Acknowledging The Ones Behind Your Song

 iDoCoach Blog 20/11/18

iDoCoach Blog 20/11/18


Take stock

It’s Thanksgiving time again here in the US. Time to take stock. I could talk about all the things I’m thankful for but this is a songwriting blog so I’ll stay on point. You’re a songwriter and I’m guessing no matter where you are on this creative journey you haven’t traveled alone. You’ve had friends, loved ones, husbands, wives, maybe even kids and all manner of family riding along. Maybe you’re at a point where you have co-writers, band mates, teachers, industry friends, maybe even a publisher helping you, encouraging you to “just write.”

You need them all. Writing can seem like a solitary thing, spending all that time in your head and it can also get a little lonely in there. This is where those folks come in. 


”Some have gone and some remain”

I’ve just finished writing my first book. It’s called “Song Journey “ and will be released in the first quarter of 2019. It’s based on the coaching I do with songwriters  around the world and it’s very story driven. Writing those stories brought back some ghosts. I’ve been doing this a long time so there are bound to be those people who are long gone from my day to day memory but  bringing them back through writing the book has been an exercise in thankfulness. I’m grateful for every one of those fellow travelers I mentioned, from the guys I played in garage bands with to the family members who suffered through those early, awful attempts at songwriting to the co-writers who helped me actually get better at this thing. Too many to mention and too many to thank for me and I hope for you too.

Make your own list

I’m gonna recommend a way to bring these people to life in your memory. Think about your own life as a book, sit down and write the acknowledgment section…today. Don’t think too hard, there will be the obvious ones but your subconscious will open up another contact book as you go. Take as long as you need to make this list of people who have helped you get to where you are on your path as a songwriter. Take some time to reflect on each one. It’s amazing the memories that will flood over you and the realization that even though you might feel you’ve been coming up with all these ideas and songs on your own, you’ve had help. A whole lot of help. 

You’ve been on your own song journey and now’s a great time to give thanks to all your guides.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018 and 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

MARK CAWLEY IDOCOACH.COM

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.




Are Your Songs Stuck On "Nice"?

 iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

The Kiss on The Cheek

I’m coaching songwriters, worldwide, every week and one of the most common complaints I hear in the beginning is they feel stuck. Not talking writer’s block in this case, more that they’ve been digging in, learning tools, getting their songs out there and the feedback they’re getting is the dreaded “nice” comment. Nice is a kiss on the cheek, nice is “good effort”, or “you really know your craft”. Nice is “I like it, I just don’t LOVE it.” Nice is good and good is the enemy of great. To get to that next level your song needs to be great. Period.

Maybe when you’ve hit this stage you feel writing has gotten harder or not as much fun as it was when you took joy in just being able to come up with a fully formed idea. The more tools you’ve been picking up, the more knowledge you’ve accumulated the more tough choices you have. All good until you find yourself hitting a wall. It becomes a battle. “My song is as good as what I’m hearing on the radio”, “my friends love my song”, “ I’ve put in the hours”…may all be true but you still get the “nice” comment more often than not.


Original ??

Good place to stop now and remember you’re no longer dealing with just the music, you’re dealing with the music business. You might be getting heard by the powers-that-be who are hearing tons of songs every day in a place like Nashville for instance. You might be ticking every box except for one. The one labeled “original idea”. You can write the most heartfelt love song, killer melody or even come up with a “radio ready” demo but if that person behind the desk sniffs out the least bit of “I’ve heard this before” you’re headed for “nice”. It hurts sometimes because it usually isn’t for a lack of craft or talent at this stage. It’s just not an original idea. I don’t mean gimmicky, I mean the idea or twist in the idea, that makes someone want to love it. 

I know you could argue that lots of what you’re hearing is not great, or not all that unique and you could have a case but…if you’re hoping to stand out from the crowd, including the signed writers, be objective and see if your song is fresh. Fresh is better than nice every time.

If you’re at this stage you know how to write a song. Don’t let the competition part cause you to lose that sense of play. The next step is to play great, don’t play nice!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018 and 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.

