4 Stages For Creative Songwriting

Tools over rules. You and I are songwriters and by nature not exactly rule followers. You have to admit, though, that after writing for any amount of time you pick up tools to help you write more focused, more often and just better.

I coach a lot of songwriters and artists and if you're one, you have my blessing to skip the next part because I' m sure we've talked about the 4 stages.  This is as technical as I like to get but here we go...

The Idea

I didn't make this stuff up and at this point in my life I'm not sure where I heard the idea. I later heard it's taught in quite a few creative writing classes but I applied it to my songwriting years ago. Here's the idea. I would never say you need to consider these steps every time you set out to write a song, inspiration, pure and blessed from above is a great thing but if it's the only way you write you may not write enough songs to sustain (or start) a career. So...

4 stages of creative writing: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. 

Preparation: you could almost say every time you pick up a guitar and just play or hear a great line and write it down you're preparing to write. You're coming up with things that, sooner or later, are going to come into play when you actually start to write a song.

Incubation:  this is the later in sooner or later. Let the idea sit for a while. I have lines and titles that have been on my desk for years waiting for the day. If you let your subconscious have a go at it, some amazing stuff happens and it's usually better than what you would have done off the top of your head.

Illumination: Shed some light on the idea, start to write it but don't worry too much about form. Get the good stuff on the page. Doing this after you've found some good ideas through preparing and incubating usually makes for a better lyric especially.

Verification: Fancy word for the editor or critic. Your best friend or worst enemy depending on where you are in the writing process. Bring this guy in too early and you'll never finish. Invite him in after stages 1 through 3 and now you have something to actually edit!  

How Do They Work?

The biggest change this made in my writing was to sort of slow the process down. You want to start out with a good idea so you find ways to prepare. You want to feel like you have a good concept and, at least for me, some of the best have come from letting a title or melody just sit.

If you feel like you've got something worth writing, explored a few different ways to write it including letting your subconscious be your cowriter then you're on to the next stages.

Stages 3 and 4 are the ones that took the longest to sink in. You can start to write your idea and edit as you go without really getting it straight from your head to the page but it can also be a way to lose the color and detail that you get by just getting the idea down. There is plenty of time to apply your craft but craft without inspiration just sits there. Waiting until last to check out all your rhyme schemes, meter, color and detail can be the difference between shining a diamond and polishing a turd! 

 

Mark Cawley

September 21st, 2015

Nashville , Tennessee

Pic: My Grandson Scout Sullivan!

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About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

 

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the summer. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in the recent edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

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.

So How Do You Build A Hit Song? Deconstruct!

 

I had just come to the end of a coaching session with a really talented young songwriter I've been working with for more than a year. She knows her way around classic songwriting and is as big a fan of Elton John and Carole King as she is Taylor Swift and Sam Smith. I love working with her and writers like her because there's nothing jaded about their approach to writing. Everything they can pick up is a revelation. 

The Big Question

Our time was up when she said, "One more thing...how do I write a hit?"  

We'd spent lots of hours and sessions on everything from the basics to the intangibles; finding ideas, co-writing etiquette, creating unique melodies and structures, how money is made, how money should be spent...all leading to her simple question.

I told her we would dig in next session and focus just on her question. But before we ended for the day I asked her to do some homework: to deconstruct.

Not just to look at how classic songs are put together, but to intentionally pick a couple of hitsongs a week, tear them apart, and put 'em back together. 

Waaaay Back In The Day

I know for me growing up in the 60's this meant picking up the needle and dropping it down over and over to learn a lick. Balancing a guitar on my lap and trying to figure out how Paul McCartney played "I Saw Her Standing There", how Lennon wrote the lyric for "All You Need Is Love", the chords behind Dylan songs and the language of Motown. Over and over until it got into my being. Just in the hope that I could do it like them someday. 

I don't think I was smart enough to know I was deconstructing in order to learn to build; but looking back, that was the process. I've written a few hits since those days but it's hard to define how I got there.

