A People’s History of American Songwriter: Matthew S. Shearon


Videos by American Songwriter

Matthew S. Shearon: Editor-in-chief, Co-publisher (2008-2010); Managing Editor (2005-2008) 

Pinning down a story about AS isn’t an easy task. It’s loaded with false starts and spurts. I’ve started this little bit 10 or 12 times since Caine asked me to submit a few words for this special issue. And the story I kept coming back to is one about a road trip.

Before I settled on that, I tried to write about when our office building caught on fire and the remedial back pain I suffered from lugging thousands of back issues down a flight stairs charred black as midnight. Or our first parties in a Music Row parking lot – we were too young and stupid to care about permits or good party food. I tried to write about the incredibly patient artists who visited our office (the not crispy office) to play and talk to us about how and why they write songs. Or a story about us sitting at Rachel’s desk and watching half an issue or more of work slip away as her computer crashed for the umpteenth time that week. Those didn’t really pan out.

But I couldn’t shake this road trip we took as a team to see where our magazine was made. It felt completely random; a trip spurred on by our rep from Chicago. The drive from Nashville went on for hours to this printing press in some nowhere town in the Midwest. This remote, forgotten place that we’d never have good reason to return to. Where people played cornhole out back on lunch break. Where we raised glasses with the good people who put up with us because they like what we did. Yet I can’t forget it.

I’m getting old and now attempting to raise and nurture a two-year-old son, so getting nostalgic is a daily thing. But when I look back on that trip, and standing in awe as page after page of our little magazine went whizzing by on the press, I now realize that not many people get to see things like that. Stories and pictures that simply started as post-it notes, whiteboards, drafts and design files, then seemingly become aware, created and alive in front of you; ready to travel thousands of miles, ready to do things.

The trip made the crafting of it all come together in this fantastic way. Not unlike what the songwriters we talked to felt when they heard that cut get played back to them. It fueled a desire and respect within me to really understand how things are made, not simply conceived. It brought me closer to our young team when I saw our work in that form, and met the people who helped us put ink on paper and bind our stories together. It made me want to work harder for the reader who was looking for some kind of truth or inspiration.

I hope that in the end, we gave people as much inspiration as they gave us.

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