Spotlight

If you'd like me to write a Personal Song for someone you love, I'd love to do it. For information about project options and pricing, please email me at skc@shannoncurtis.net.

12 WEEKS OF PERSONAL SONG SPOTLIGHTS!

Welcome! Every week this fall — through December 15th — we’re sharing a Personal Song that I’ve written and recorded for someone, along with a little of the song’s backstory, and reactions people had when they heard their songs for the first time. (Tears! Smiles! Swoons!) Scroll down to read about and listen to the spotlights so far …

We have 10 spots available for Personal Song projects this fall, through December 15th … so send me a message today to get your spot and get started on your song!


Week #9: “One More Chapter”

I wrote this song a few years ago for a woman to give to her mom, on the occasion of her mom’s 95th birthday. At that age, she still had all of her mental faculties, but she had gone blind over the previous few years. Apparently, losing her eyesight didn’t slow her down one bit, and she continued to be the amazing woman she’d been her whole life. I was so touched by the idea of giving the gift of a song to someone who could no longer see, but who could still receive and absorb the heartfelt intention of the gift by listening. How cool.

The song is called “One More Chapter,” based on the stories the woman shared with me about how she loved her mom reading to her at night before bed. I thought that imagining her long and adventure-filled life as a chapter book would be a fun way to tell snippets of the wonderful stories she shared with me, and to encapsulate her mom’s pervasive positivity and laughter throughout her life.

Here is their song; just press play to listen:

“One More Chapter” — Shannon Curtis

“Words cannot express my gratitude. It is perfect – absolutely wonderful. You captured her…thank you.”

It was such a joy to help bring some joy to this woman and her family. ❤️

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #8: “Red Heart”

In most cases, when a person hires me to write a Personal Song for them, it is a song that I write based on an interview with them, and which they will then give as a gift to a loved one. However, in this case, the person who hired me to write this song gave the gift of the experience of having a song written TO their loved one. It is, so far, the only Personal Song project I’ve done like this. And it was so special.

The woman who hired me to write the song gave the gift of this experience to her soon-to-be wife, who is a trans woman. She wanted her fiancee to have the experience of telling her story of being a trans person through a song, via me and my songwriting process.

So, I had the very great honor of being witness to this woman’s story. Of how she felt confused as a child, growing up in a place where no one ever talked about what being transgender is, and yet knowing that she hated being a boy. Of being bullied because she didn’t perform cis/heteronormative boy behavior as a kid, but was instead labeled a “sensitive boy.” Of getting married, because that’s what she thought she needed to do to live up to the expectations of her church, but never feeling right in her role as someone’s husband. Of finally blurting out, at age 36, that she is a woman, as though the feeling just wouldn’t stay quiet inside of her for one minute longer.

What I learned in reading her story is that she is woman who — just like pretty much all of us — wanted to be seen, known, and loved for who she is. And also that she has a huge heart, sees the best in people, and wanted to be able to show her love for people — and eventually for a special someone — from that place of embodying her most authentic self.

These two women did, in fact, get married, and they sent me a video of this song playing at the ceremony. How wonderful. ❤️

Some of the lyrics are delivered sort of rapidly in this song, so I’ve included printed lyrics below if you’d like to follow along as you listen. Press play here to hear the song:

“Red Heart” — Shannon Curtis

———

Red Heart”
words and music by Shannon Curtis

Have you ever known something deep down
But you didn’t know the words to say it; you knew you couldn’t shake it
Have you ever tried living with your heart out on your sleeve
But the others didn’t understand it, and so you caught the damage
And have you ever, even through the burning of it all,
Never given up on people; there’s more good than evil
I feel you; I feel you

Girl, I’ve got a red heart
Beating in my chest
And all I wanna do is love hard
On somebody who sees me as I am
Under all of these scars
The singular part
That matters most is my beating red heart

Have you ever tried to play a part
Somebody arbitrarily assigned you, even if it’s not true
Have you said the magic words, hoping this time they would work
And knowing all along that you’d be keeping living in your secrets
And have you ever, when you couldn’t take it anymore,
Blurted it all out loud, just let it go with a shout
I feel you; I feel you

Look at me now
The outside’s nothing like it started out
And would you look at this smile
It’s coming from the deepest place inside
Where everything is feeling right
For once in my entire life
———

Here’s the conversation I had with her after she heard the song for the first time:

Her: “It puts me in tears.”

Me: “Good tears, I hope?”

Her: “Yes, thank you! Your music captured the bittersweet nature of my existence.”

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #7: “Stay in the Light”

I heard from a woman earlier this year who wanted me to write a song about her sister. The sister had passed away in late 2020, and since the family wasn’t able at that time to gather for an official memorial, they planned to come together in late summer to celebrate her life. This song was going to be one of the centerpieces of their celebration. But it turns out that it also became something like a family group project / grieving exercise as well.