Songwriting With An Avatar

 iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

I was in Austin, Texas in July to attend a 2-day workshop with best selling author Tucker Max and his team at Scribe. I’m writing a book based on my coaching and a lifetime’s worth of stories. Working title is” Song Journey”. This was a guided author workshop designed to help you chart a course for you book. A fantastic couple of days and I went away with a head full.

Drilling Down

Some of the concepts were pretty familiar to me from coaching, blogging and writing articles but also from my songwriting. As Tucker got you to talk about who your book would be for, he used the term “drill down”. You start with a wide audience but his tactic takes you all the way to thinking of your readers as just one, a composite, an avatar.

Your Avatar

Creating an avatar for your song is an interesting idea. Let’s take writing current country. It’s ripe with party songs at the moment. You can start with imagining an artist singing your song at a huge, outdoor event for instance. What would the artist be singing about that would get the party started and keep it goin? Imagine the crowd. Now imagine them singing along, raising a red cup and havin’ a time…with your song as the anthem. 

How Do You Use It?

So here’s where the avatar comes in. Rather than aiming your song at that whole stadium of fans, start to think of the typical fan. How old? What would their interests be? What would they drink? Eat? Wear? Who would they hang out with and, a biggie,  how do they speak? Keep going with this idea until you can visualize one person. This is your avatar as a songwriter. Aim your lyric, melody and track right at them. 

Maybe this is different stuff than getting your guitar out and writing what’s in your head but if your song can connect on this level it’s probably a potential hit. I’ve always loved the chance to write with artists because you become aware of the artists audience and what the artists needs to do to move their tribe. Artists love the songs that speak from their heart but they really love ones that could become a staple of their live set.

Add It To Your Box

No matter what type of music you’re writing the idea can really work. Think about the average pop listener and again, drill down until you can see one of them. Same with Americana, dance songs and even bluegrass. Knowing your audience has always been the way forward for an artist but knowing your artist’s audience is a fantastic idea for you as a songwriter. Creating an avatar could be unique and a valuable tool for your toolbox.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018 and 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.

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Are You A Social Songwriter?

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I Give Up

I posted awhile back on Facebook that I was giving up Twitter and LinkedIn. Since I coach songwriters everyday and a social media presence is something I push, the response to my post was really interesting. Some asked if that was ok for them as songwriters to not use every outlet available, but the surprise to me was the volume of people who have been doing the same thing including the ones who did it but felt guilty. I even got a message through Facebook from someone who told me how much they hate all social media and quit it long ago. I did kinda wonder how they read my post…

Pick One

I read everything I can on the subject as well as talking to friends in the media business because it’s vital for my coaching business. I have to connect with writers, share articles, blogs and connections to build an audience. But, the best advice I’ve received is to pick one and learn it well. If you find Facebook for instance is where you’re getting the most traction then by all means stick with it. If you’re a songwriter/artist you probably have a separate page for this and thats a great idea too.

Study the analytics on Facebook especially if you do boosted posts to promote your music to see how effective they are. You can find out a bunch this way. Facebook gives you access to a ton of songwriting groups and these are a great way to interact, get feedback and support, maybe find co-writers and feel like a part of a community.  Out of all the outlets I still feel this is the best one for songwriters.

For Example

Take one of my clients, Mick Evans from the UK. Mick is an award winning lyricist, has a great website, regularly posts new lyrics and co-writes. Last week he got an email from an artist who was a  finalist on The Voice UK looking to co-write and had seen one of Mick’s lyrics in a Facebook songwriting group. Mick also heard from a filmmaker in Canada working on a project with Bruce Springsteen’s wife, Patti. The filmmaker had seen Mick’s lyrics on Facebook and has connected him to the film project.

Goodbye To You

I know it’s a balance between should I worry about getting my song ripped off verses wanting to be heard, but I’m of the school of explore every avenue for your music. Not every one is gonna be effective for you. I dropped Twitter because I felt I just wasn’t using it regularly. Not to mention I don’t think I’m interesting enough to warrant every day usage. LinkedIn is another story. Great for what it’s designed for, business professionals but I didn’t see the value for me and rather than feel like I have to use these two outlets I dropped them to focus my time and energy on the ones that work best for me. Snapchat and Pinterest are two more I’ve tried and fell off over time, not my audience.

