Energetic and very popular songwriter, Jeffrey Steele at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee.I long for the day that it becomes commonplace to see and hear the name of the songwriter, in addition to the singer on all music radio and video channels!

Country Music video channels — like CMT and GAC — currently include the name of the songwriter next to the singer for every video played. But other video channels — like MTV and VH1 — have yet to follow suit. And there isn’t ONE radio station around that gives props to the songwriter when their song is played.

Maybe it’s because I’m from Nashville and I “know” a lot of the songwriters who pen many of today’s hits (mostly Country; some Pop)… but I find myself getting more and more frustrated with “the system” each time I hear a new tune on the radio, and I’m left wondering who might have written that particular song. Much to my dismay, the DJ usually zips right into another song — OFTEN times mentioning the singer, but NEVER mentioning the writer!

Sometimes I’m able to guess who the writer is, simply by the style of the song.

For example, I could spot a Jeffrey Steele song from 3 radio dials away! (“Hell Yeah”, “And The Crowd Goes Wild”, “Speed”, “These Days”, and “My Town” — all have a certain energy to them that’s all ‘Steele’.)

But usually the radio DJs are neglectful of the public’s right-to-know and the songwriters’ right to receive credit for their song.

(Trust me, I’m smart enough to know that this issue goes WAY beyond the radio stations and their DJs, but I’m just trying to make a point…)

To me, the writers are just as talented (if not more) and just as important (ditto) as the people who actually get to sing the songs up on stage for a living.

As I see it, there are two important pieces to the music puzzle:
1. Yeah, it’s interesting to know who cut the song and made it famous. There are some very talented singers out there… And it’s fun to watch them perform up on stage. And it’s enjoyable listening to their CDs.
2. But we should also get to know whose heartfelt words and experiences went into the making of that song! It’s just as fun to watch as various songwriters keep scoring big hits. And it’s just as enjoyable to hear what real-life experiences led to the writing of a particular song.

Ashley Cleveland performing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, along with Leslie Satcher and Craig Carothers. Fortunately places like the Bluebird, Douglas Corner, 3rd and Lindsley, Puckett’s and dozens of other songwriter cafes exist where the writers strum on their guitars and chat “in the round” about the songs they’ve written that have made it big, as well as those that haven’t made the airwaves yet. But to me, it’s a shame that we have to rely on this “underground” back-alley form of acknowledgment for the songwriters to be heard.

The songwriters put their heart and soul into each and every word. If it weren’t for such talented writers, half of the mega-stars out there — that we all pay good money to see — wouldn’t have anything to sing about! Not to mention all the money we spend on their CDs. (Don’t even get me started on the minuscule amount of money the songwriter receives from CD and radio airplay!…)

Perhaps if we were all let in on this interesting angle of the music industry (e.g. the role of the songwriter in addition to the role of the singer), maybe then the masses would start to appreciate music “artists” for who they really are, and their “talent” for what it really is…

You’ve got your “good singers” — that almost everyone knows by their characteristic voice: Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, George Strait.

And you’ve got your “good songwriters” — that practically no one knows due to lack of recognition: Craig Wiseman, Jeffrey Steele, Ashley Cleveland, Bob DiPiero, Don Henry.

And then, of course, you’ve got your “not so great singers OR songwriters but oh so pretty faces who can do wonders for the record label” (I won’t go overboard naming names here, but I have to admit there are far too many Tim McGraw‘s and Britney Spears‘s out there for my liking. You shouldn’t have to be “pretty” to get the attention of a major record label!)

But wait!… Might there actually be “good singers” out there who are also “good songwriters”? And if there were, might they deserve extra props for being in the select category of “truly talented music artists”? Yep. To name a few: Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Amy Grant, Phil Vassar, Shawn Mullins, Justin Timberlake, Shania Twain, John Mayer, Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crowe, Vince Gill, SheDaisy, Pat Green, Alan Jackson, Alicia Keys, Eminem. (Not that I particularly enjoy the music of everyone that’s listed here, but these guys all sing AND write the majority of their own hits… and THAT’s talent!)

Argue with me if you want to about who really belongs on which list, but that’s not what’s important. The point is, it’s time that we start to appreciate today’s music “artists” for who they REALLY are and acknowledge them for their true “talent” — including the lesser-known songwriters.

Tony Mullins, Craig Wiseman and Bobby Terry at a songwriters night at Puckett's Grocery - Leipers Fork, Tennessee. You come to appreciate the singers who are also songwriters even more when you realize that they’re wearing their heart on their sleeve 24/7. They write for a living; and they sing for a living. They write what they feel; and they feel what they sing. For these talented folks, it’s all wrapped up in one nice & neat little package. What you see is what you get. The real deal.

I tend to buy the music of the singers who also write their own songs because I appreciate the well-roundedness of their talent, more than their “look” or maybe even their “voice”. It’s what they stand for, the messages they’re sending, and the compilation of their life’s experiences written down in lyrical form. That’s REAL. And that’s talent to me. Honestly. It’s hard to explain, but I hope someone can appreciate what I’m talking about.

Anyone can have a pretty face (well, not EVERYONE) and/or a good voice (okay, not necessarily) and get up on stage to sing in front of people (yep, this one is true). But I wish that more people understood that today’s songwriters are the blood, sweat, and tears behind the hits. They deserve just as much credit as the singers who profit ten times more from their songs.

I’ve always been one to pull for the underdog, and this may just be my greatest platform for doing so… Let’s hear it for all the no-name, not-popular, mystery songwriters out there! All you wannabe one-hit-wonders. You all are amazing, and it’s your hard work that gives the music industry a voice, the radio stations the melodies, and all those well-keyed voices out there something to sing about.

Shawn Mullins at his annual 3rd & Lindsley performance downtown Nashville. Bravo to all the independents out there who are simply getting by day to day doing what they love… writing songs. With the hope that maybe SOMEday, SOMEwhere, SOMEone will actually give one of their songs half a chance, and use it as a vessel to make some good-looking singer a Superstar…

Must the talent of the multitudes of songwriters remain hidden from the public forever?

I say, if attorneys can have multi-named business titles… if females can have multi-hyphenated last names… if books can have multiple authors… and foreigners can list their extra-long “full” (often 3-times hyphenated) names as U.S. citizens, why can’t we simply lengthen the line that’s currently reserved for the singer’s name to instead include both the singer AND the writer for each song that’s heard on the radio and seen on music video channels?

Can I get an “Amen”?…