So, how in the world did I become a hit songwriter? For me, it was a process. I believe it began with dissatisfaction. When the pain of being shy, afraid and self conscious became greater than the pain of trying something new, I gained the courage to step out and take some risks. I started with writing songs and producing with my friends back in Iran when we were teenagers, and the songs were released, and people happened to like them. So, we slowly got bigger and bigger and in a few years time we were the leaders of music industry in Iran. To the point that the government which wanted to have a strong censorship on music and movies found our songs “irregular” because we weren’t following any rules or regulations in our topics and content. I got into some serious problem and after I finished my jail time – yes, I’ve been jailed for writing songs – I left Iran. Outside of Iran, my Persian music was pretty much useless in the market, so I had to learn English and start writing in English. After about 10 years of trying to write English music, here I am, writing my story!
My first ventures into the unknown were baby steps. You would probably laugh if I told you what they were. But, for me, they were huge steps. I did some things that scared me. Looking back, it’s laughable that they scared me, but they did. They terrified me. But I lived through them and that gave me strength to keep broadening my horizons. Things like I was getting English songs and back then they were on cassette tapes, which usually contained the lyrics sheet. I didn’t know any English, so I used to look the words up one by one on dictionary and try to understand what they are talking about. Mixing that with Persian poems which I’ve been taught from childhood and coming up with topics and stories for my own songs.
Each little victory helped me see that failure wasn’t fatal and that risk had rewards. I felt better about myself when I tried new things – even when I didn’t do well. The first time I played the “Navazesh”, I totally forgot how the bridge of my song went. It was gone from my brain. I was sweating bullets, but I said, “If you want to know how the bridge goes, you’ll have to get the demo from my publisher – he’s right over there.” Everyone laughed and I moved on. I screwed up – but I played the “Navazesh”. I learned that people are cheering for me, not against me. And I left there stronger than when I walked in the building, even though I didn’t perform well.
In the beginning, I got literally hundreds of rejections. They were crushing at times, but I was stronger than the rejection. I lived through it. I proved people wrong. Several publishers who rejected me wound up asking me to write with their writers after I had hits. The requests from them are still coming in and there is no one week that I open my email and have nothing from the publishers who rejected me, even one literally kicked me out of his studio while he was yelling at me – for not being a good classical musician! 3 years later, in 2017 I purchased his catalogue and now he is completely out of business, for what I heard because he hadn’t worked with anyone for year because he always believed nobody is good enough to work with him – another lesson, don’t be that guy!
Little by little, I began to believe in myself and my ability. As I mentioned I was – and still am – a very shy person. In my teenage years when my friends and I were making songs for fun and it happened to find its own place in the market, I started to gain confidence and as a result I took control of my life. I embraced who I am, how tall I am standing and who I am. And, I’ve learned to welcome failure as a learning tool. I’m happy. Whether or not I get another song recorded – I’m happy. I believe that the self acceptance and happiness allow me to write my best songs. I’m writing better than ever and enjoying it more than ever.
If you ever struggle with the “Am I good enough” question, I encourage you to stop and wrestle with the big question while you let the little questions take a break. I can assure you; you are good enough, or most probably you are better than enough. You have what it takes otherwise you weren’t spending time reading this. Your worst enemy is your self-doubt. Go to battle with that and you will have the ultimate victory.