Instagram is one I like for many reasons. Seems a little kinder and gentler these days, less political ranting due to the shorter posts and the emphasis on photos. I don’t use it everyday but I do find lots of music folks on it. Maybe podcasts are your thing, 26 percent of Americans  listen to podcasts monthly. YouTube can also be huge for you if you’re looking for exposure for your music.

Why You Need 'Em

I see songwriters and artists talk about how they don’t use social media, we’ve all seen the backlash from time to time, (think John Mayer ) but more and more I hear labels and publishers including those in Nashville talk about how they look hard at a songwriter and artists social media presence. Maybe even found them that way. It’s pretty attractive to these powers that be to see you building an audience and a network on your own. Can make their job a little easier.

At least for me as a songwriter and entrepreneur, social media is a use it or lose it deal.

 

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.

 

What's In A Songwriters' Bucket?

 iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket

My wife and I have a couple of very close and wise friends, Tony and Kathy Dupree. Kathy likes to quote a phrase I’ve always loved, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket”. I know there is at least one book written about this. I’ve come across it in many places - even related to scripture - and have even written a blog in the past about filling the well as a songwriter.

I came across the phrase again this morning in some reading and thought about how it pertains to all creatives. You can think of writer’s block as a well running dry and this is where I think the comparison goes a long way to suggesting the way to not only avoid writer’s block but to stay refreshed.

Garbage in, garbage out?

When I’ve felt worn out with coming up with ideas over the years it’s helped to think that my well is either close to empty or I’m filling it with the wrong things. “Garbage in, garbage out” and “you are what you eat” to quote a couple more colorful phrases. If I’m spending my time watching junk or finding diversions to keep from writing, that’s the very stuff that’s going directly into my well. Easy to do. When writing gets hard I can justify a bunch of guilty pleasures. The trouble is those guilty pleasures ususally don't help with that bucket thing.

The good stuff

So I look for the things that require a bit of focus. Miles Davis, Ted Talks, biographies, podcasts, conversations … anything that has a chance of bringing my subconscious into play. I’m a big believer in the subconscious acting like a great co-writer. Your subconscious wants to be challenged to solve problems or to connect the dots. I can imagine it looking at the contents of my bucket sometimes and asking “is this all ya got?”. So I try to feed it. Fill the well with interesting stuff, food for thought instead of junk food. 

It’s our job as creatives to constantly fill the well with the good stuff so when the bucket comes up we’re inspired.

A few ways I've been filling the well lately:

A trip to NYC. Travel has to be one of my tried and true well-fillers. Bruce Springsteen On Broadway was amazing, Central Park, lot's of walking and of course, the capitol of people-watching. Also museums do it for me. The New York Museum Of Modern Art during this trip.

Books.  "The Art Of Memoir" by Mary Karr this month. You don't have to want to share your life story to get some unique writing tools from this one. Her methods of helping you pull up memories through the senses and then writing about them is something I've never experienced. Also reading "The Fruitful Life" by Jerry Bridges, an explanation of the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Music. I live in Nashville. You could fill the well here any given night. Got tickets for Jason Isbell at The Ryman. Takes care of October:-) I name checked Miles Davis earlier, jazz and classical music has always helped me with melodies. Not focusing on lyrics or a singer's performance can give me more room to imagine.

Movies. Here's where the guilty pleasures come in but I try and balance my  "I could watch paint dry" love of movies with classics, musicals and even the odd foreign film. I do have one that blurs the line for me between guilty pleasure and inspiration and that's "The Greatest Showman". Full of some great pure pop songs, something about the bearded lady singing "This is Me" that gets me every time ( the song, not the beard) and "Rewrite The Stars" is just a terrific melody.

Now to check the bucket...

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

 

 

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do YOU Measure Songwriting Success?

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Lots of ways.

Cuts? That’s a biggie. Pro songwriting gets competitive. You need traction to attract a publisher and you need cuts to keep one. Above all you need cuts to earn income to actually BE a pro songwriter.

