5 Questions For The Stuck Songwriter

iDoCoach.com

iDoCoach.com

Where Am I ?

Sooner or later or sometime in between; as an artist or songwriter, you’re gonna hit that wall of self-doubt. Doubt about your talent, doubt about your path, doubt about the business, and worst of all: doubt about your own heart and desire. After a short career as an artist, a long one as a songwriter and now as a coach to songwriters and artists all over the world, I’m even more aware of how dark a place this can be. I've been 'stuck" in more than one season.

It’s like the critic when you’re writing but on steroids. It can literally bring you to your knees. You put your heart into creating but this is the kind of art that can be hard to measure, at least by the world’s standards. Easy to say, “Well if you have a deal, got a cut, had a hit, and made some money…then what’s not to love?” I’ve been all those places, and believe me, doubt will creep in when you least expect it. Much of it revolves around “Can I do it again?”

Your 5

So no matter if you’re just getting started or have been at this for awhile ask yourself these 5 questions.

  1. What do I want?
  2. Why do I want it?
  3. How will I get there?
  4. What tools will I need?
  5. Where am I now?

It would have been great if I had done this at the start of my dream but I didn’t and you probably didn’t either.  We just followed the beat. 

So try answering these now, wherever you are on your road. Be honest, and be objective…with yourself. The answers might reveal a lot about you as a songwriter and/or artist and hopefully put you in better touch with your heart, your will, and your dream again.

My Own 5

On a personal note: years ago I was with a band called Faith with one hit, a few albums out and at a time where we were headlining small theaters and opening for major acts. One night Frampton, next couple nights Hall and Oates, The Doobie Brothers, REO, Fleetwood Mac.  I had been following one single-minded path since seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. To be a pop star! Something funny happened along the way during that time. I didn’t exactly know it then but I think I did my own version of the five questions above and the answers began to change my path. I realized the amazing dedication it took to get where those artists were and to stay there, the sacrifices and the whole lifestyle thing. Somewhere in there I found that writing songs had replaced the original goal and the answers to the five questions were pretty different .

 I’ve had other times in my life when these questions came up and the answers helped clarify things. Pretty sure I’ll ask ‘em again before I'm done. Hope they help you!

Mark Cawley

Nashville , Tennessee

April 12, 2017

 

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

Image: Shutterstock

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

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.

 

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

The Best And Worst Advice For Songwriters

The Best AND Worst Advice For Successful Songwriting

by Mark Cawley

( This is reprinted with permission from the USA Songwriting Competition, originally posted on their site on March 1st, 2017. Here's a link to the article as it appears on their website.)

This is delicate stuff for me. I coach writers all over the world; some with wildly different goals, talents, and dreams. For me it’s not as much nuts and bolts as trying hard to find real life examples of a successful path--and an equal amount of cautionary tales.

As with any advice, I would start with considering the source. Is the person qualified to give direction? For me, I always wanted to hear from someone who was in the trenches. Someone who had actually been where I wanted to go. I like to flip to the back of the book and read the credits before I start “how to”-ing.

Just by virtue of doing what I do, as long as I’ve done it, I’ve built up quite a stash of hard-earned wisdom (with plenty of mistakes mixed in).

 

Let’s start with the best advice:

1. Jump! When you’re stuck, complacent, or just bored creatively; shake things up! For me this has meant actually picking up and moving to L.A., London, and Nashville over the years. Sometimes with no plan and certainly no plan B! It can be scary, but you’re an artist and that’s what artists do sometimes. They jump into the unknown. Every jump I’ve ever made has made me a better, and more aware songwriter. It’s as important to live and experience things as it is to study and practice your craft.

2. Study the Great Ones. Like most writers I know, I learned by deconstructing songs. How are they put together? Why do some relate to so many people and become hits? Just the process of breaking down songs and putting them back together gets in your DNA as a writer and is bound to make you better.

3. Network. This can be a hard one for us introverts but I promise, those connections you make will come back time and time again to be invaluable. I still connect with writers I wrote with 20 years ago. They’re great co-writers but more importantly, great friends and you need friends to survive in this business.

4. Be Fearless. Maybe the best advice I ever got. The best cuts I’ve ever had came from songs that were written without a “net”. If I surprised myself and loved the result, chances are someone else will.

5. Be a good hang. You’re in it for the long run and believe it or not, the writing community is smaller than you think! Being prepared, considerate, and a good listener makes you someone people want to work with again. Word spreads!

 

Now the worst advise:

1) Have a plan B. To do this job you have to not be able to not write. See #1 above.

