Until last week, I almost forgot how much I like talking with kids. (I never know when to make the leap from calling them kids to young adults but they were ages 13 to 19. To me they’re kids).
This was at a school named Ensworth in Williamson County, Tennessee for a function called “Jam Camp”. It's put on in part by Laura Hill (wife of one of the best songwriters I know, Ed Hill) and is a 2 week long camp for gifted musicians. I was invited to be a speaker at the end of week one.
So…walking in the door I’m greeted by young musicians with guitars, keyboards, and basses. One bass player even asked me if I knew Pino Pallidino, which I do. Can’t believe he knew who he was! I love it! Berklee School of Music presented after I did. It was kind of ironic since I was quoting from John Mayer's Berklee series on Youtube and was (briefly) enrolled there myself in 1970.
I was introduced and found myself in front of something like 125 young adults. Handheld mic, big stage, auditorium...just me. Here's where you have to be careful. Being funny in my mind and being funny in theirs could be two very different things. Showed 'em a picture of me at 17 just to prove I really was thier age once. Think I scared them. What does connect, though, are stories. Their response was great. How did you do this? How did you feel about this? What do you when this happened? Lot's of great questions.
Every time I do this kind of thing it reinforces my faith in the future of music. These folks were there to get better. To connect and network. They represent the future and respect the past. Let's be honest...they are the future. Listen to country music now; it's basically a mashup of classic county, rock, hip-hop, and everything a 20 something grew up on. Makes perfect sense! As a side note, I really love the term "Hick-Hop" to describe the mix of urban and country going on now.
What did I tell them?
Don’t write in a vacuum. Music is for the listener. If you don’t do something well, find someone who does and connect. Co-write but still keep your vision. Don't have a plan B or you'll proabably end up in plan B, might be hearing from a few parents this week:-) Learn the language. Even if you don’t love a particular style of music you can respect it. You never know when it will make it into a project you’re working on. Go have some adventures, live to be able to have something to write about.
I spent a few years working with Steelworks, sort of a modern day Motown in Sheffield, England. Artists like the Spice Girls, 5ive, and Ronan Keating would come in and pick your brain. Have you ever heard of the Temptations? Dave Clark Five? Otis Redding? Sam Cooke? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. Pass it on.
Even though music is in a weird phase right now for writers, I have faith in the kids to take the past into the future and make it better. Now if we could just find a young John, George, Paul and Ringo...
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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.