Genre’ … what is it?

I have for many years had a problem with the concept of Genre’, am I a Folk Songwriter, a Rock Songwriter, a Roots, Country, Indie, Blues Writer or something else, a Hybrid maybe?

Back in the 60’s and 70’s we didn’t think much about genre, there was “our” music and there was fluff, genre wasn’t really an issue. Playing in cover bands or playing covers you played your favorites, what was popular, whatever you liked…it was someone else’s music.  It is as a songwriter, where you are pigeon-holed that it seems much more important, to others mostly.

The genre’ issue rears its ugly head not when you are writing or even playing, genre is a ball and chain when it comes to promoting, marketing, or directing your songs in order to get them out there in the musicsphere.  When you go to submit a song to a song contest, festival, promoter, venue or record company and that query comes up “what type of music is it?”. I find myself at a loss when it comes to categorizing a song.  I have written a song titled Genre’ Gap that somewhat expresses that frustration and maybe that is enough said…..except I don’t know what genre that song is either.

The list of categories is endless but of course those categories don’t come with instructions and each listener or reader interprets a genre’ differently. If I tick the Folk box it may be seen as traditional Celtic Music, or is it Rock, Blues, Americana, Alternative, Roots, words without any real definition just colorful expressions to describe an obscure impression. Then there is the catch all box Singer Songwriter….which I do fall in to but that is as broad as a Dulux Color Chart. Socially Conscious Music With A Message does not come up on the category list, so I generally refer back to Folk Rock but that just draws looks of bewilderment if it appears on the list at all (except when addressing the comment to someone who’s  musical upbringing dates back to 1965….they get it).

So you try influences…that starts with A and ends with Z, not much help, and in fact sometimes a hindrance. I am a Neil Young disciple but what does that say to someone to whom a Buffalo Springfield is a salad in Massachusetts.  “Dylanesque” is one I made up and quite like but that puts you in pretty lofty territory, better have your act together if you are using that one…despite it’s level of accuracy. Dylan was probably the great transitory from Folk to Rock, even got booed off the stage for daring to do such a thing.

Alternative Country that’s another one….alternative to what? What is Country, how do you have an alternative to something you can’t actually define? Adult Contemporary, now that is a far-fetched concept, not sure if it is a description of the listener or the music. Oh and Americana … what is that, do you have to be American or can anyone participate in that genre.

So genre’ it seems a slow moving fog that’s constantly changing with the wind and the temperature and in the eyes of the beholder. So I fall back on Folk Rock…no not the traditional Celtic dance, not traditional American Eire Canal stuff, not Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie Up The Union or Banjo Patterson’s old outback tales. Its 1967 Haight Ashbury Coffee Shop music, written on a paper napkin in a spur of the moment fit of inspiration. It’s about something, its story-telling, its the transition of ideas through music, it conveys a thought not necessarily the writers feelings but certainly his/hers observation. It’s a few parts This Land Is Your Land and a few parts Ohio mixed in with a bit of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and transported with a White Rabbit in a Big Yellow Taxi to a farm near Woodstock, New York and allowed to roam free On The Threshold Of A Dream.

Call me a Folk Song Writer a Rockin’ Folk Singer if you must call me something, I’m not convinced I know exactly what Folk Rock Music is, but I am damn sure I know what it’s not.


Leave A Comment