In our latest interview with songwriter Dick Plunk, we learn how he became hooked on songwriting after tagging along to a NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association, International) chapter meeting in Dayton with a friend from work.
Q: Where do you call home?
Q: Where did you grow up?
Q: What is your ideal setup for writing music?
I do have a “music recording area” in the basement, but I actually do most of my writing in my family room (often in front of the T.V.).
Q: How did you get started songwriting?
Even though I have played guitar since I was a teen, I started songwriting very late in life. In 1999, a friend at P&G asked me if I would be interested in attending a meeting of a chapter of NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association, International) in Dayton. I was reluctant, but I went anyway. From that meeting forward, I was hooked on songwriting. I was so charged up by what those people were doing and learning that I made it a goal to bring a new song to every meeting for critique. I actually achieved that goal for several years thereafter.
Q: What books are you currently reading?
I read alot. Currently, I’m reading a political murder mystery called “The Kill Room” by Jeffery Deaver (strictly for pleasure this time). The only blog I follow is Man vs. Row (as in Music Row - Nashville) by Brent Baxter. This is a good blog for songwriters.
Q: What album are you currently listening to?
Lately I’ve been listening to Mumford and Sons (for story & banjo), the Weepies and Sara Bareilles (for interesting melodies), Blue Sky Riders (for my new country fix), the Rescues (for interesting harmonies and weird lyrics), the Script (for my pop/rock fix), and Hunter Hayes (for my country rock fix).
Q: When it gets tough, how do you stay inspired?
For me, there’s inspiration in everything I see and hear. Reading, TV shows, the news, other people’s music, and just life in general are all inspirations. I particularly like coming across naturally funny/ironic things in normal/real life.
Q: As a songwriter, what is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is creating interesting melodies. I’m pretty good at coming up with interesting chord progressions, which can be a trap if you let that dictate your melody (better to create the melody first).
Q: What time of day do you prefer to write your music and where?
I’m usually more productive in the early morning, but have written stuff at all times of day and night. When I’m dedicated to the task of songwriting, I’m usually in my familyroom. However, I have created lyrics while walking the dog (a really good time to think) and while driving.
Q: To date, what has been your favorite memory as a songwriter?
There are two things that feel really good as a songwriter:
1) It is a real rush when someone else likes one of your songs enough to want to perform it himself/herself.
2) It is an equal rush when playing out somewhere and someone requests one of your songs. I am thankful for both of these events.
Q: How do you maintain your professional growth?
There are several ways:
First, the founder of the Dayton NSAI chapter, Jim Melko, is and excellent teacher of the craft of songwriting. I try to never miss one of his lessons. A high percentage of my knowledge of songwriting came from his teaching.
Second: I have attended several workshops and many, many seminars on songwriting. Several of these were given by successful Nashville and L.A. professional writers.
Third: I have read a bunch of books and many articles on songwriting and about songwriters.
Fourth: I love attending activities which include local songwriters and listening to their creations.
Finally: I try to reconcile some of the things I have learned with the music I listen to.
Q: What is your Songwriting process?
It varies, but most of the time it starts with a hook or a theme. This usually ends up becoming a chorus. If I have what feels like a strong chorus, I then work to build a story around that chorus. However, sometimes I get what feels like a good story and the chorus comes last. Sometimes the music comes along with the lyric. Often the lyric is completed before I even attempt the music.
Q: Who are your top three favorite artists or songwriters?
This is difficult to answer because there are so many good ones out there. So, I’m going to cheat and do top three in categories.
Top 3 Favorite Nashville writers: Jeffrey Steele, Rivers Rutherford, Gary Burr.
Top 3 Favorite Old time writers: Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young
Top 3 Current pop writers: John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting), Pink, and whoever the main writer in the Script is.
Writer who inspired me start playing guitar again after a long lay off: Emily Sailers of the Indigo Girls (also a great songwriter)
This barely scratches the surface of my favorites.
Q: What advice would you tell up and coming Songwriters?
Learn the craft. The more you know, the better chance that your songs will be of quality. Get your songs critiqued by other songwriters that you respect. Nobody writes perfect songs. You need the feedback. Play your songs out so that you get audience feedback. It’s possible that the songs you like the best don’t get the best reactions. You won’t know unless you expose them to people. Pay attention to what is popular in a variety of genres. Ask yourself: “why do people like/buy these songs?” Write with other songwriters. You will be amazed how someone else’s perspective can make your song better.
Q: How do you think Frettie will benefit the Songwriting Community?
All of us need feedback on our songs. Frettie provides a non-threatening way to receive it from our peers. Also - it is really great to get that feedback from writers in other cities and states. I think this provides a broader perspective versus always getting your feedback from just your own local community.
Q: What online tools do you use today for songwriting?
I use an online thesaurus, an online dictionary, an online rhyming dictionary, and Frettie.
Q: So what’s next for Dick Plunk?
Nothing special - I plan to continue writing, continue playing my stuff for anyone who will listen, and continue interacting with the songwriting community (a great group of people).
And of course you can find me on hanging out on Frettie!
Q: Do you care to add anything else?
Songwriting, much like being a musical artist or an actor, is a tough business to break into and succeed in. But aren’t we lucky that we live in an age where there is the internet and so many venues in which to expose people to our art. Even if we never make a dime off our music, we can still get it “out there” for other people to hear and appreciate (hopefully).
Thanks Dick for taking the time to answer these questions. We appreciate all of your support and looking forward to connecting with you more on Frettie.
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Interview conducted by The Frettie Team. If you are interested in being interviewed for our next “Songwriter Showcase”, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.