Book Review: Saved by a Song by Mary Gauthier

Mary Gauthier
Saved by a Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting
Saved by a Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting

Mary Gauthier’s Saved by a Song is proof positive of the power of music to connect human beings in a world that’s torn and hurting from grief, war, trauma and addiction. Those who belittle songwriting as a frivolous exercise would be surprised by the transformations Gauthier has been a part of. She calls herself a troubadour, and righteously so. To her it’s a calling; something that’s helped make her whole. She could have lived a much more secure and comfortable life running successful restaurants, but life had never been easy for her and over time she has earned a unique place in the circle of songwriting acclaim.

Before turning to music she had been stopped dead in her tracks by songs that have created pivotal moments in her life and opened up the possibility to pursue this art form at the highest level. She started by addressing her own life’s circumstances: drug and alcohol use, parental abandonment, petty crime. She pushed through the barrier of crippling stage fright and turned her vulnerability into a gift that was deeply relatable to others. It’s plain from her approach that there is barely a commercial aspect to what she does because the rewards are in the moments, friendships and connections she makes.

It’s inspiring to read the words of a songwriter, who communicates beautifully and honestly in prose, who is driven by such a spirit of purpose. It’s taken her from open mic nights in small Boston venues in the 90s to the stage of the Grand Old Opry sharing truth with soldiers who’ve entrusted her to set their stories in a musical form. It’s a long journey that she has made while being humble in her own struggles and deeply empathetic to those of others. That empathy extends to the young mother that left her at St Vincent’s Women and Infants Asylum in New Orleans.

Gauthier makes no claim to be an authority on the technical aspects of song craft, but she has a way of helping other people find the essence of what they need to say to create something of genuine meaning and intent.

This is not a book for songwriters wanting to write the next chart topping single, but if you want to learn from the decades of experience that Mary has as someone who’s main aim is to reach for the liberating and healing truth, this book comes highly recommended.

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Narrm/Melbourne singer-songwriter and Unpaved editor