Back to now. Classic songwriting is still classic songwriting, but so much of the structure and process is different in pop and even country these days. Some people bemoan the short attention span theory that dictates multiple sections that act like choruses, dumping the bridge, post choruses, fewer verses and on and on. I think it's just the same challenges songwriters have always faced as listeners' tastes and habits change. Still have to make something memorable in under 4 minutes. 

Take It Apart

 How do you deconstruct?  Not just by learning to play along, but also by writing down notes in a simple AABABC format and even print out the lyric and study everything about it. The language, the rhyme schemes, cadence. Get it in your head. I would start to hold one of these current hits next to whatever you're writing and see how yours fares.  

Song Sandwich

I even came across an idea that I used to do of sandwiching your song between two current hits. Pick two songs and make a playlist with one of your own in the middle. Be objective. How does yours hold up? The hope is that over time, these forms seep into your subconscious and become tools. Not talking about cloning, but more absorbing and creating new, current influences to go along with your knowledge of the classics.

I love reading about how songs were written. I just finished a book on a flight today called "Hound Dog" by Leiber and Stoller full of great stories about classic hits. Like most of the quotes you come across from hit writers, they learned from what they loved and wrote songs they hoped other people would love just as much. They would also tell you there's no surefire way to write a hit, but deconstructing to construct is a great way to start.

Check out this video by David Penn where he takes you through deconstructing a few hits .

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville Tennessee

August 27, 2015

 

Image: Shudderstock

 

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About Mark Cawley

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. 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. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting, Songwriter Magazine,  Mentor for The Songwriting Academy, sponsor for the ASA, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN. 

Songwriting: The Title, The Concept And The Big Idea!

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

I was part of a songwriting panel a few years back that included an A&R guy. Eventually, the info turned to Q&A with one writer asking about the importance of a good title. The A&R guy shared a scenario about looking for a song for an established artist. He explained the process, and mentioned the 50+ songs currently on his desk.

The process starts with a call to the writers who have written this artist's past hits, followed by a call to the hot writers of the day. Somewhere in between come the songs written by various writers signed to publishing companies owned by the artist or producer; and of course, the songs co-written by the artist. Because the artist is no fool.

After all this, maybe (just maybe), there's room for one outside song, something no one else has come up with. Something so unique it not only hasnt been written but it hasnt been imagined. THIS is the unsigned songwriter's best chance.

The Title

Keep in mind our guy is looking for a hit singleonly a hit single. It's a minor miracle the unsigned writer's song has actually made it to the desk--but that's another blog! Sothe A&R guy's time is valuable, and no way hes going to make it through all these songs. Now to his big point: if he looks over the pile and spies a song called So In Love and another titled I Killed My Ex With His Own Axe, which one gets his attention? You guessed it.

At this point, more than a few writers in the audience got a bit P.O.'d. But what if the lovesong is the best one ever? Does every title need to be a gimmick? (And of course),This is so unfair! Hes gonna play the "axe" song at least through the first chorus, just because he wants to know how the writer is going to pull this title off. Its intriguing! Same with book titles, movie titles, and on and on. The object is to get you to open the book, see the moviepull you in.

You can find a million examples of hit songs with basic and even boring titles, but if were talking about the first-time unsigned writer, the odds go way up with an interesting title.

The Concept

Doesn't stop there, obviously. Youll need a concept (or two). One of the biggest country hits this year is the song Girl Crush by Little Big Town. The title was so hot you wanted to hear this idea, but the writer's concept was different than the one your brain probably went to. In the wrong hands, the title could have been a one trick pony; instead it becomes a great lyric about jealousy.

Back to the 'axe' song. What if our guy gets to the chorus and finds the axe is really slang word guitar? You can groan here, but hey, its a concept. It's more unique than your first impression, and unique is what youre after.

The Big Idea

Ive written lots of songs' titles first, followed by chorus, followed by fill in the details. Its only one way to conceive of your song...but its one proven concept and a great idea!

Check out this link to the writers of Girl Crush talking about the song's creation.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

July 28. 2015

Photo: Shutterstock

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!
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Mark Cawley of iDoCoach 

Mark Cawley of iDoCoach 

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. 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 15 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, New England Songwriter Search , a contributing author to the USA Songwriting Competition a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.

Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN. 


Guest Blog From Hall Of Fame Songwriter Kye Fleming

I'm so happy to have one of my oldest friends, co-writers and the person I trust more than anyone I've ever met in music writing a guest blog. She's also joined me at iDoCoach and has started coaching songwriters  and taking them deep inside Nashville. No one knows the in's and out's better than Kye. For info on Kyes coaching click here. 

Mark

Kye Fleming iDoCoach

Kye Fleming iDoCoach

 

So you want to know what a publisher thinks of your songwriting?

Recently, I was asked to listen to a couple of songs and give my opinion about a young songwriter’s potential. 

My Experience:  I started writing songs when I was 12.  After a long and rewarding career as a songwriter, it was a natural progression for me to want help young writers who are trying to break into the “business” of songwriting. I became a publisher, a writer/artist manager, a cheer leader, and perhaps most importantly, a therapist. 

My Disclaimer:  It’s an opinion. I will have an emotional response of some kind as I listen to a song. If I am being asked my opinion, my linear left-brain will be interrupting my creative right-brain in order to make a “judgement” that is based on personal experience.    So be aware that what a publisher might say about a writer or their songs will be affected by 1. the mood they are already in, 2. how tired they might be 3. how rushed they might feel 4. their personal experience in the business 5. an infinite number of other things. 

In other words, don’t let someone else's opinion make or break you. 

So here was my response to a publisher friend who was mentoring this songwriter.

Hey Bud,

I like that song a lot. Well written and good demo. My immediate response is that it sounds like it’s from another era of country music .. one that I loved.. but the bar for songs in that vein is set pretty high right now by Brandy Clark ! 

It's a similar style of writing, and not very mainstream unless the ideas are KILLER…example:  Better Dig Two, Mama's Broken Heart,  Stripes... all lyrically brilliant and musically fun and fresh. 

To be fair to your girl, Brandy has been here for years and developed her writing alongside other A team co-writers too. 

As you know, there's more to the equation than “is she a good writer” or “is this a good song” .. Whew.. 

Looking back at Brandy’s career for a minute... 

It was during the time you and I were sharing an office with Stephanie Cox, YEARS ago, Steph asked me to meet with Brandy Clark and listen to some of her songs. Brandy had come here from Washington state to go to belmont college around 1998, so this was somewhere around 2001 . Steph was looking for an investor so she could offer her a publishing deal. I saw the potential and I thought Brandy was adorable, but I knew she would need time and attention to develop, and I was already committed to other projects. But Steph found the first investor and signed Brandy to a publishing deal. By the way, there’s a reason some people have called this a 10 year town!  Steph hung in there as her publisher, finding investor after investor for Brandy, believing in her and not asking her to write what everyone else was writing. Brandy kept honing her unique style until her songs eventually started finding an audience. Fast forward 10 or more years.. 

Brandy now has major artists having hits with her songs and she has a critically acclaimed recording of her own just out. So, against the odds of the music “business”, she is finally enjoying rave reviews for her quirky and unique style which could never fit mainstream radio… 

UNTIL NOW. 

So you tell me what the hidden factors are in a Cinderella Story!  

“Your girl is good.”   That's what I said about Brandy years ago.

 

oxox Kye

 

BRANDY CLARK

Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark

 2013

Song of the Year — "Mama's Broken Heart

2014

Song of the Year - "Follow Your Arrow” 

Nominated- New Artist of the Year

2015

57th Grammy Awards

Nominated Best Country Album - 12 Stories

Nominated Best New Artist


About Kye

"Kye Fleming is a rarity, a bridge between traditional and modern country music and a creative force who helped expand Nashville's reach. Her songs helped redefine and revitalize a genre. A two-time BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year and three-time BMI Country Songwriter of the Year with 38 BMI Awards across multiple genres, 15 of her songs have generated more than 1 million performances each. As a modern-day pioneer, she shattered glass ceilings for women and for all songwriters who refused to be stuffed into a category, and we at BMI couldn't be prouder of her accomplishments.”