Awards? Depends. It’s a measure but not one everyone uses or pays attention to. I’ll give you my own example. My frequent co-writer Kye Fleming at one time was the most awarded female songwriter in country music. She’s in the hall of fame, writer of the year 5 times both in country and pop. I’ve never seen a single award in her homes over the years. I wrote with Graham Lyle years back at his home in England. The Grammy for Song of the Year (What’s Love Got to Do With It) was not only a doorstop to his studio, but was broken! As for me, I have a bunch of framed awards on the wall of my studio, always have. What’s the difference? Kye felt seeing all that stuff would make her lazy. I like to see the awards to remind myself I have done it and can do it again. Graham, dunno, might just need a good doorstop!

Contests? I’m judge for a few of the biggest and I think the value in competing and winning is you have some measure of progress based on all the other entries. This is one imperfect process but it’s one any songwriter has access to and the two takeaways are traction and affirmation here. Affirmation is huge and can be the very thing you need when things go quiet and they will from time to time.

The Magic Trick

These 3 are probably the ones most talked about but I want to talk about maybe the most important one. Communication. We all start out writing to communicate something inside. I saw Bruce Springsteen on Broadway last week and it was truly awesome. He can communicate like an evangelist, powerful stuff. But something I went away with was in the very first couple of minutes he described his songwriting as “a magic trick”.  And it’s a hell of a 2 hour magic trick he pulls off every night. There’s so much power in a well written song. Power to touch, power to teach, power to share, power to reach into someone else’s soul and show something they might not even know was hiding there until they connect with the emotion in a great song.

I don’t think it gets any better than that; when you’ve honed your skill to the point you can move someone. I’ve worked with some great writers and artists and it seems to be a common trait. Communication.

True Story

I want to share a story from someone I coached last week. She was a bit discouraged with her writing and maybe her perception of success. We dug into this for a good while until she talked about having played a song we had worked on for her Mom. It was a beautiful love letter to her aging Mom and when she played it for her they were both in tears. It said what couldn’t be said in conversation and to the person who doesn’t write, it can seem like a magic trick, pulled out of thin air. Believe me, it does to the writer too more often than not.

This same writer was asked to take a poem a friend had written to her husband, set it to music so she could give it to him as a gift. Just the poem was a good idea but the finished song was something else. Again, moved her friend’s husband big time. 

I call that songwriting success. I call the rest . . . the music business.

Just Imagine

 NYC May 26 2018

NYC May 26 2018

P. S. On the same trip to NYC last week I spent time at the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park. Lennon was a hero of mine and one of the rawest communicators I’ve ever heard, especially in his solo work. Emotional for sure but there was another level. A group of school kids, of every nationality had rehearsed a beautiful and complex arrangement of Imagine. The power of that song, in that setting was impossible to describe. One songwriter’s magic trick for the ages.  No matter how you measure it.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Images: Shutterstock

Mark Cawley

Eric Brown

Shout out to one of my oldest friends John Cooper. Johns been mixing Bruce Springsteen for over 15 years and the acoustic guitar sounds were just incredible!

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Don't Need Songwriting Tools!

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Hopefully I “made ya look”. I’m all for tools so let me explain.

You’re a songwriter and you’re no doubt looking for the best information you can find. From the internet, from coaches, workshops, songwriting retreats and everything in between. There is a wealth of great info out there. Tools over rules, hopefully you’ve come across this excellent bit of advise.

That Guy

So what am I talking about? I’m talking about That Guy. The one who’s learned just enough to be dangerous and just enough to hold it over you in a co-write or a conversation. You know the saying “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?” That’s The Guy. He’s learned just enough tools to become one! 

From the Urban Dictionary definition:

Tool: (noun)

Someone whose ego FAR exceeds his talent, intelligence, and likeability. But, of course, he is clueless regarding that fact. He erroneously thinks he is THE MAN!

Maybe you’ve put that idea out there in your co-write and he tells you lots of reasons why that’s just not done.  Usually That Guy has taken useful tools and turned them into his own rules for songwriting.

I coach songwriters all over the world and I can spend lots of time undoing what That Guy’s done. I’ve even talked to writers who have been close to tears after working with That Guy who go away thinking they have no business writing since they don’t seem to follow the gospel according to …That Guy!

