I recently read something that reminded me just how important it is for songwriters to share their stories.
We get so caught up in fancy websites and social media that we forget about the most powerful marketing tool of them all: storytelling. When it comes to art, storytelling is crucial. It gives your work a meaning behind the literal and invites your audience to be part of something bigger than themselves.
This story in particular was from a singer songwriter called Kina Grannis.
‘100 Days in Jakarta’
Last September, Kina and her band left for Jarkata, Indonesia to begin a 6 city excursion that would take them throughout Southeast Asia on the final leg of their Elements (the album) World tour. All was going smoothly, as documented by Kina on social media, until suddenly it stopped. No posts, no updates, no nothing. Slowly but surely Kina cancelled tour date after tour date with only the vaguest of explanations. She completely fell away from the internet and no one knew why.
In a blog post entitled ‘100 Days in Jakarta’, Kina finally shares her story.
It was September in Jakarta and Kina and her band had just played the first show of the tour when immigration officers stormed the stage, confiscated their passports and sent them back to their hotel. No warning or explanation. It later transpired that Kina’s tour promoters had failed to get Kina and the band work visas and therefore by playing the concert, they had committed visa fraud. It was no joke either. They faced a $35,000 fine per person… and imprisonment.
Finding the Light
Their lawyers were stumped. There was nothing anyone could do. Kina and the band were not allowed to work or make money in any way. They were also not allowed to go public or reach out to the press in fear of endangering their lives.
Stuck in Jakarta with nothing to do but wait, they had no choice but to find peace in the little things in life. They spent their time swimming in the hotel pool, having movie nights and even learning to crochet. Not to mention relying heavily on exercise, meditation and gratitude journals.
100 days passed before they were finally given the relief they were looking for. After exactly 100 days in Jakarta they were pronounced guilty, fined and told that they could serve their 8 months of probation from home.
The story in full is a beautiful one and I truly encourage you to read it for yourself. A tale of positivity and strength, ‘100 days in Jakarta’ is about appreciating what you’ve got before it’s gone and the struggle you face when you really have lost it all. I can hardly do it justice.
Stories Carry Impact
So why am I telling you this? Well, aside from being a truly inspiring story, Kina’s tale serves a far greater purpose.
It’s not often I follow a link directly to iTunes and click buy without a second’s thought. And yet that’s exactly what I did. When Kina mentioned that she finally found solace in songs she wrote two months into her time in Jakarta, I immediately followed the link to iTunes and bought the ‘Jakarta EP.’
I didn’t even listen to the songs before I bought them. In fact, I really didn’t care what they sounded like. The story had already moved me. Touched by what had happened to Kina, I was sold. Her work spoke volumes long before I had the chance to hear it. That is the power of story.
Finding Your Own Story
Every single songwriter has a story and every single one of them matters. But what if you haven’t just spent a 100 days in a foreign country fearing imprisonment?
It doesn’t matter. As long as you write, you write from something. And as long as you write from something, you have something to share. It doesn’t have to be dramatic.
Consider some of the following questions.
- What do you write about?
- Where do you get your inspiration from?
- What was going on in your life around the time the song was written?
- What did writing the song make you realise?
- What makes this song different from any other song you’ve written?
- What was the easiest part about writing this song? What was the hardest?
- What do you hope people will take away from the song?
By answering some of these questions for your audience to hear, you’ll begin to craft a story around your work — something beyond the page.
“Maybe it’s enough that I lay here,
Maybe it’s enough that I am known inside my head and,
Maybe it’s enough to know that we were here together and that,
We are the ones, we are the ones, we are the ones for now.”
— Kina Grannis ‘For Now’
Despite everything, Kina still found comfort in her craft.
‘These songs helped me’ she said. And that was all I needed to hear.
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