- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (AP) - Effingham resident Bill “Poss” Passalacqua knows a thing or two about songwriting. After all, he’s released five studio albums.

Passalacqua has toured North America and brought “upbeat and happy” songs to audiences for 20 years. He’s worked solo and with bands and is writing his first memoir novel.

With folk songs and ballads like “Heaven,” ”Parade” and “Jack Rabbit,” he told a room of attendees at a songwriting workshop at the Effingham Public Library on Feb. 20 that he’s been accused of being a “too happy” kind of a songwriter.

People who love of all kinds of music - from classical to pop to country - gathered to learn more about songwriting from Poss, which is his stage name. Some came with guitars, a banjo, a drum box, while others came armed with a pad of paper and a pen, ready to learn the basics of lyric writing.

Trevor Parrent, 17, of Newton is willing to follow the path many struggling songwriters and performers have taken to be able to simply perform their music.

“I want to be able to live in a van and wear the same clothes for the next five days, and eat Ramen noodles and play my music for people who want to hear it,” said Parrent. “I’m going to college, don’t worry.”

He said his dream of performing before a crowd began at a Christian music festival when he was about 8 years old. “Watching (the lead singer) on stage and seeing how his words moved through people and especially how he could control a crowd. I said ‘I want to do that.’”

The reasons for wanting to learn to write a song were as varied as the ages and skills of those in attendance and the numerous genres of music. They have a story to tell. They want to convey a feeling. They want to make a point.

One of Poss’ key points of songwriting was to find the fewest words to convey that feeling.

“I start with the words and once I have most of it developed, I create the melody or the tune,” said Passalacqua. “Typically, there’s a pattern that repeats itself.”

Passalacqua said “being intentional” about the words chosen for a song is vital.

“Sam Cooke is a master at this,” he said. “It’s easy at the beginning of writing songs to want to explain everything. A lot of words just aren’t necessary. Try to find words that resonate and mean something right off the bat.”

He encouraged songwriters to find the best words to help the listener create the image in their minds.

“Use analogies and metaphors to bring them to where you are and get them to feel what you are feeling.”

Brandon Phillips, 23, of San Antonio, Texas, said he never really paid attention to the amount of work that goes into building a song.

“It’s kind of a documentary mindset. It’s important to appreciate people’s efforts, the artist’s efforts, in building albums, which help them to be successful,” he said.

While some participants dream of a career in music and performing, others believe songwriting is simply therapeutic.

“To me it’s a creative outlet,” said John Crouch, 53, of Casey, who recently released an album.

Trevor Opfer, 22, of Effingham, described himself as an “introvert” who wants to be better at songwriting.

“I often don’t make eye contact with people,” said Opfer. “Music has always been an escape for me. I was listening to pop music, and it was getting repetitive. But, when I could hear how J.R. Cash would go ‘down, down and down’ - I thought that was awesome.”

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Source: Effingham Daily News, http://bit.ly/1LDsNA5

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Information from: Effingham Daily News, http://www.effinghamdailynews.com

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