2) Only write what you know. You can argue this, as I have with several of my coaching clients. “The only true songs are the songs written from my own personal experience”. That’s the argument . I would argue that unless your life is unbelievably interesting and eventful, the well will run dry quick. Great to write from real life but it’s also pretty cool to make something up sometimes!

3) Focus on being creative, someone else will do that messy “business” part. I tried that, doesn’t work. Be a student of the business, it’s your career and no one is going to care about your career like you do.

4) Follow the songwriting rules. Obviously, learn ‘em. So you can break ‘em! Like any craft, you want to learn the ABC’s...but then you want to invent some of your own.

5) Great art requires suffering. I’ve written some of my best sad songs when I was insanely happy and some of the most upbeat ones when I was down. If you just write every day, you’ll experience it all. Promise.

 

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

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

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!

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

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.

  

25th Anniversary The Original Songwriters Retreat

       

Chateau Marouatte present day

Chateau Marouatte present day

 

I was reminded this week that 2017 is the 25th anniversary of one of the most memorable times in my life. 

All Those Years Ago

In 1992 Miles Copeland hosted the very first songwriter’s retreat at his Castle in the south of France. Constructed in the Dordogne region of Perigord Vert, France, the Chateau Marouatte is a 14th century fortified castle steeped in history. Yep, about as cool as it sounds. Two weeks writing with some great songwriters and artists with an eye to coming up with songs for the artists in attendance as well as pitchable songs.

I was signed to Miles Copeland’s publishing company with Sting, Bugle Songs, the first signing thanks to my longtime buddy Torquil Creevy. Many of the artists had a connection to Miles’ management company or to his label, IRS Records. These writer retreats are common now in different parts of the world but at the time it was a revolutionary idea and like any brand new idea it had its share of magic and missteps. 

The 92 Castle Wyatt Easterling, Glenn Tilbrook, Dennis Greaves, Myself, Dan Graff, Unknown? and Henry Patovani.

The 92 Castle

Wyatt Easterling, Glenn Tilbrook, Dennis Greaves, Myself, Dan Graff, Unknown? and Henry Patovani.

One Of Three For Me

I’m not sure how many workshops Miles hosted in the years after but I attended the first three. Retreats 2 and 3 were great but nothing was as much fun as the very first one. Some of the names escape me now but along with my Nashville buddies Kye Fleming and Mary Ann Kennedy, there were some writers I was dying to get with like Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze and Bonnie Hayes (Have A Heart and Love Letter for Bonnie Raitt). Torquil was in charge of trying to corral us into one co-write a day, 3 writers to a room every day with wonderful meals made on site and jam sessions at night. Henry Patavoni was there as well to help, great guy and original guitarist in the Police.

No Whining!!!

Co-writing was not as common as it is these days and the idea of having one day only to come up with something was a little daunting but usually big fun. There are endless stories from these trips but a couple of my favorites were from the first one. Miles came to me on day two (first day was meet and greet, eat and drink….a lot of drink) and asked “ how much wine do songwriters usually drink”? South of France, great red wine, hanging in a castle….hmmm… “quite a bit I’m guessing Miles, why do you ask”? “Because the cellar’s empty”!  said our fearless leader.  Now, not knowing what he was in for and not being a wine drinker himself I could argue that he hadn’t really stocked up but in the end I just suggested he hang onto the key to the cellar in the future. That started a game of “find the key” that lasted until he gave up, as I remember.

Life Gets Weird

The other story for me was writing with Glenn Tilbrook and Kye Fleming one day in the room you see in the picture. Just an amazing day writing a song called “Life Is Weird”. Now Glenn is still one of my favorite voices in pop music and just hearing that voice all day long with a brilliant lyric from Kye was the best. It got even better when Kye and I went on to England to Glenn‘s home studio in Blackheath to record the demo.  I played bass and Dennis Greaves, who had also been at the retreat, played guitar along with Glenn. It was one of two demos we did that day for a proposed solo album. The session was interrupted by the best pub crawl ever with our host Glenn. I’ve included the very rough and slightly damaged demo from the day.

Glenn, Kye and myself " Life Is Weird"

Glenn, Kye and myself " Life Is Weird"

Cher !

Some of the songs got used over time including one written with Bonnie Hayes, another favorite of mine, but it almost was an afterthought to the buzz surrounding the event. Later trips to the castle introduced me to some fantastic writers including Brenda Russell who went on to be one of my dearest friends and frequent co-writers, Vinx, a totally unique talent, Kevin Savagar, Shelly Peiken, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Billy Lawrie, Siobhan Maher ( Kennedy), Alan Rich, Bruce Roberts, Patty Smyth and even Cher.

