I watched a movie this morning called “Hired Gun”. It’s the story of some of the best session players (and live performers) whose names you might not know. Among them, an old friend Kenny Aronoff. Highly recommend the movie but it’s not the focus of my blog today.
There was a quote from David Foster, originally a session guy, turned producer and one of the most successful from the 80’s on. He was talking about the fact that these players are the best of the best and that there are a million good ones out there but only a handful tick all the boxes. His quote was “good is the enemy of great”.
I’m coaching writers all over the world and this is one of the hardest things I have to share with most somewhere along the line. There are writers whose only goal is to be the best writer they can be and I love coaching them but by and large, most writers I work with are looking to be compared with the best of the best. Most are willing to put in the work to strive for this but there are the ones who have been told their songs are “nice” or “good” and don’t understand why they aren’t successful . . . right now.
A Kiss On The Cheek
In years of writing songs and playing them for artists, producers and publishers it was a hard pill to swallow to hear one of those words as my song faded out. “Nice”. Nice may be the worst. Nice was a kiss on the cheek, A for effort, well done, nice try. Same for “good”. Good was good enough starting out. It was a measure of progress but it soon became only that. Good never seemed to cut it. Pretty soon it joined nice as one of the words I never wanted to hear.
What I think David Foster meant was that if you settle for good you’ll never be great. You hear good often enough and you may never hear that word you really need to hear.
Again, it all depends on your expectation. If you’re the writer simply trying to write better than you do at this point in time, good ain’t bad! If you want this as a career you won’t settle for good, you want… great. If you’re writing great songs you will get noticed and wouldn't that be nice?
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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 20 years in Nashville, TN.