If you’ve been doing this for any amount of time you know that there is no one way to write. If there are any rules, well, there aren’t any that can’t be bent or broken. And that’s where tools over rules comes in. When I coach writers I’m hoping to give them hard earned tools and wisdom, things they can try on any given writing day to help them along. In the end it’s all about them turning these tools into inspiration of their own.

Lethal Weapons

In the wrong hands the best tools become a lethal weapon. Growing up my Dad and brothers could build anything, amazing with tools and always seemed to know the right ones to use. Me? Not so much. The same tool in my unskilled hands was just an instrument of destruction. To this day if my wife (who is great with tools!) will see me pick up a hammer and say “here let me help you with that” … and take it away from me.

So what can you do? If you’re in a co-write, on a social media board or wherever you find That Guy, just shine him on, don’t be intimidated. Follow your path, seek out the best tools from a master craftsman and use ‘em. Just don’t become one!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

 

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.

 

 

Are You A "Precious" Songwriter?

 iDoCoach.com blog

iDoCoach.com blog

Can’t Let Go

Comes up in my coaching from time to time, I talk with songwriters who have a very real fear of sharing their work.  Some to the point of it making the co-writing experience miserable and even some who can’t get to the co-write because they just can’t let it go. “It” being that lyric idea that might feel too personal or a melody that they’re afraid might be given to the wrong co-writer, never to return.

Some think of it as writer’s block, but I’m not buying it. Without fail, if I can get them to share the idea with me, there’s something good there. Maybe just a start but always worth putting it out there in a writing session. But they haven’t. They're stuck.

Easy to think just “get over it”, “what's the worst that can happen”? But the truth is it’s hard to bare your soul to another writer. I get it. But…you have to.

So What Are You Afraid Of?

  1. My idea is crap!
  2. They’ll take my idea and turn it into something I’ll hate.
  3. They’ll laugh at me.
  4. No one else could possibly understand me.
  5. No one will ever want to co-write with me again!

The bottom line is you can’t be precious to the point of keeping your songs to yourself and expect to get better at this. Maybe co-writing isn’t your thing and that’s ok but you still need to let someone hear what you’re writing or show your lyric to them, if for no other reason than to connect. I don’t feel art exists very well in a vacuum . Yes you might run into one of the 5 fears, you might run into all of ‘em but there are some things you can do to avoid them.

Find The Good

First and foremost, seek out good people to work with. To quote my friend Ed Hill’s current country hit, “most people are good” and so are most songwriters. Find ones that are on your same level, same path. Joining songwriting groups can be a great way of losing your fear of sharing. Sometimes by just hearing other writers talk about their process you gain insight into yourself. You’re not alone, not by a long shot. Try to meet with a potential co-writer before you show them your ideas. Have coffee, have a drink, get comfortable so that when you do share, you feel safe.

When I started writing songs it was all on my own, I didn’t know anyone else who wrote. I thought it was a magic trick and I imagine, (it was a looooong time ago!) I was pretty proud of myself with these first few songs. Then you begin to branch out, play your songs to friends and family but eventually you realize they love everything so…you play out. I formed bands and would try and sneak one of my songs into a set made up of all the cover songs the club owner demanded. You start to get feedback and some of it is even constructive:-) but you get your ideas out there and that’s the deal. 

Trust

Maybe the biggest motivator for me was when I started writing with writers I admired. Sure you learn, but you also find they’re just as scared of the 5 points as you are from time to time and that helps. Now you begin to come up with ideas that aren’t crap, your co-writer takes your idea and makes it better! You share a few laughs, they “get” you and…you write with lots more songwriters. 

Sharing your song ideas might still be a leap of faith but you’ll do it and you won’t be near as precious. Trust me.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

 Mark Cawley iDocoach

Mark Cawley iDocoach

 

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

Are There Still Songs In That Old Guitar?

 IDoCoach Blog

IDoCoach Blog

 

I got my first real six-string

Bought it at the five-and-dime

Played it 'til my fingers bled

Was the summer of sixty-nine”

                                  Bryan Adams “Summer Of ’69”

More like ’65 for me but the same memory. Mowed lawns to buy a Cortez bass, killed my fingers but I had to have it. I spent the first few weeks walking up and down the same street in Endwell, New York with the bass (no case) slung over my shoulder hoping Mary Spring would come out and ask me if I was a musician. Didn’t happen, and for the best too, as I couldn’t play a note yet.

