Conservative songwriter John Schwarzman operates a small marketing and advertising business with a partner in the Washington, D.C. area. The beating his company has taken in the last two years has had Schwarzman "very concerned about the future" and even more concerned about the direction the country is headed under its current leadership.
Schwarzman, a Reston, Va. resident, decided to write a song about it. His new single, "I'm an American," has become somewhat of an underground hit among political conservatives since its release in late August and its debut on YouTube three weeks ago. Although it speaks in-depth to the worries Schwarzman describes, he said he was careful to keep pointed political attacks out of it.
"It would have been easy to take cheap shots at particular people -- like Obama, Reid or Pelosi," Schwarzman said. "But I stayed away from that on purpose because this song represents a bigger message."
That message, Schwarzman said, is meant for America's political leaders and is being sent on behalf of the American people.
"America is a magnificent country, but it is under assault. I have two young grandchildren and want them to have the same opportunities that I have enjoyed," he said. "They won't if they are crushed under a mountain of debt and suffer a loss of the very liberties that have made such opportunities even possible."
Early in the summer, Schwarzman said he and his business partner's son were discussing their mutual political misgivings, when the young man pointed out that others were feeling the same way.
"He said, 'Someone should write a song' to say what so many are feeling," Schwarzman said. "I thought that was a great idea, but I didn't know anyone who writes songs. I am not a professional musician. I have never been in a band. I have never really written a song before. But the idea kept nagging at me, and I thought I would give it a try. I decided if it was really bad, I would just put it in a drawer and forget about it."
Although he said he thinks of himself as a "spare bedroom guitar player," Schwarzman stuck with it. Before long, he had a song he believed might reflect the mood of a majority of Americans.
"I knew that it spoke for me," he said. "I wondered if it spoke for others as well. I showed the lyrics around to a few people and they were impressed."
Although the song evoked strong emotions from people, Schwarzman said he found that not everyone agreed with its core message. Or, if they did, what they heard offered something a little different for them."I have found in playing it for people that not everyone shares my particular perspective," he said. "People like it, and they find it inspiring even if they don't agree with everything I have to say. I played it for a couple of friends, both of whom are Democrats, and they really liked it." Before long, Schwarzman found himself looking for some local musicians to help him record the song.
"I went back to an old guitar teacher, showed him the words and hummed the melody and asked him to help me find a bassist, drummer and singer to do the parts," he said. "I asked him to play the guitar. I was just going to produce the song and have it. As it happened, I did play the guitar solo, but that really was a last-minute thing."
The song, "I'm an American," features Todd Googins as lead vocalist, the Knight Brothers as backup vocalists, Dan Leonard on guitar, Scott Ambush on bass and Mike Aubin on drums.
"Everyone was great to work with; very gifted, but very humble," Schwarzman said. "The singer, in particular, was phenomenal. In my opinion, he's a star. I was so fortunate to find him."
The song eventually attracted the attention of a few talk radio hosts. In mid-September, Schwarzman was a guest on radio program in York, Pa.
"Gary Sutton, the host, played the song and asked people to call in to talk about what the lyrics meant to them," Schwarzman said. "People were very emotional. It was a first for me and an incredible experience."
Pleased by the positive reception, Schwarzman decided to put together a video and post it on YouTube. He called up a friend and videographer, who produced it and directed the studio shots. Schwarzman picked out the images and the final product went online in mid-September ... and had more than 14,000 hits in three weeks.
"Not bad for a guy with no band, no web site ... no nothing," Schwarzman said. "I really feel like I have said what many, many people are feeling around the country. So, I'm really glad I did this. It has been one of the great, unexpected experiences of my life; one that I will never forget. I want to be a one-hit wonder and then make a scrap book for my grandkids!"
The song and video, "I'm an American," are available for download on iTunes and Amazon.com.