Unknown, Cher, Zucchero, Alan Rich and Miles Copeland

Unknown, Cher, Zucchero, Alan Rich and Miles Copeland

It was a trip to come down to breakfast and find myself across from her. More than once. The 2nd workshop had its share of stories but, another time. Ok, one short one :-) The artist Des’ree (Gotta Be) was a bit different. She was convinced the ghosts of past battles were inhabiting the castle by night and not the Casper, friendly sort. Miles woke up all the guys in the middle of the night to chase the ghosts out of every room on the property.

Maybe one more... I had taken over my favorite room to write in the castle ( year 3), got Brenda Russell and Kevin Savigar on keys and we were workin it. Patty Smyth came by and joined in. Sounded so good now we were 4. We were stuck on a bridge idea when we heard a voice from outside the window join in...and eventually jump in the window, stand on the window sill and proceed to come up with a fantastic bridge. Bruce Roberts was now the last a part of a song called "Don't Get Any Better Than This" which turned into a jazz hit for Tom Scott with Meysa Leak.

The 2nd Castle

The 2nd Castle

 

The Castle got more and more focused in later years on trying to get hits and coming away with pro quality demos during the week but for two weeks in the fall of ’92 it was all about making friends, making music, fine food and fine wine…a lot of fine, fine wine.

Unknow Arist?, Patty Smyth, Lucy our amazing cook and kevin Savigar. Castle #3

Unknow Arist?, Patty Smyth, Lucy our amazing cook and kevin Savigar. Castle #3

 

How about a reunion of that very first class Miles? I’m in!

 

Mark Cawley 

Feb 16, 2017

Nashville, Tennessee

P.S.

There are some great retreats still being done in various parts of the world including Judy Stakees held at the very same castle. Chris Difford has a cool one in the UK. I attended one as a mentor in September in Spain hosted by The Uk Song Academy and Martin Sutton and it was so cool to do it all again, just a wee bit older this time! Here's a recent blog on the subject.

 

If you know of any great camps and retreats please share!

TSA Songwriters Retreat Malaga, Spain 2016

TSA Songwriters Retreat Malaga, Spain 2016

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

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

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. 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. 

Nobody Knows Frampton!

If you follow my blogs you know they usually have something to do with songwriting. An easy call since most of my time is spent coaching songwriters these days:-) But this one is different.

This one is the first of a few I’m writing this year at the suggestion of my wife, Kathy, who thinks all of my old “war stories” need to be in book form before I croak. Here goes one of my favorites.

Keeping The Faith

In the 70’s I was part of a band called “Faith”. Faith had one interesting ride after another from being signed by Terry Knight (Grand Funk Railroad), first album cover shot by Richard Avedon, nationally hyped from double page ads in Rolling Stone to billboards on Sunset Strip, hype backfired - lost the record deal, playing back in clubs, slugged our way out to another major label deal with 3 albums on Mercury, the hit “Dancin' Shoes”, headlining theaters and opening for some amazing artists including Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Thin Lizzy, The Allman Brothers, REO, Foreigner Hall and Oates and, on December 6, 1976 Peter Frampton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is at the height of his “Frampton Comes Alive” phase.

Hello Fort Wayne

So…day of the gig and our band pulls into the parking lot of the Memorial Coliseum. Our little mobile home right behind I don’t know how many beautiful silver buses needed to make Frampton come alive that night. This parking area sat at the bottom of a fair sized hill. Our job was to exit the mobile home, walk around the hill to the back entrance and get a sound check in. One by one we left the mobile home until it was just me and my bass, backing out, closing the door behind me. 

Me back when

Him back then

Him back then

Meet The Mob

I started to hear a hum, turned around to find it was coming from the top of the hill. I stopped to watch what I would probably call a mob. Frampton fans, a ton of Frampton fans. I don’t mean casual Frampton fans, I mean rabid Frampton fans. A Frampton mob!

The hum got louder and louder and en masse,  the mob began to gather together and start down the hill…toward me. Curiosity turned to panic as they started actually running downhill andI picked up the call of “that’s him”!

And Then

As they got closer I scoped out my options. Try and get around them, through them or get back into the mobile home and lock the door and pray. I tried the door but it had locked behind me! The mob is waaaay closer now and I’m in full panic mode when I hear this - “That’s not him…that’s NOBODY”!!! If you can imagine a group that size, flying downhill and putting on the brakes all at once, that’s what I saw. One disappointed and somewhat angry Frampton-ites coming to the realization that their hero was a zero. 

“That’s not him, that’s nobody!