 With my 2nd purchase, a Hofner Bass circa 1966

With my 2nd purchase, a Hofner Bass circa 1966

 

Fast Forward

Forward, well, a whole bunch of years and I’m reading this article about Guitar Center being a billion dollars in debt. This quote, “A report released last year by the Washington Post revealed electric guitar sales have plummeted over the past decade from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars”, the report said.

And this…

“Most of what’s really selling today is rap and hip hop,” said George Gruhn, owner of the Gruhn Guitars shop in Nashville. “That’s outpacing other forms of music and they don’t use a lot of recognizable musical instruments.”

I’ve got nothing against Rap and Hip Hop and I think anything that inspires is valid. But I have to be honest and say this article brought a tear for something I worry will be lost forever. 

Hard to imagine. Now I’ve written with drum loops, tons of samples, ProTools and Logic, love my MacBook Pro and every app I can find but I always come back to my guitar. Its a tactile thing. I can feel it. I can take a Tele, plug it into a Vox AC30 and make some serious noise. I can still grab a Gibson J200 and get lost for hours. I know if a song sounds good on my guitar chances are pretty good it will hold up. 

The owner of Mugzey Music in Canyon Country, spoke to the shifting demographics:

“Rock is almost dead,” he said. “It’s almost nonexistent. And with guitar there’s almost no one to look up to anymore – no one to get you to want to learn. I have three or four guitar students who are about 12 to 14 years old, and I told one of them she should find someone in her class to play guitar with. She said, ‘No one else plays the guitar, and people think I’m weird because I do.’

Wow…how did we go from “Clapton Is God” in the 60’s to this! John Mayer, John Lennon, Pete Townsend, Bonnie Raitt Jack While, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler, James Taylor, Susan Tedeschi, Eddie Van Halen, Keef, The Edge. Weird?

Power To The Weird!

And then theres this article, 12 reasons why chicks dig guitar players:-)!

 Early 80's with my pawn shop Jazz Bass circa '68

Early 80's with my pawn shop Jazz Bass circa '68

I’m no guitar God but I do know that the guitar has been my constant companion. Its probably responsible for most every lasting relationship I’ve ever had as well as my partner in crime for all these years. I can't count how many I've had  ( and how many I wish I had back!). I subscribed to the old songwriter joke that we sell guitars when theres no more songs in 'em. 

There is really nothing like imagining an idea while trying to find the right notes and chords with this thing on your lap. It’s a communicator and it doesn’t matter what language you speak or even how well you play it really. Three chords and the truth as they say.

My Hope

So here’s hoping those young ones, guys and girls, get weird , have bloody fingers once in awhile and make music.

Here’s the whole article from the Los Angles daily News Business section.

P.S. Something that always gives me hope for the future. I do some judging for Belmont Universities music events every year here in Nashville and as soon as I get near the campus I'm seeing tons of young adults with guitars on their backs. When the weather is nice you can see them in groups trying out songs with ...guitars!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.

 

 

Songwriting Contests, What's In It For Me?

 IDoCoach March Blog

IDoCoach March Blog

Update December 8, 2019

I’m adding an update to a blog I posted awhile back.

First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

To my point. A few major Songwriting Contests have wrapped up and posted their results recently. The past two days I’ve been reading some nasty social media posts. The tone is rarely one of congratulations to the winners. It seems to be more “ my songs are better than anything that won”, “since my song didn’t even place I must be no good”, it’s all a fix anyway designed to take my money” and this…” I think if you look at recent winners you’ll find they’re all coached by the judges”. If this is your contention I hope you’ll read this blog. I’d like to restate that contests and any sort of judging is purely subjective. Judges may not agree with each other and in fact, from my own experience , we do not get to hear every entry. In most major contests there is a team involved to listen to every submission and pass the finalists or semi -finalist on to the judges.

Please don’t base your worth on a contest. I’ve been a writer for most of my life and like every pro writer I know, waaaay more of my songs have been turned down than cut by an artists. I learned that if my song got in front of 5 people I might get at least 3 different opinions and the act of choosing a favorite or a winner is a no win situation for all but the winner.

