Marcus Hummon describes himself as someone happily obsessed with songwriting, and he hopes to share that same joy with the younger generation. Young musicians at Groton were indeed fortunate to welcome Mr. Hummon, a Grammy-winning songwriter, on campus hosting a master class and a songwriting workshop on Sunday, December 8.
Mr. Hummon shared his personal take of songwriting as well as anecdotes from his music career. Moving to Los Angeles to seek a record deal after college, he met months of frustration and was even laughed at by the father of his former girlfriend. His career later took off, however, after he relocated to Nashville, finding success first on the city’s club circuit and then as songwriter of multiple country hits.
“As a songwriter, you have to realize at a certain point that you have no place to return to,” he commented on his songwriting career.
For Mr. Hummon, a song’s lyrics are just as important as its melody: “‘American Pie’ is arguably one of the greatest songs of the modern era. Initially, nobody knew what he was talking about. I mean, who’s the ‘jester?’ Who’s ‘jumping over the candlestick?’ And all this stuff moved together [to create] this beautiful song, this beautiful six-minute journey to the American mind.”
The rule of thumb for lyrical content? “A lyric that is compelling, a lyric which tells a story, a story of humanity, with passion, a story with humor would always be appealing.” While young love dominates as the main theme of pop songs, Mr. Hummon enjoys listening to songs on life’s many other aspects as well. That’s what he finds particulary exciting about writing theater music — all the different characters have a wide array of stories, ones that are rarely found in the lyrics of pop songs, waiting to be told.
Mr. Hummon shared his take on the nature of songwriting. “The songwriter is not tucked in a cave somewhere,” he said, “but rather a pilgrim among us creating poetry in a somewhat detached fashion.”
Apart from engaging discussions, the master class also featured performance from Mr. Hummon himself. Sitting on a high stool, he at times picked up his guitar to give his own rendition of classic country songs, including his own favorite, James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”
Musicians from both Groton and the local community then had the opportunity to share their own pieces during an hour-long songwriting workshop. Students including Groton’s Matt Ko ’15, Phoebe Fry ’17, and Turner Banwell ’15 played songs spanning several different genres. Mr. Hummon gave high praises to the creative works while offering his suggestions for them to hone their songwriting technique.
The brief hours of discussions filled with music and hearty laughter passed quickly. At 5 pm, Mr. Hummon performed many of his classic pieces at the Gammons Hall to conclude a memorable afternoon.