Songwriting: The Real Stuff Is The Good Stuff

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This article was first published in USA Songwriting Competition and is, in part from my book “ Song Journey” to be released on April 2nd, 2019.

There is no one way to write a song. You may write melody first or mix it up but for our purposes, let’s start with writing your lyric.

 Prose

What’s a good place to start once you have a title or an idea of what you’re going to write about? Prose. Think about the title, say it out loud ... a bunch. What does it bring to mind? Got something? Take a few minutes and write the idea in prose. Don’t rhyme, don’t worry about being clever, just write a couple of lines describing what you’re going to write about. Lennon and McCartney could have written, “” Penny Lane” is about the images of everyday people on the street in my town and what they mean to me.” 

Prose serves a couple of purposes. As you write your lyric, check your prose to see if you’re still writing about one thing. Is everything supporting your idea? As you try to write, prose may reveal there's really nothing there. This has happened to me more than once, and I’m usually grateful I was saved from spending all day on a non-starter of an idea.

 Write…don’t “ write” !

The next step is a biggie and usually a big mistake. You begin to “write.” I mean write in a bad way. You don’t want to sound like just anybody, so you try to sound like a “writer.” I always think of the famous Saturday Night Live skit with Jon Lovitz as the Master Thespian. Just search YouTube for a few moments and you’ll get the idea. You don’t want to feel the sweat in your lyric.

Instead of jumping right in, try closing your eyes, think about your idea, and then write what you see. Don’t rhyme, don’t worry about cadence or how cool it looks on the page, just write. If you’re writing a song about meeting the love of your life talk about the time of day, name the place you met, what was the weather like? Color of her hair? Even the smallest detail can make the difference between a generic lyric and one that comes to life. If it’s a car what’s the make? These details make up the real stuff.  Write the real stuff because it’s the good stuff. You can make it pretty later. 

Remember the editor? Still dead. What do I mean? If you begin to self-edit in the moment it’s toxic. I’ve mentored songwriters who have found themselves stuck simply because they were focusing on a line or an idea way too early. Before they had enough on the page to even begin to think about the editing process. Write first, edit later. Much later.

 It’s the one thing

Hopefully you’re filling up that page now but once in a while, take a look at the prose you wrote earlier. Does everything in your lyric still support your prose? Does your third verse introduce a cat into the story of two people falling in lust? Hard choices, but the cat probably has to go. Again, most lyrics are about one thing. Prose can help you remember what that thing actually is.

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 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

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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 Song 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, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.



 

A Minimalist Approach To Songwriting

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

This is my workspace. Yep, it’s pretty clean and clutter free. I’m a minimalist these days. Now, I’ve had elaborate home studios and every piece of gear I could get my hands on over the years but, something changed. 

It began with our daughters going off to college. A disclaimer here. We lived in the Temple Hills area of Franklin, outside of Nashville, and our daughters enrolled at Belmont University, about 20 miles away from our home, but lived on campus. This was a great house for our family but it became apparent it was way more than we really needed. So we downsized, townhome style, which meant getting rid of a bunch of stuff. If you’ve ever been in this situation you know you have to make some serious concessions. Some things you can’t imagine living without…until you do.

Over 13 years later I have to say there is a freedom in decluttering. Even when it comes to songwriting. I found myself having more fun with less and less gear. Gear is great and served me well but I had hit a time of less is more in every way. Almost as if the fewer options I had the clearer the mission became. You know the saying a great song should hold up with just an acoustic guitar or piano? Maybe, but I do know it’s a terrific test of a solid song.

As I moved into coaching writers online, I took this new found approach even further. I created a workspace made up entirely of essentials. A great, simple desk*, laptop, pens, pencils and a few favorite coffee mugs. It felt like the more uncluttered the space the more uncluttered the thought process.  My wife gave me the little “inspire” piece in the picture and that’s been a huge part of my coaching decor :-) 

The great American choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote one of my favorite books called “The Creative Habit” and one of her suggestions for creating good work habits was to choose one thing to take away from your normal routine. To start, just for a week. Maybe something that seems necessary but might really be a distraction. She chose clocks. By not having them in her studio her eye wasn’t drawn to the limitation of time. She felt it freed her mind - her subconscious was able to be a little more creative. 

So what am I suggesting? Give some thought to where you create with an eye to just the essentials. See how it feels to purge here and there. Maybe you can maximize your creativity with a minimalist style.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: iPhone

Bottom photo: Eric Brown

* Desk: Urban Woods

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 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 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 Song 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, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.



Investing In Your Songwriting

iDoCoach.com

iDoCoach.com

I get lots of my inspiration for articles and blogs from things my songwriting coaching clients bring up in our sessions. Last week I had a writer say they couldn’t afford to pursue their songwriting because they simply didn’t have the funds. He let me know he was giving up . Period. I understand the discouragement but it opened up a conversation about why his bank balance and passion were related. They don’t have to be.

Usually when I’ve heard this it’s a case of too much money spent in the wrong places. Demoing songs that weren’t killer and face it…trying to polish a turd sometimes. No amount of money spent on production is going to make an “ok” song suddenly transform into a killer song. Do this often enough and you not only end up broke but pretty discouraged. Maybe to the point of giving up on your passion. That sucks.