Del Bryant
BMI President and CEO

Helping Songwriters Where It Hurts

iDoCoach Blog

I’m always looking for new creative solutions to common songwriting problems for my clients. Sometimes this takes me pretty far outside my own experience and beyond songwriting resources to explore how other creative types deal with their particular road blocks.

One of my go-tos over the years has been Twyla Tharp, the famous American dancer and choreographer. Her book “The Creative Habit” is full of some useful info that easily translates for songwriters and artists.

Lose Track Of Time

One of hers that I adopted early on was choosing a set amount of time, maybe a week and picking one possible distraction in your environment, removing it and seeing how it effects your creativity. She chose clocks. Seems like a small concession but I was amazed how many times I relied on some kind of clock to measure how long I’d been at it when it was way more effective to “lose myself”.

The Help Hurt List

One of my favorites and, although I attribute it to her, I may have picked it up somewhere else is a Help/Hurt list. Here’s how it works: take a large piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. Now a horizontal line at the top. Now you have two columns. Top left write the word “Hurt”, top right, “Help”.

At some point in your writing time think about what’s working well, what’s making it a good songwriting day. Take a second and enter those on the “Help” side. It can be as simple as getting up extra early, before the distractions of the day. One of mine was not stopping to eat. Do the same thing for things that seem to slow you down or de-rail you. Getting on the internet is one of mine. Others are running errands, interrupting a session for a call. Enter these on the “Hurt “side. I’m sure you can find a bunch of helps and hurts of your own to fill the page over time.

The beauty of the idea is that you can eventually pick out the things that contributed to a good writing day as well as the things that got in the way. 

Recreate

Once it’s easier to see them it gets easier to recreate the good ones and ditch the bad ones. Ups your chances for success next time.

There are so many great songwriting related books out there but I’d also encourage you to check out the things other types of artists practice to be the best they can be on a consistent basis.

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

June 16, 2015

Image: Shutterstock

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!
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Mark Cawley iDoCoach

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. 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. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting, Songwriter Magazine,  Mentor for The Songwriting Academy, sponsor for the ASA, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN. 

 

Become A Fearless Songwriter

iDoCoach Blog

Im on a mission.

Im working with writers from all different parts of the world every week, and Im encouraging them to listen...less

Let me explain a bit. There are some great places to pick up useful tools as a songwriter--plenty of them. Theyre online, in books, in groups run by people who know what theyre talking about. There are teachers, workshops, and coaches. In a town like Nashville you can just go out on any given night and pick up some serious knowledge about what makes a great song.

Its amazing to have these resources! Believe me, they didnt exist when I started. If I had been able to pick the brain of someone who had actually done what I wanted to do, Id have been there as long as theyd have me.

So what's the problem?

If you only take in information and dont turn it into inspiration, you get more rules than tools. If you listen to every voice before your own, you might even find yourself discouraged when you take a hard look at what youre writing. Doesn't seem to fit the rules. I hear this especially from new writers. They feel they have a gift; writing makes them happy and they go after expertise to take them to the next level. They go to a workshop, usually with writers in the same boat, they connect with the other writers, and hopefully co-write and gather even more information. 

You know the expression, 'sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'? This can often be the case. You start to get critiques from other new writers who (hopefully with the best intentions) are passing on the new info theyve been getting: Have to write uptempo positive...Titles cant be more than 5 words...Every topic has to be relatable...No artist is going to want to sing something that makes them appear unattractive...Radio is male dominated, dont bother writing something a female artist might cut...The listener has a short attention span so one verse, chorus, maybe post-chorus, no bridge and make everything feel like a chorus...If you write 'heady' you may want to dumb down a bit...Try to write what you hear on the radio.

Most of this is helpful, but if it's what's going through your head every time you start a song its like inviting a critic to co-write. At best youre liable to get a pretty generic song and at worst youre discouraged before you start.