I was left standing next to my bass, next to the mobile home looking at the back end of the mob. I picked up my bass and made the long walk around the hill to the back of the coliseum and I remember thinking how scary it would be to be that famous. I don’t know if I was happy to be nobody again, but I was alive!

Post Script

Late 2016 and I walked into my favorite wine store to be greeted with “anybody tell you you look exactly like Peter Frampton? He’s a friend of mine and I swear…”

So here we are again, lot less hair, both settled in Nashville and both alive and rocking! I may have taken a few liberties with the recreation pic! One more note, I did meet Peter after the show and he was a really kind gentle soul, probably the most famous face on the planet at that moment. He's still making great music these days.

Peter now

Peter now

Nobody now

Nobody now

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Jan 4, 2017

 

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

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the winter. 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. 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. 

Happy New Gear!

iDoCoach Blog

 

 

What Every Songwriter Needs?

 

I was talking with an old friend last week about gear. You’re a songwriter if you’re reading this, so it’s always an interesting dilemma. When is enough enough? Do I really need that new piece, and is it helping me write better songs? Am I spending too much time watching video tutorials while I could be banging out a hit on my acoustic guitar and iPhone?

Let me start by saying how much I love gear. Once I got a hold of my first Tascam 4-track I was hooked. Now I could record more of me! It was kinda like being in a band without any of the other three or four say-so’s. Loved it! And when drum machines came out? Forget about it!

 

In the beginning, I couldn't always afford that “next big thing”. I’d love to have back some of the guitars and basses I traded for Rockmans and Linns! Eventually my fortunes improved and so did all of these fantastic toys. I went from my little basement project studio to building one on to my house, complete with the latest ProTools set up and consoles to match the wood trim. The room looked out over a running creek outside of Nashville in Kingston Springs. I was taking a Kurzweil Keyboard and an Apple laptop to far-away places to write, loaded with samples and loops and loving every minute of it. If I’m honest I have to say all these tools were inspirational. I felt like they gave me a sort of “cutting edge” over the two writers in a room on Music Row with acoustic guitars and a legal pad.

 

And then it started to change. Long story short, I began to wonder if I was doing a disservice to my own songs by playing everything on my demos (to justify all the gear). I began to miss people . Other players and voices. I started bringing some wonderful session players into my studio to play on my demos. The demos got better. I even started to hire someone else to mix and sometimes even record the session.

 

Here’s the potential problem with too much technology: you can get carried away. Sometimes someone else can do it so much better--and, in turn, make your song that much more pitchable and listenable. I remember one publisher telling me that he’d rather hear a well-played acoustic guitar with a good session singer than someone attempting to do it all themselves.

Disclaimer here. I have some friends who are both great songwriters AND great producers AND great engineers AND great session players AND even great singers. Home demos are more than home demos in their hands and a great way to go. So it can be done.

 

In the end, I hit a good balance of demoing some songs very simply and others in a studio with session guys. Nashville is pretty great for that option. Over time, I’ve gone from a full-blown studio to a laptop with Logic. Although…I did just buy a new MacBook Pro with the touch bar, and I’ll be going to bed tonight with the latest Sweetwater catalogue. So it begins…again.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville Tennessee

December 13th 2016

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!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the winter. 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!

Thanks to all who have been signing up for my holidays special. Some have even been giving it as a gift to the songwriter in their life! To take advantage of it just go to idocoach.com to the single session sign up and put "singlesesson" in the promo box. Good for one time only and must be purchased by Christmas day.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u0yUZqnc1w

 

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. 

 

Way back in the home studio  day!!!

Way back in the home studio  day!!!

5 Big Questions For Every Songwriter And Artist

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

The Idea

I’m working with songwriters around the world, every week, and one of the first things I ask them to do before we jump into coaching is answer 5 questions.

There are lot’s of reasons behind this idea but most of all it helps me ( and them) get to the core of their desire. There are no wrong answers. Years ago I had a meeting with Simon Cowell and he asked “who are you and why should I care”. He was kidding... I hope, but the idea stuck with me. Knowing why you’re on this path and what you have to offer really is huge . So ask yourself...

The 5 Questions

1)  What do I want?

2)  Why do I want It?

3)  How will I get there?

4)  What tools do I need?

5)  Where am I right now?

 

Mark Cawley

iDoCoach

Nov 16, 2016

Nashville, Tennessee

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

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the winter. 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!

 

IMG_4905.jpg

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. 

 

 

In Praise Of Songwriting Workshops!

Songwriting Academy / Mark Cawley Workshop in London

Songwriting Academy / Mark Cawley Workshop in London

No rain in Spain ...well once

September is a month I’ll remember for a long time to come. Most of my coaching is done from my home office in Nashville via Skype and my songwriting clients are all over the world at this point. This is something I’ve loved doing for over 5 years now but…I do miss seeing writers in person, writing more myself and traveling. This month I got my fix.