As for a fix or songwriting? Coaches voting for their clients ? I can say, speaking for myself and every one I know personally , this is ridiculous. What would we gain? Would we promise a prospective client a win if they sign up for coaching? Com’on. I have seen some of my clients win in different categories because they’ve put a load of work into their writing including workshops and coaching. And theres this…if I see a client of mine in the finals that I’ve been asked to judge I pick a different category to judge that year. Simple. My reputation is too valuable to me. Again, any pro I know would say the same. The hope is to encourage and affirm songwriters but it’s an imperfect system when you have to pick winners. Lastly, be completely objective when you see or hear the results of any contest. Is your song really better? Did you put in the hours to do the very best work you possibly can? Are you being honest with yourself? Are you keeping this competition idea in perspective? I hope so and I hope you’re gracious enough to congratulate your fellow songwriters and by all means, avoid any bitterness or sense of defeat. This is a tough business and bitterness is toxic and damaging to your creativity and path.

Hope you’ll read on…

 

Don't Judge Me

First of all, a disclaimer. I’ve been a judge for lots of them over the years. I’ve been one of a panel of judges for the UK Songwriting Contest (one of the biggest) the past few years as well as events for the West Coast Songwriter’s Association, Belmont University, Nashville Rising Star and many more.

Whats In It For Me?

So…as a songwriter, what’s in it for you? In a word “traction”. If you’re an up and comer you can raise awareness, put it on your website, mention it in the press and in connection with your gigs if you play out. Will a win change your life? Doubt it. Do publishers, producers and artists pay attention to the contests? Depends.

I haven’t seen one yet that offers life changing dollars for that big win. We’re not talking publishers clearing house or the lottery here. Usually some welcome gear, maybe some cash and in some cases even a single song contract.

As with anything you spend your money on, check out everything you can before you spend! Who’s behind it? Check the history of the judges as well as the people who run it. There are some bad ones out there. There are even ones who, in very small print, will own the publishing rights to winning songs. This is not a win folks. You want to hold on to that publishing with both hands for as long as you can.

The Good News

American Songwriter Magazine, Billboard, ASCAP and BMI, USA Songwriting Contest, UK Songwriting Contest, The West Coast Songwriter’s Song Contest, Nashville Rising Star are just a few of the ones that are great and can all offer some major traction both in their own use of social media coverage and the ability for you to do the same. Again, it’s about traction.

I coach writers all over the world and have had some major success with my clients not only winning but coming in at all major levels and some diverse categories. Believe me, even placing in a contest that has 10,000 entries can be just the affirmation that will keep you writing. My clients have won The John Lennon Songwriting Contest, local contests, WCS and this year alone, 3 winners in diverse categories in the UK contest. I’m proud to play a part in  their development but I try to caution them that this is just a stepping stone . 

My 2 Cents

What advice can I give? Choose your contest wisely. Don’t just enter every category you see. Number one, it can get pretty expensive and number two it’s just not the most productive way to get a result. I do talk to writers who have sent in as many as 20 songs in various categories. That’s a desperate move and again, $$$$$$!!!

Read the information carefully on each category.  Is your song better suited to Adult Contemporary than Pop? Alternative than Country? Love song than the Open option? Be really objective with your entry. Does performance matter in the category you’re going for? Demo quality?

Lastly, and it’s a biggie, be gracious in defeat. I've seen some pretty rough posts after results have been posted. “My song was 10 times better than the one that came in first”, “I sent in 10 songs and not one even placed” and my least favorite “all these things are fixed”!! Well, I’m a judge for some and if the fix is in, I’ve been left out :-) Seriously, the major ones are not fixed. I know many of the people involved and they are simply trying to help writers get better and get noticed.

Anytime art is subjected to voting or opinion you’re gonna get some public outrage and I get that. Contests are imperfect but if they can help you get noticed or just give you that bit of acclaim you need to write the next one then I’m all for ‘em.

So, do your homework and if a contest is for you, enter and good luck!!!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

About Mark Cawley

 Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

 

MARK CAWLEY IDOCOACH

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.