Sure you want to understand what makes a song great, what sets a song apart from a million others. You want to understand this craft. But if it's only information (and not inspiration) youll just be competing with the countless writers who got there ahead of you. If youre writing for Music Row, for instance, and youre studying how to write a Bro-Country song...youre too late. Youre competing with writers who not only know this type of song inside out, but are looking for the next thing and have moved on.

So what do you do?

Take the info youve learned, weigh it, and then be brave in your ideas. The only real hope you have to stand out is to find your voice as a writer.

Be fearless.

 

P.S. Something I wanted to add as an afterthought . Always, always run from the toxic songwriters. Ones who are world weary, jaded, seen and done it all, no idea is good enough type. Guard that sense of wonder and hope you have at all costs and surround yourself with the best and brightest .Seek knowledge, experience and most of all ,encouragement! 

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

May 20th, 2015

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iDoCoach

 

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. 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 15 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting, Songwriter Magazine,  , sponsor for the ASA, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN. 

Why Songwriters Repeat Themselves

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

 

Came across an article in the Daily Mail UK this morning. These 3 bullet points pretty much sum it up:

  • Researchers claim the secret to a smash hit single is repeating the lyrics
  • They found songs that repeat phrases are more likely to be successful
  • Hit singles repeated words up to a fifth more than music lower in the charts

This is something that comes up pretty often in my coaching songwriters and for lots of writers it’s a problem. The first thing I offer is that we’re writing songs to relate to others and that means we hopefully have a listener. Quickest way to get a listener to remember your song? Repetition. 

Sure I know you could argue and find endless examples of great songs that don’t adhere to this idea but…this study is talking about “smash hit singles” and I did say “the quickest way”.

The info and the idea

I’m sure not the first one to point out that most of the information in your song is going to be in the verses and the big idea is going to be your chorus. The listener will hopefully go along for the ride with you in the verses, you can load up on detail, color and storyline but, when you hit the chorus that listener wants a break. Give it to ‘em. Let them know exactly what the idea is. Work that title and repeat when necessary. Get it in their head and then you can give them more in the next verses and bridge, just don’t wear them out.

This is old news to many of you but you would be surprised at the number of writers I work with who resist the thought of pleasing someone else, the listener. Sometimes the problem comes from writing alone. You get bored and continue to introduce new things to make the process more interesting for yourself. I do it too but the listener is not going to work as hard as you to “get it “.

Love it or hate it, we’re in a sound bite world

We want it and we want it now and for all of us the rules continue to change. You hear fewer bridges, fewer 2nd verses, more post choruses and everything sounds like a hook, might hear 3 different ones in a hit single at the moment.

This stuff we’re all creating is made to be consumed and I mean that in a good way. A 3 min pop song that can go from the writer’s imagination, through their craft, complete with the tools that make it directly into a listener’s head is a beautiful thing. If repetition is a proven tool I’m using it.

One of my old publishers, Miles Copeland, gave an interview awhile back where he blamed this chorus driven phenomenon on the introduction of a channel changing button on the steering wheel. “ now the guy in his car doesn’t even have to take his hand off the wheel to choose a different song”. That’s your modern listener so it stands to reason you want to hook him quick and often.

One fine example of everything we ‘re talking about here is the Beatles “She Loves You”. The storyline is in the verse, a conversation between two friends. Sets up the big idea and the end of the chorus looks like this:

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah yeah

 

Repetition …and you know that can’t be bad :-)!

For the complete article in the Daily Mail UK here’s a link.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

April 25, 2015

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley of iDoCoach 

Mark Cawley of iDoCoach 

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.



Songwriting: The Hard Truth

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

 

I was coaching one of my favorite songwriting clients last week, when the floodgates suddenly opened. This is hard! It used to be so much easier but now the more I learn, the more it exposes what I dont know!" She went on to say, It used to be fun, effortless. It just flowed out of me. Now its HARD!

Felt this way as a songwriter yet? If not, you will. Writing songs is amazing, awe-inspiring, inspirational, miraculous, joyful, magical, andreally hard.

I know how she feels. You write songs in the beginning and it feels like a gift. Sets you apart from the crowd, everyone you know is blown away that you can do this. Friends and family become fans. They say things like Your songs are as good as anything on the radio!", and you believe it. Until you dont.

