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Mitch Stephen: songwriting is a hit or miss deal

By RAMIRO BURR
SAN ANTONIO - You never know when a particular song will become a hit says award-winning songwriter Mitch Stephen.

“You know, you can spend years writing what you think of as good songs about

serious relationships,” he said recently. “Then you write a funny song about a gringo and it takes off.”

That funny song was David Lee Garza y Los Musicales’ tune “Who’s that Gringo?” To everyone’s surprise, the song went on to capture the Crossover Song of the year award at the 2005 Tejano Music Awards.

No small accomplishment. That song beat out some heavy-hitters including “My Woman, My Lover, My Friend,” by Grupo Mazz; “Amor, Familia Y Respeto,” by K1; “Quemar,” Maz Ambicion; and “Taking on the Wind,” by Stefani Montiel.

Beyond stunned by winning the award, Stephen was astonished that the fans in the sold-out arena sang along to his lyrics.
“It’s an excitement, a feeling you never forget,” he said. “To hear all these people singing along…to know that what you wrote, brought some joy to people is hard to describe.”

For Stephen, achieving such heady recognition was sweeter than candy. Ask any struggling or veteran songwriter, after years in the trenches few forget their first successes.

“I was higher than a kite that night,” Stephen said. “My feet didn’t touch the ground for at least two weeks.”

Like most writers, Stephen wrote about what was familiar, getting inspiration from personal experiences and emotional upheavals.

“Writing songs has always been like a catharsis for me, a way to express myself, my feelings, my points of view,” said Stephen. “It was a way to inspire or move me, and hopefully, a way to move others.”
Stephen began writing tunes when he was in the 7th grade.

One day he visited a music store at Wonderland, now Crossroads, Mall and listens to an artists  playing over the store speakers. That man was Dan Fogelberg, and the song was “To the Morning.”

“I didn’t have much money but I bought every album title he had in the store. I went home and played them for hours. I decided that day that if I could move someone – anyone – with my words like he was moving me with his…then that is what I’d like to do. I have never stopped trying.”

Stephen and his co-writer Billy O’Rourke has also written songs for the country girl group



 

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