The woman had shared with me that they hadn’t really had the opportunity to engage in a grieving process when their loved one died — I’m not sure of the details, but I can imagine that in the stress of the pandemic and the rolling uncertainty of the time that it would have been hard to do intentional grieving without the ritual of an official memorial gathering.

And so, in order to get the stories, memories, thoughts, and feelings from this family about their loved one, several of them participated in the interview questions for the project. What that meant for them was that they were literally given an assignment that drew them in to a place of remembering treasured times with their loved one, reflecting on the beautiful aspects of her life, and honoring the legacy she left them.

What that meant for me and my writing process was that, instead of internalizing the account of just one person, my source material consisted of written accounts from 4 or 5 different family members.

It was really neat to see how common themes emerged from across their writings — her love of singing, her way of being “at the center of things,” her way of drawing people into her life and making them feel important, her way of diving wholeheartedly into life, even when life was unspeakably hard, and the way in which several of them described how they intended to carry her spirit with them and to do their best to live up to the shining example she set out for them.

I felt like I got to know and to spend time with her in the making of this song. It was a pretty special experience. Here it is:

“Stay in the Light” — Shannon Curtis

Here’s what they thought about their song:

“My heart is full of appreciation for your work to capture the soul & spirit of our sister. You absolutely GOT her, and us. Bless you & Jamie.”

“Everyone we’ve shared your song with has reacted with tender tears. You SO captured Katie.”

That’s exactly what I was hoping for, so it was really rewarding to hear this. ❤️

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #6: “Breaking All the Rules”

We’re going a few years into the wayback machine for this week’s spotlight. I wrote this song in 2016 for a woman to give to her fiancé, and I believe they ended up dancing to the song during the “first dance” at their wedding. How cool is that!? When I interviewed her about their relationship, she told me that when they met, they were both freshly separated from their ex-spouses. They had both been trying for the previous year to put the pieces together in their respective lives, and had felt unsuccessful in that effort. She told me, “It’s funny because I have rules not to meet anyone at the bar, I don’t give out my phone number, I don’t kiss on the first date, and I certainly don’t date random’s. He was my first random ever.”

She described to me these and other “rules” that she had made for herself about dating and getting emotionally involved with people, because she’d been hurt in past relationships, and she didn’t want to get hurt again. It turns out that, while the rules she invented kept her from getting hurt, they also kept her from all of the potentially good stuff that comes with vulnerability and intimacy. After her fiancé’s persistence in pursuing her for several months, she realized he was a really great person, and that giving herself a chance with him would mean having to break her rules to let herself get close. 

Upon reading her interview responses, I knew instantly how the song was going to take shape. This was a really fun one to write. Here it is:

“Breaking All the Rules” — Shannon Curtis

Isn’t that sweet? I’d love to see a video of that first dance. ❤️

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #5: “A Letter”

I wrote this song a few years ago for a woman to give to her three young daughters and their father. It was a time in her life in which she was really wrestling with who she is, and what she wanted in her life … and it was, as you can imagine, a somewhat turbulent time for her family. And yet … she expressed to me that she wanted to communicate in this song the abiding love and the eternal kind of bond she felt with each of them … a sort of declaration of that core truth while the rest of their lives were swirling in uncertainty. What a vulnerable place to be … and I have so much admiration and gratitude for her sharing those vulnerable parts with me, and trusting me to help her communicate them to her people. 

Here is their song. It’s called “A Letter.”

“A Letter” — Shannon Curtis

Here are the series of messages I got from the woman after I’d delivered her song:

“I love you both. There are no words.”
“Ok, so we have all been on an emotional roller coaster today (in a good way); and A Letter kept connecting us back in. We finished the bedtime routine with it tonight.”
“I feel reluctant to even say how much I love the song, like it will reduce its beauty. But damn it’s good, woman.”

What a rewarding response. And what an honor it was to write this woman’s deepest feelings in the form of a song for her family. ❤️

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #4: “Stay”

I wrote this song for a woman to give to her new / old partner late last year. These two women had been a couple many years ago; and although they split up a long while back, they had always remained family. And then … last year … they verbalized to each other that they each knew they wanted to be together again and to spend the rest of their lives together. “She’s my person.” That’s what the woman told me about how she realized that her once-partner was the one she wanted to be with forever. They had already talked about their dreams of buying a house with some land so they could plant things and raise goats and grow old together on the porch. 

I really wanted the song to honor this pivotal moment in their lives — to be a reflection on the rich history of their relationship, the progress they’d each made in their lives, the realizations they’d made about what they wanted, and their hopes and intentions for the future. I think it kind of reads like a love letter — I used a lot of the words and descriptions she sent me to just say directly what she thinks and what she feels, just as she described it to me in her writing.

And it’s SO romantic. ❤️ Here it is:

“Stay” — Shannon Curtis

I happen to be personal friends with the woman for whom I wrote this song, too, which means that she has my phone number. As soon as I sent her the completed song, I started getting a series of text messages over the next couple of hours after she listened … and listened again … and again.