A nagging feeling creeps in. Am I good? As good as ____ ? On it goes until you have to find out. I always remember a story told by Tony Arata, who came to Nashville to 'find out'. Hadnt even unpacked the U-Haul yet, and headed to the Bluebird. By the time hed listened to the 3 writers at the late night round, he was bound and determinedto go home.

This was his 'tipping point'. He stayed. Im sure he would tell you it was hard on every level, but he dug in and he stayed. I can guess from my own path that what followed that night at the Bluebird were hundreds of songs that publishers dubbed nice. The songs that killed em back home were now nice. It's the kiss of death from a publisher, producer, or artist. From nice to classic is hard. Rejection is difficult, but not as much so as rewriting. Writing's fun, rewriting is...hard! It's what you do to get where you know you need to go. Tony stuck with it and eventually wrote the Garth Brooks classic The Dance.

Digging in or letting go is the 'tipping point' for most writers, myself included. As a young writer I headed to New York, Boston, Indianapolis , Los Angeles, London, and finally Nashville. It was hard, but I dug in. Learned from everyone I could, read every book, played every bar, wrote with anyone who asked, anything to just be able to call myself a songwriter and believe it. It's an ongoing process for every writer I have worked with and it's still amazing, awe-inspiring, inspirational, miraculous, joyful, magical' and, yes, really hard. And so worth it.

Dig in!

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

April 8, 2015

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Please check out the exciting additions to iDoCoach coming in just a few days!

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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.




    

Whiplash, Backlash, and Rose-Colored Classes

Whiplash

Have you seen Whiplash? J.K. Simmons is amazing and absolutely frightening as a jazz band instructor. Makes for great conversation with musicians especially.  I was in a studio here in Nashville on Tuesday with some pretty well known session guys, and asked if anyone had seen it. The answers ranged from No, and I dont want to, to "Not yet, but I willeventually. Im a little scared".

If you havent see it, here's a clip, youll get the flavor of it. The instructor/bandleader is looking for perfection, genius; to bring out a level of commitment players couldnt get to on their own no matter how driven. His method is what's in question. I know a few music folk who lead bands or sessions by intimidation, and Ive even seen it work. Dont think it would work for me, I like to think I can drive myself.

Backlash

So the more interested I got, the more articles I came across from actual Jazz drummers who said they had never experienced anything like this guy but wouldnt respond to that type of "tough love". One went as far as to say creative people are hardwired...and most of the players he knows would have hit back big time! Check out what Peter Erskine had to say.

Rose Colored Classes

This led me to think about favorite teachers and the methods they used to inspire. I always come back to Mr. Rose, my high school Social Studies teacher at Maine Endwell High in upstate New York. Were talkin' late 60s, and there was change everywhere. Most of my teachers were old-school; some would throw you out daily with come back when you get a haircut!" Hard to imagine now.

 Mr Rose was younger than the rest of my teachers, as I remember. Might have even been growing his hair a bit over his ears but Im foggy on that one. What I do remember clearly is his outside-the-box approach to teaching. He had us pull our chairs out of the old row model and put em in a circle so we could all see each other. He talked with us, not at us. Learning became more fun and way more interesting. I must have responded because I definitely remember. 

Im coaching songwriters from all over the world these days and love it, but I constantly have to stay aware of the tools over rules idea. I try to engage and not outrage. I dont wanna be that guy.

So whos your Mr Rose? How did they inspire you in music and in life? Share your stories!

 

And Now...The Best Part!

P.S. Through Facebook, I came across Mr Rose. I call him Jim now but I haven't decided if Im comfortable with this new arrangement. Hes still teaching, so I asked him if he would give me his thoughts.  Here ya go! Thanks Mr.Rose...JIm!

Jim Rose iDoCoach Blog  

Jim Rose iDoCoach Blog

 

"Mark I've done a lot of thinking about what makes a good teacher. Hard to come up with a good explanation. Think about those teacher's you thought were good. Is there a single identifiable trait? I can't put my finger on just one or two. However, I can tell you what makes teaching good. First it's the look on the faces of the students. Not just the big smile but that look that says show me what you got. It's when the student is engaged and want's to challenge the ideas you present. What makes a good teacher is when, after 45 years, the student comes back to the teacher and remembers a lesson that has stayed with them all those years. Good teaching comes from preparation before, during and after the lesson. Very similar to when you performed, you would not walk on the stage without practice, rehearsal and a desire to bring a bonding with your music. Sorry I couldn't be more definitive but I could have give you a bunch of BS but you would have seen through that :-) Hope this helps!"  Jim Rose

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennesee

March 6th , 2015

 

Photo : Google Images

 

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.

 

A Songwriters Hits You'll Never Hear

iDoCoach Blog The Spice Girls

iDoCoach Blog The Spice Girls

 

Please Release Me!

Most songwriters, if theyve been around long enough, have the one that got awaystories. These are worse than the they put my song on hold but…” stories. These are the ones where you end the call from your publisher and start shopping. At least in your mind. Your song was on hold, actually got cut, made the final running order. And that's where the old phrase it ain't final til its vinylcame from.

Before I get to mine, I have to give you the worst one Ive heard over the years. A writer here in Nashville wrote a song that got to a major artist of the day. The artist loved it. Cut it, talked about it as a sure first single and even the eventual title song. The writer was beyond excited, told everyone they knew, and God only knows what else they did. Release day comes, the writer runs to Tower Records (hey, its an old story!) picks up the album, flips it over, reads through the list of songs and--their song isnt there.

Read it again because the mind can play tricks. Still, nowhere to be seen. Until the writer flips the album back over to the cover. There it is. It is the title of the album, but not actually on the album. Enough to make any writer cry 96 tears.

Spice Up My Life

I started thinking about these songs this morning when I noticed a CNN headline about four brand-new 'leaked' Spice Girl songs. The more I Googled, the bigger it got. The story was everywhere and the four songs where featured in most of the articles. Two were co-writes of mine from time I spent in England writing with four of the Girls and Eliot Kennedy; A Day in Your Lifeand Pain Proof. Like opening a time vault. Brought back some great memories of that trip, including hanging with David Beckham in the studio kitchen most mornings. It was easy to see why they got so huge by being around them for the first few hours. A real force of nature. What a buzz! But in the end, neither song made it.

Another one was a song called Dare You To Love Me, written with my great friend Brenda Russell and Eric Mercury, and recorded by Chaka Khan. It was cut, a probable first single, and the title of the album. Im counting my money! Then Chaka has a fight with the label...and leaves. The record goes unreleased. Shes talking about re-cutting it this year and you can find both the song and album cover online.

More Wy-ning

I also have a unique history of this phenomenon with Wynonna Judd, whos cut at least 3 of my songs over the years. For her albumRevelationsshe held a song called Cant Stop My Heart. Seemed perfect for her coming off a huge debut album. Everybody loved it, high-fives all around! I bought a new Toyota 4-wheel. At the 11th hour...no cut. This one has a happy ending because totally unbeknownst to me, she had cut a another song of mine called My Angel Is Here. It made it, and my heart started again!

Wy cut a few more, including one of my favorites, I Am Strong. I thought this was the perfect fit, and so did everyone else. It made the final cut, went to mastering and...a decision was made to leave it off. The rumor was that her husband at the time thought it made him appear weak. She later dumped the husband, but I wish shed done that a bit earlier.

I could go on: Ronan Keating, Peter Cox (one of my favorite singers), Glenn Tilbrook, Bonnie Raitt, Luther Vandross, Faith Hill; songs for Disney movies, new artists, old artists, and even one who passed away before recording the vocal to my song. Roy Orbsion. That one hurt on every level. Dont feel bad for me, though. Lots did get cut and actually make the record. But the ones that got away have a special place for all of us who do this long enough: in a folder somewhere in our iTunes library. 

We keep hoping the vaults will open and out theyll come--like today. Spiced up my life for a bit!

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Feb 17, 2015

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

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.