One of the best things I ever did for my songwriting was to give it up.
A little backstory: It was around 2005. My dear friend and Hall of Fame songwriter Kye Fleming and I had been working with songwriters through an online mentoring service we had created called SongJourney for a few years. Chris Ogelsby had helped us pitch our little business to American Idol. We were to be the folks who would work with contestants on their songwriting, including a new songwriting competition they were planning to add to the already huge show. Many meetings later Chris was able to get it in front of Simon Fuller for the final go ahead. Simon went ahead....and said 'no'. It was a crushing blow at the time.
I had ended my publishing deals with Universal - Steelworks music in the UK to focus on this new venture. Kye was less interested in writing as well, so we were faced with a huge "What now?" moment.
Giving it up
Kye went on to some new ventures and I went into a funk. A very, very loooong funk.
One of those periods when writing didn't seem like a good idea. Everything had a 'been there, done that' feel, and the joy had gone out of it.
I promise I'm getting to the point here: I gave up. I felt like I didn't have anything to say as a writer and nothing to add to the current music scene so I just stopped paying attention. You're a writer if you're reading this, so you know we tend to live in our heads much of the time. But this went on for quite a while.
One day my wife came to me with the suggestion I get out of my head and into my car and go volunteer. What a scary concept! Actually talk with strangers about things that have nothing to do with music but everything to do with life. I ended up at an amazing organization in Franklin, Tennessee called Graceworks. This led to a few years of working with people who came in the door in some pretty serious need. Everything from flood relief to just keeping the lights on one more month, and always: food.
This was about as far away from American Idol as I was gonna get. Nobody I counseled cared about who I'd written songs for or hung with in the past. Real world, real concerns. Then a weird thing happened. I started writing. Just once in awhile, and slowly. Picking up a guitar when I felt moved. Sometimes by someone I had met on Wednesday morning at Graceworks, or maybe just feeling blessed to have something I loved. They were looking for hope and I guess I was, too.
Getting it back
Sure it's called the music business for a reason, but the business can make you crazy and can seem like the only thing that matters. Giving it up, giving it away, and letting it go for awhile until I learned what a blessing it is to be able to create...it made it that much better. It made it a deeper experience. I wrote songs for my daughters, my wife, someone I just met. I heard new stories, gained new perspectives, and just started writing from a new place. And..I got it back.
Flash forward to late 2013 and I'm happy to say I've been coaching songwriters and artists successfully for almost 3 years and I love it!
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Dedicating all my blogs this year to the memory of John Braheny. I still ask every songwriter or artist I coach to pick
up his book before we start talking.
There is also a college scholarship in John's name, through the California Copyright Conference (John was a past president)...here's the link:
Image: Google Images
Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Khan to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwiide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach.