The older you get, the tougher it is to come up with catchy tunes, admitted Edmonton singer/songwriter Rob Heath.
“It’s harder because now you realize what a good song is,” added the nearly 60-year-old winner of the last Calgary Folk Music Festival’s songwriting contest, who has also written for U.S. recording companies.
“When I was 20, every song I wrote I thought was a hit . . . but when you get to my age, you realize that you only come up with a truly good song once or twice a year — if you’re lucky.
“When it happens it’s better than sex! It’s the best thing possible.
“When you write a song that you really, truly like, you’re glowing for a month,” said Heath, who performs as part of a songwriter’s circle in Red Deer on Sunday with Carrie Day and Tim Chesterton.
With his new album, The Trick, about to be released, Heath is counting on his songwriting knack holding out a little longer. And it seems to be.
A couple of songs he recorded for the album are already his favourites, including the title track, which is about “three different stages of love.”
Heath explains that the chorus of the song changes slightly each time he sings it.
The first time he’s singing about the “magic” of young love.
Then a person gets older and realizes that the love he thought would last isn’t always the real thing.
“That’s the trick.” Finally, at an advanced age, the person sees that the love that he thought was so elusive, is actually “everywhere and you find it where it’s always been,” said Heath.
“When you grow old, you see magic everywhere. The trick is just to see it.”
Heath didn’t think he was writing much about relationships anymore — until he realized that six out of the 12 songs are about love in some form or other.
“I’m certainly not the person to be proselytizing on the subject. I’ve made every mistake you can think of in love,” he admitted with a laugh.
But the divorced singer, who had been married for 25 years, believes there are some things you can only learn from experience — even if it’s too late to change things.
“It’s like my dad used to say, ‘Experience is like a comb that life gives you when you are bald.’ ”
Heath, who has also written about God and dying soldiers for the new CD, believes everyone’s perspective shifts with age.
“The first 25 years, you think about one thing — yourself.
“The next 25 years, you spend thinking about your kids and the last 25, you think about the world.
“Your scope gets bigger and you start thinking about how to leave this planet better than when you came into it.”
The artist who produced two Top 40 singles in the 1980s (Let’s Go Around the World Together and Baby I Wanna Do Right) as well as chart-making songs performed by others, doesn’t believe in being so artsy that his lyrics are obscure.
“If something confuses somebody, by the time they figure it out, it’s too late — they haven’t heard the next three lines of the song.”
The best advice he can give about songwriting goes back to a real-life experience from his youth.
Heath remembers performing at the Sidetrack Cafe and really being moved by his “deep, dark, introspective” material — but later noticing that the audience wasn’t as into his songs as he was.
An old blues man, who was taking the stage after him, noticed his disappointment with the crowd’s reaction.
“He said to me, ‘Do you know when they listen? When you are talking about them.’ ”
Heath has since tried to limit how often the word ‘I’ appears in his lyrics.
The songwriter is looking forward to performing with Day and Chesterton in Red Deer.
“They are both incredibly talented songwriters, and it’ll be a magical night for me.”
Day combines classical components with acoustic roots, well-crafted lyrics and melodies. Her recent CD, Life is Like This, is a collection of emotionally-driven songs that speak of universal love and friendship. It incorporates the sound of choirs, organs and strings.
The songwriter’s material, which balances a pop sensibility with an artier vibe, has been compared to that of Joni Mitchell and Cat Power.
“She delivers honest songs with a beautiful voice,” said Heath.
Chesterton is an interpreter of traditional folk songs, the kind of heritage tunes that were written by unknown authors in previous centuries, then passed down by word of mouth and re-moulded by each successive generation.
His songwriting is in the storytelling vein. Chesterton has appeared at folk festivals and various other venues across Alberta.
“He’s one of the best people we have writing, who cares about the world and who lives in it,” said Heath.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. songwriter’s circle at the Davenport Church of Christ, at 68 Donlevy Ave., are $10 at the door.