I’ve been coaching writers and artists from all over the world for over three years now. One-on-one, almost entirely by Skype. Before I agree to coach someone I ask a few basic questions, like “Why do you want to do this?" It’s all about expectations but it’s also to find out more about their heart. Some people say you can’t teach this stuff. I disagree, but I'm positive you can’t teach the heart part. It’s so hard that you have to want to do it more than anything else in the world. You have to be built to do this! Able to play like a kid and still be able to handle rejection. Able to think you still have your best work in front of you when it gets a bit dark. The highest highs and the lowest lows...sometimes in the same day.
Of course I get some writers whose goal is to make 100k at a staff job in Nashville or L.A. or London. If that's the main reason to write it’s gonna be a rough road. I won’t go into how the model has changed over the past 10 years, you’ve probably heard that before. Can you still crack this business? Sure. But it may look different. Maybe a single song deal instead of a bigger commitment. Maybe you have to be your own plugger, social media person, and artist development guy. More and more to it these days but it can be done.
It still has to start with the heart.
It might sound familiar but I think it’s true! If you can’t not write, you’re a writer. If you live to write that's a good enough reason to do this.
What I’ve been learning these past few years is that this thing we do has no boundaries. I coach a writer in Singapore with the same goals as a singer/songwriter in Dayton Ohio. I have young artists and 60-year-old doctors; teachers and students, 15 year old piano prodigies, and 45-year-old physical therapists. All looking for ways to write better, clearer. To be heard. Sure we discuss the current marketplace but we also spend time talking about the mindset of a songwriter.
Here's what I’ve grown to love:
The heart of a songwriter. Some of these folks I’m coaching may never get a song cut and may never make their living from this--and they know it. Hope springs eternal and that's enough. Hope is HUGE! I have to confess here that over the years when I’ve had major publishing deals and some success, the heart and the head could get confused. But talking with my clients every day I come away inspired and more convinced than ever that to be able to put your thoughts into words and set to music is a gift. You can teach the craft and the ways to make your gift recognizable, but in the end it’s all about heart. All the information you get as a writer is just that: information. Turn it into inspiration and you get to the heart of songwriting.
A big thanks to John Mayer and his series of talks at Berklee for the inspiration. Here’s a link to a past blog I wrote about his insight.
photo: Wikimedia Commons
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About Mark Cawley
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 Kahn 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 worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach. In addition he is a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing writer to the US Songwriting Competition , a popular songwriting blogger and from time to time, conducts his own workshops.