When Amy Gordon was 12, she was given a four-track recorder, which helped foster a fascination with songwriting that began when she was 10.
Since then, she has seen the evolution of home recording — lived it — and upped the ante by attending California State University, Long Beach’s Bob Cole Conservatory of Music.
“I’ve been writing songs for 16 years,” she said Monday afternoon. “I’ve been doing it so long that I can’t remember not doing it.”
Still, despite all that writing, Gordon said she was more private with the products of her labor. She attended Loyola Marymount for music composition first, and strides have been made during her time at CSULB.
“When I really decided to pursue it, it was this past summer,” she said. “Songwriting was something I did in the practice room. I never really shared it, I was just doing it by myself.”
All that private noodling and honing of craft has paid off. Gordon was named a finalist for the 2012 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition in the pop music category.
“I had about six songs I had written — the beginnings of an album,” she said. “And my friends were bugging me about what I was going to do, so I thought it was time to pursue it.”
The song that made the finals is called “One Door Opens (Another One Closes)”
“I had a couple of things that might not be going my way (when I wrote the song), but I always had this sense of hope in the background,” Gordon said. “I draw on my personal experiences for snogs, but I also try to make it universal.”
SongDoor is an international competition with prizes related to the song recording process — open to all professional songwriters of any nationality or origin. There were six categories: Christian, country, instrumental, pop, rock/alternative and soft rock. Songs were judged on four elements — originality, melody, composition/structure and lyrics.
The writing comes almost naturally, she said, and it’s been the fleshing out of the music and the composition that has grown in a much larger way.
“A lot of times I’ll have a catchy melody get stuck in my head, and then I’ll have to get it out by writing the songs,” Gordon said. “The writing part actually takes the least amount of time (during the full process).”
Gordon said the CSULB staff has been great for her growth. She particularly thanked composition instructor Martin Herman, who helped her with new mixing and recording techniques.
As far as a style, Gordon said she doesn’t necessarily have a feel for what her sound is. She said she admires indie singer Regina Spektor and would like her songs to comfortably air on a radio show like KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” show.
“I’ve been told I’ve had a country twang,” she said. “I have a hard time categorizing myself.”
Now that she has sent her songs out, Gordon said the next step is releasing a full album to the public. That album would be entitled “Waiting on Go” and it will include her finalist song, likely coming out by April.
In order to make ends meet around her fledgling music career, Gordon, 26, said she teaches music to children, gives private piano lessons and does some film scoring on the side.
All of this is miles away from where that little girl could see the music going — from four-track, to a piano that recorded low-quality audio on floppy disks, to her first heavy-duty personal computer.
“The idea of putting out your music and getting people to follow you was unheard of,” she said. “We’re sort of that generation playing it out and doing the experimenting.”
For an opportunity to listen to Gordon’s songs, visit www.soundcloud.com/amygordonmusic.