that I love. My experiences as a writer, a co-writer, and a teacher working with the talented songwriters at Berklee and elsewhere.
In the past, I have felt the need to separate what I shared on particular topics into separate streams, for separate audiences. For example, before coming to Berklee I got very interested in the artistic and craft challenges, as well as the personal and ethical challenges, of writing “songs of conscience”—songs dealing with topical issues and invoking reflection or action on important issues of the day. I created a small community of other writers interested in these questions. Now I feel less need to hold these discussions separate from general discussions of songwriting.
Similarly, I’m known in many communities devoted to traditional music of various genres: Irish and Celtic, old-time, bluegrass in particular. Yet the lessons I have learned from these musical styles all transfer, I believe, in sometimes surprising ways, to songwriting in any genre and for any market. I hope someone who comes to this blog out of interest in my work in the bluegrass community may discover some cool music in other genres—and similarly, that a songwriter mostly focused on contemporary indie-folk or pop might find themselves intriguing ways, by the structure of an old narrative ballad or a Hazel Dickens song. Bumping shoulders (as a starting point) with congenial strangers is a good way to make new friends.
I’ll also be sharing a plethora (a whole bunch, but I like that word “plethora”—hey, let’s use it in a song:
I never know whether a
Bunch or a plethora
The many tribes
That live, multitudinous
Peaceful, or mutinous
Here in this songwriter’s mind…
No, I never know quite what I’ll find
Well, that was fun!) … a whole bunch of exercises, games, challenges, and prompts. Stay tuned!