“OMMMMMMGOD Shannon!!”
“I absolutely love it and cannot wait to give it to her.”
“You are amazing.”
“I’m speechless.”
“You absolutely nailed it … this will be our wedding song.”
“I can’t stop listening … thank you two again … it’s beautiful.”

It was pretty rewarding to read that. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to write a part of the soundtrack of their lives.

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #3: “Show Our Love”

I wrote this song last year for a woman to give to her parents on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. Each Personal Song I do requires a somewhat unique set of interview questions, so I can get to the heart of the story we aim to tell. The questions I sent to this woman were about stories of her parents’ relationship and memories of growing up with them.

She totally surprised me with her answers, which — instead of starting with the lives of her parents — began with stories from a couple of generations before them. Stories of immigration, of families becoming refugees in search of a safe place to raise their children, and a legacy that was passed down and took root in the family her parents created: a legacy of showing love for one another and for their family with actions more than words, with sacrifice more than declarations, with hands and feet, showing up for the people they love.

That legacy became the theme on which I decided to build the whole song.

One feature of this song that makes it special is that it’s an example of one of our “full-studio” Personal Songs. In weeks 1 and 2, you heard examples of “acoustic” Personal Songs — songs written for an arrangement of just piano and voice. But a “full-studio” project allows me to draw on all of my instrument tools in the studio, to create a fully fleshed-out and lush arrangement. It’s really fun to create an audio landscape for a song with a full arrangement of big, cinematic sounds. And here it is!

“Show Our Love” — Shannon Curtis

Here was her response after I sent her the completed song:

“Thank you!!! This is beautiful! My eyes teared up when I listened to it…There is so much going on in the world these days… You are definitely an intuitive empath.”

There is, indeed, so much going on in the world these days; it feels more imperative than ever to say — or, in this case show — our love for those we care about. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this woman showing her love to her parents. ❤️

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #2: “Trees”

I wrote this song in 2018 for a mom to give to her teenage daughter for a milestone birthday. It was such a deep and fulfilling project to work on, particularly because the writing that the mom did about her daughter in response to my interview questions was so moving and heartfelt. She did an amazing job of pouring out her mother’s heart on the page in those answers, which gave me so much beautiful material from which to create a song.

She wrote about the depth of soul, resilience, and compassion that defines her daughter, and about how she witnessed those qualities from the time she was a baby, through a time in her adolescent life that was dark and hard, into the way in which she now extends her hand and heart back into those dark places to help others who find themselves there. And she described her as being a person who reaches fervently toward life.

And after reading all of that … I couldn’t help but think of trees.

Back in my biology major days, I learned that there are some species of trees for which seed germination only happens after there has been a forest fire — that new life and regeneration requires a death of sorts, a seed buried, a forest burned. … And I learned more recently that trees are not, as they appear to be on the surface, independent beings — they constantly communicate with and rely on each other via vast underground networks in their roots systems. So, although their births may have started in fire, and although the bark of these old souls may bear the evidence of struggle as they’ve grown, still, every day, majestically, impossibly, they reach up toward the light, toward life, while holding on to each other underground.

I think this woman’s daughter might be a tree. 🌲 And here’s her song:

“Trees” — Shannon Curtis

Here’s what she wrote to me after hearing the song:

“Oh my goodness Shannon! What an absolute treasure. The song is more perfect than I could ever express properly. Thank you for putting into words and song what is in my mother’s heart. Much, much love to you and Jamie.”

It was such a joy to be a part of a mom saying “I love you” to her daughter in this way.

If you’d like me to write a Personal Song for someone you care about, email me for info and pricing.


Week #1: “The Best Day”

I wrote this song in 2020 for a husband to give to his wife as an anniversary gift. (Aw!) As is the case with most Personal Songs, there are several “easter eggs” in the lyrics of the song, which I pulled directly from details of the stories he shared with me about their life together. These are the kinds of lyrics that, to most people, will sound just like color details of the song’s story; but to the people for whom the song is written, those details are what make this song unmistakably theirs.

In his written responses to my interview questions for the song, one feeling stuck out to me more than any other, and it became the thematic hook on which I decided to hang the whole narrative of the song. That feeling was that, even though they’d been through a lot together, with lots of ups and downs, right now is the best their relationship has ever been. How wonderful! And from that sentiment, and all the stories he told me about their time as partners, I wrote “The Best Day.” Enjoy.

“The Best Day” — Shannon Curtis

Here’s what he thought about the song when he heard it for the first time:

“omg, this is amazing! holy sh*t — I love it! I stole away, downloaded it to my phone, put in my earphones and took a walk — and I was crying! Thank you so, so much! [She] is going to love it, as do I!”

That sounds to me like “mission accomplished.” ❤️

If you’d like to start your own Personal Song project for someone you love, email me for info and pricing.