November/December 2020 Lyric Contest Winner William Simons Talks “The Blindness Excuse”

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Ware, Massachusetts-based Williams scored top honors for the November/December 2020 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for his song “The Blindness Excuse.” American Songwriter caught up with William to get the scoop on the lyric’s inspiration and see what he’s been up to lately.

What was the inspiration for “The Blindness Excuse?”

 Given all of the social unrest and divisiveness within our country, I decided to write a lyric about hope, pride, and personal accountability. For years I’ve heard people say that color doesn’t matter and yet I’ve never understood what that really means. Shouldn’t we all be proud of who and what we are? In my opinion, it is difficult to fully accept one another without first acknowledging our differences. That said, someday it is my hope that we can all stand together, united against injustice, intolerance and inequality. 

Have you written music for this lyric? If so, how would you describe it? 

 No. As a lyricist only, I rely on my collaborative partners to bring my words to life. That said, oftentimes I develop crude, workable melodies in my head, which allow me to establish a particular rhythm and flow.  If nothing else, this helps me to determine whether or not the words can be sung effectively.   

Does it take you a long time to finish songs? How long did this one take? 

Typically, it does. In fact, I’ve got notebooks filled with unfinished lyrics. Invariably, I get stuck and find it difficult to complete many of my song ideas. Oftentimes, I come up with a catchy hook or verse and then struggle to connect the dots. I admire those that can tie it all together on a consistent basis. With regards to “The Blindness Excuse,” the lyrics all came together for me relatively quickly.  I’m constantly revising and editing my work. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for some of my lyrics to undergo major transformations. In that regard, this song was no different. Initially, I wrote the opening verse and chorus, which for the most part has remained the same. However, I labored over the ensuing verses until I found exactly what I was looking for. From the beginning, I thought this song had a lot of potential, so I took my time to craft it over the course of 6-8 weeks. Fortunately for me, I enjoy the editing process and the never-ending search for the lines and words that oftentimes elude us.         

What keeps you motivated as a songwriter? 

My love of words and language!    

Are there any songwriters, artists or events that have especially inspired you lately?

Yes, The Avett Brothers. I love their sentimentality and warmth, not only as songwriters but as human beings. I also love their devotion to one another and their commitment to their music and their families. Recently, my father-in-law passed away and my wife and I experienced a deep, unfathomable sense of loss and grief.  Several weeks later, while driving in the car, my wife asked me to play “No Hard Feelings.” As the song played, neither of us spoke. In fact, I think we both cried.  It was the first time since her dad’s death that my wife was able to listen to this song and it was extremely cathartic for the two of us. He lived a difficult yet fulfilling life and, in the end, left on his own terms: at peace with the life he led and the family he raised. From my perspective, this is what “No Hard Feelings” is all about.

How long have you been writing songs, and what are your songwriting goals? 

I’ve been writing songs for about 10 or 12 years. My initial goal was to write a successful lyric, which took me far longer than I anticipated. As a non-musician, I have written a lot of poems but not necessarily lyrics, and it has taken me a long time to understand the difference. As my writing has improved, I have found more and more collaborative partners. I find the collaborative process exhilarating. Personally, there is something magical to me about the fact that someone can breathe life into my lyrics and turn them into songs. I find this part of the process extremely rewarding. In terms of my songwriting goals, they’re relatively modest. I want to continue to hone my songwriting skills and broaden my music-writing network. In doing so, who knows what possibilities the future may hold. 

How do you find time to write amid life’s many demands? 

As a high school art teacher, I tend to do a lot of writing during my summer break. Also, when time permits, I squeeze in a little bit of time during the school year. That said I don’t write nearly enough!    

What is your idea of a perfect song? 

To me, the perfect song is something that resonates with you on many levels. Not only does it speak to you in the moment but it has the ability to transport you to another time and place. Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on The Dock of The Bay” checks off all of these boxes for me and although it may not be the perfect song, in my opinion it’s awfully close. 

Who are your all-time favorite songwriters and why? 

My favorite contemporary writers are Jason Isbell, The Avett Brothers and Brandi Carlile, all of which have terrific storytelling abilities. But in terms of my all-time favorites, Dan Fogelberg is at the top of the list, in large part for penning “Leader of the Band,” which I consider one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Also, Willie Nelson, who in my opinion, is a lyrical genius. His songs are deep, thoughtful, endearing, funny and sweet. From “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore” to “On the Road Again” and “The Last Thing I Needed The First Thing This Morning,” his range is limitless. Other notables for me are Randy Travis, Chuck Berry, Paul Simon, Otis Redding, Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder.    

Enter the current Lyric Contest HERE

1st Place

The Blindness Excuse”
By William Simons
Ware, MA
 
You say you don’t care if we’re purple or green
But I’m black and she’s brown so what does that mean?
If you can’t see color then what can you see?
Through those rose-colored glasses when you’re looking at me
 
When evening gives way to the cover of night
Is my blackness affirmed in the absence of light?
And would you declare my skin color moot
If you put your hands up and I still chose to shoot
 
You can untie the noose
You can unload the gun
But the blindness excuse
Can’t undo what’s been done
 
You like to tell me I’m articulate and smart
While you’re stroking my ego and blessing my heart
But I don’t need your praise, your pity or tears
Or some colorblind world to magically appear
 
What I need instead is some faith in you
That I can be me and you, can be you
I’m proud to be black and you’re proud to be white
So, let’s rise up together and fight the good fight
 
You can untie the noose
You can unload the gun
But the blindness excuse
Can’t undo what’s been done
 
I closed my eyes for a long time
Pretending that I couldn’t see
Then a switch flipped on
Like the break of dawn
And for once in my life I felt free
 
You can untie the noose
You can unload the gun
But the blindness excuse
Can’t undo what’s been done
 
You can untie the noose
You can unload the gun
But the blindness excuse
Can’t undo what’s been done

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