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Man's songwriting 'hobby' leads to fruition on new CD

March 23, 2013|By JESSICA MANUEL | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Charles Gower of Martinsburg, W.Va., has been writing songs for about two years. One of this songs, "A Little Lower than the Angels," is featured on "Glory," a new CD of inspirational songs.
Photo by Yvette May/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A strong devotion to religion can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. 

To Charles Gower of Martinsburg, it means a life with purpose, but also a hobby — songwriting. 

Gower recently took his talents to a bigger stage, having a song appear on the album, "Glory" by Hilltop Records.

According to Gower, the company produces a compilation project each year, with this year's focusing on gospel music. Hilltop producers screen songs submitted by beginning or young songwriters and pick the best to add to the album.

"I'm an old songwriter," Gower said with a laugh. "I've been writing for the past two years. It really started in 2011."

His story doesn't start with music. It began with his poetry, which he thinks is common because many songwriters start out in poetry and that leads to music. Though Gower has only written about 15 songs, he has written about 100 poems.

The 50 years he spent in Christian ministry inspires his work.

"It's definitely inspirational type music," he said.

He quotes Psalm 45:1, "My tongue is like the pen of a ready writer." 

Most of his songs are inspired by his religion, including the one featured on the CD, called "A Little Lower than the Angels." The song derives its name from Hebrews 2:9. 

Gower compares his writing process to the creation of any work of art. Inspiration comes when it comes, and that forms the final piece. Gower's muse usually comes when he gets a theme, especially during his devotional time.

His faith is the backbone for his recent success in songwriting, too. Gower calls them "God sightings," when someone is praying and an answer comes from out of nowhere. That's how he got the break he watched so many others strive for.

"It's one thing to write a song. It's another to get it published," he said.

Gower had been praying for his chance to be published when he received a letter from Hilltop Records out of the blue, asking him to submit a song. The same happened to form the partnership with his music writer, Peter Hopkins of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., a graduate of Shepherd University.

Gower had been searching for someone to put a melody behind his words. After some failures, his search ended when he substitute taught at Hedgesville High School. Asking the band director at first offered no solution, but then Hopkins' name popped into his head. Though Hopkins specializes in marching band scores, Gower said he and Hopkins are a great team.

The music process is much easier than one would think. Gower sings his lyrics as they sound in his head, and Hopkins takes the melody straight from that.

"To me, that's amazing. That's magic," Gower said in awe of his partner's skills.

Of course, Gower brings secular lyrics to the table, too. He writes fun, pantomime type songs, including one of his favorites, "Girls Love Fingernails." Inspired by his wife polishing and taking care of her fingernails so often, the lyrics show a different side of the songwriter.

"It's a song you just laugh with," he said. "I really like that song. It could be a jingle for a fingernail polish company."

Other songs in that category for him include one about the struggles of marriage and another dedicated to one of his biggest fans called "Sweet Laura Jones." Laughing about his fan base, Gower mentions two people with whom he shares his work. 

"I have two ladies at the bank. I share with them my progress. I wrote about one," he said with a laugh, acknowledging Laura Jones.

While he has fun with those songs, they are just part of his hobby. They aren't the ones he's received recognition for.  "A Little Lower Than the Angels," when brought to the screening board at the record company, was unanimously voted to be included on the album, according to Gower.  He's not thinking of long-term goals with his songs, but once he started writing, he liked what was being put on the paper, he says.

"It's all an adventure for me," Gower said of songwriting, "I just know I like it and I've learned a lot."



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