On A Dig
I'm getting ready to do a couple of workshops in the coming months which is something I haven't done in a while so I started thinking about what I could share. I've been coaching songwriters and artist for over 3 years and this week was a typical schedule with clients in the US, UK, Australia, Spain and even Singapore. It's been a fantastic learning experience for me and keeps me digging for new things to spark creativity for my clients as well as myself.
The Book Of John
I thought I'd take a look at some other writer’s workshops and came across a series of John Mayer’s Berklee talks. The series I watched on YouTube has eight episodes with a few of those being performance based. Over the years I read and heard most everything I could get my hands on that has to do with songwriting but these have been a revelation. John is a fantastic hands-on, great teacher. You can tell the students are in awe and he works 'em like an audience sometimes. He can come across as one part cocky guitar hero and one part awkward nerd but, his insights and instincts are always from somewhere way down deep.
He talks about attending two semesters at Berklee in Boston (a little longer than I went, back in the day) and how it shaped his writing. He mentions his first semester was spent trying to be the best guitarist in the world and feeling he failed miserably. The second semester he went back with an aim to write songs. To please people - not other musicians. It was a transformation.
My Own Transformation
I had much the same experience with learning. Set out to be a hot-shot-bass-player who could make other musicians’ jaws drop and cause them to heap all sorts of praise on my ability to play everything I learned, as fast as possible. Technique over taste. Somewhere along the line I realized that writing songs was what really connected me to people.
I'm paraphrasing but John talks about losing the need to tell someone you're great and learning to trust people to let you know if you are. I loved this. His advice was to trust the people who are going to listen to your music, they'll let you know if they love it or not and when they do it's worth more than every compliment you ever got about your fleet fingers and theory re-call .
When someone comes up and tells you what a song of yours meant to them, maybe they were going through something traumatic, maybe they made love to it, cried to it, danced to it or we're comforted by it, It's a high like nothing else. I've had those moments and I wouldn't trade them for a million "dude, you absolutely shredded"!
More Books Or Real World?
One last note, I'm not knocking going to a place like Berklee, in fact I wish I had stayed longer. John puts it in great perspective by saying the things he learned there he looks at as information. What's made him an excellent songwriter is his ability to turn information into inspiration. He feels you should get as much information as possible and then... go out in the world to gain inspiration and then you'll have something to write about. Amen.
He inspired this 'ol boy today check it out!
Heres a link to the workshop I'm doing in June with Sweetwater. Amazing event, check out the other workshops and speakers! http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/gearfest/speakers.php
Also excited to be a part of this workshop for young adults in my town of Franklin Tennessee.
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image; Wikimedia Commons
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.