The Plan

So, what can you do? Have a plan. Anytime I’ve met with my publishers over the years to play them a few new roughs the conversation turned to the need for a plan. A little strategic thinking. Who’s looking for a song like this? Do we have a path to get it to the producer, label or maybe even the artist? Does it need to be a full-blown production? Is it the type of song that could shine with a minimum of instrumentation? Guitar/vocal? Keys/vocal? Does the type of artist it suits actually take outside songs? Does this put a potential artist in a favorable light? Is there an artist that you can see slipping right into this song? All these questions are huge and ones you can ask yourself if the person trying to network the song is you.

We all love our babies but not all of them need to go to Ivy League schools. Some are community college songs, some are vocational school songs, and some are minimum wage songs. Think hard. Is your song worth an investment right now, as is? Pro songwriters don’t demo everything they write and neither should you.

Where To Invest?

Maybe that hard earned money would be better spent on attending a workshop, NSAI membership, joining songwriting groups, one on one coaching, new gear, a few books. Maybe it’s even saving up for a move to a music center. Whatever helps you get better is a good investment in my book. Maybe it’s music school. Some great ones out there, Belmont here in Nashville, Berklee in Boston, University of Miami, IU in Bloomington Indiana. Will a degree in music or songwriting guarantee a return on your investment? Nope. But all of these things improve the odds.  My point is this path you’re on is not about a roll of the dice. Nothing’s harder on the spirit then gambling and losing…big.  It’s about growth.  Gaining knowledge that you can eventually turn into inspiration gets you closer to a plan, a better shot and hopefully a sensible budget. It’s for sure that understanding all you can about your path helps keep you from having unrealistic expectations.

I’m not much of a believer in a plan B when it’s comes to the music business, you have to give it everything but … you can be smart about using your resources. At the end of the day, you have to invest in yourself and your talent but you can invest wisely for the long run. That’s a plan.


Your Passion

A last note about your wallet and your passion. My father-in-law passed away a few years back. A great guy with a huge passion for golf. The other thing he had was a realistic expectation. He knew to make a living for himself and his family he would have to be one amazing golfer. He’d have to sacrifice everything for his passion for it to become his career. Would he have loved to be a pro golfer? You bet. Somewhere along the line he probably felt he couldn’t afford the commitment. Did he give up the sport? No way. He played for the love of it, played as often as he could, invested in new clubs, golf outings, travel, books and instruction. I think he was happy to budget wisely to support his passion. He got better and better and enjoyed the game more and more as years went on. I’d call that another wise investment.

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 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 IDOCOACHIts

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, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.



Songwriting in 2019: Big Goals, Small Bites

iDoCoach BLog

iDoCoach BLog

We all like to set goals heading into a new year - it’s a natural thing. I also know that all of us songwriters are dreamers and dreamers don’t tend to think in terms of limitations. We dream big. But sometimes dreaming big set’s us up for some pretty big disappointments. In coaching songwriters every week it usually comes up sooner or later that this business is…hard!

Small BItes

What I suggest to my clients is to think in terms of attainable goals. Small bites to get them where they wanna go. The point is to think of your goals as “next steps”. Could the goal in 2019 be to co-write more? Make better demos? Write 3 killer songs and create a website where people can discover you? Create a network and get your songs in front of the powers that be? Make trips to a major music city? Sign up for a workshop? Learn a new instrument? These are all viable, doable, attainable goals.

Songwriting as a career is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this for the long run and along with gathering all the knowledge you can, you need affirmation along the way and achieving goals is a great way to feel like you’re closer to that big goal.


2 Tasks

I have two things I ask my songwriting clients to do and both might be good tools for you to consider heading into a brand new year. The first would be to answer these five questions:

      1. What do I want?

      2. Why do I want it?

      3. How will I get there?

      4. What tools will I need?

      5. Where am I now?

Your answers can shine a light on your goals and get you thinking about next steps.

The second task would be to come up with a short mission statement. You’ve seen or heard these for companies. Life Is Good has a simple one: “To spread the power of optimism.” Warby Parker, the eyeglass company, has this one: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.” You’re not a business but think about your goals as a songwriter. They’re not easy to write, but the more you can define and distill just who you are as a writer and your goals, the better choices you tend to make. When you write this think about your passions. What drives you to write songs? Your mission statement needs to include the things that fire you up. A mission statement is a great way to put those passions into words and words into action for 2019.


Song Journey

On a personal note I’ve always wanted to write a book and 2018 was finally the year to do it. The book is called Song Journey and has moved on to the layout and cover design stage with a release in April 2019. In working with my publisher, some of the best advice I received was not to be intimidated by the amount of writing involved but to think of it in terms like “writing 250 words a day.” The book ended up being around 44,000 words and if I had focused on that number instead of the more attainable chapter-by-chapter idea, I think I would have lost my mind. Small bites. Big goal . . . attained.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and an amazing new year!

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 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

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.













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.