I was invited by Martin Sutton who runs The Songwriting Academy in the UK to come to Malaga, Spain and be one of 4 mentors at their annual songwriting retreat from Sept 10-17.  I also got the chance through Martin and TSA to have a full day workshop in London on the 19th. This took me right up to my workshop in DC with Kye Fleming organized by our friend Tom Nichols and the Songwriting Association Of Washington. It felt like a mini tour!

In Malaga they had over 30 writers, mostly UK based but a few from Russia and even Norway. Had a chance to write with a different group each day and mentor two other groups per day. Martin, Dominic Roy King and Charlie Dore were the other mentors and some gifted folk. After dinner every group performs the song they wrote followed by pure fun and wine…lots of great food and wine:-)!

Dinner break at the TSA retreat, Malaga , Spain

Dinner break at the TSA retreat, Malaga , Spain

DC, London and Spain...the people are all the same...awesome!

These are songwriters investing in their passion, turning information into inspiration every day. This, along with the one day workshop in London and the one in DC, just reminded me how amazing it is to write songs and to co-write with people for the pure buzz of it. It filled up my well and I got to experience the “non-music business “ part of the music business. People were gracious and giving as well as sponges for anything new. I’ve been to pro-writing camps and although they can be great for networking and a shot at getting a cut, they can lack the pure joy of these events. I got to share my life stories and hear some amazing ones but it comes back to the thing we all have in common, a love for songwriting and expression.

Got as much as I gave for sure and in that sense it was all one big co-writing experience. Although most attendees were close to my kids’ age (and a few who might have done the math and found I could be their Granddad) when writers get together in that kind of spirit nothing else matters but the music and I heard some great music everyday from the writers at the retreat to the ones in the West End of London to the beautiful city of Washington DC. I loved TSA and its people enough to become a mentor on thier site to coach thier members from time to time.

Mark Cawley /Kye Fleming DC Workshop

Mark Cawley /Kye Fleming DC Workshop

Just go!!!

If you haven’t tried a writing camp or retreat, gone to a workshop in your town or in some far off place, I would really urge you to do it. We can live inside our heads as writers and need to much of the time but there’s no substitute for making music with other people, sharing stories and seeing how other writers go about writing a song. I made music but more importantly made some lifelong friends and filled up the well to overflowing. I'm vowing to do more in the coming year.

Here are just a few of the places you can do the same!

The Songwriting Academy ( Martin Sutton and his team are awesome at what they do and what they offer)

NSAI ( with branches in many cities they offer a great chance to meet other writers and though the Nashville chapter, lot’s of information)

The West Coast Songwriters Association ( I’ve done a few workshops for them as well as their big event in September. Ian and Joanie Crombie are the real deal)

BMI Workshops ( Great workshops with Jason Blume and they’ve hosted workshops for Kye Fleming and myself over the years)

ASCAP Workshops ( Their create music seminars in LA are great!)

Berklee College Of Music ( mainly online offerings but check for events)

Sweetwater Music (The worlds biggest internet music equipment provider and has great programs. I’ve been their guest for many over the years)

Songtown ( Clay Mills and Marty Dotson offer some events and great info with a focus on Nashville)

More and more songwriters are offering their own workshops including me from time to time so just Google Songwriting Workshops to find one near you. Judy Stakee offers cool retreats as does Chris Difford and Dominic KIng. Steve Earl even offers a camp once a year. I’ve seen camps pop up in Yosemite and even Marthas Vineyard. Take the leap and I promise, it will be life changing!

 

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

9/27/16

 

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

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the fall. 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!

 

Mark Cawley / iDoCoach Workshop at Sweetwater

Mark Cawley / iDoCoach Workshop at Sweetwater

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 Prose and Con-cepts

 

( This article first appeared in Songwriter Magazine in the UK Summer Edition 2016 )

 

Prose and Cons

I’m in Nashville; and although my coaching clients are all over the world these days, there are a couple things I focus on with my lyric writers that are uniquely Nashville.

One is to write prose first, the other is to think of a concept (and even better, a second concept). I know that not every type of song you’re writing is story-driven, but we’re talking Nashville. Much of what comes out of here is still about the story and the concept. So many times I’ve gone into a good co-write with an experienced songwriter and we’ll sit down and talk. Then talk some more…and more…until something starts to sounds like an idea that would be worth writing about. Relatable, interesting, unique, or at the very least, a new way to say something old!

Let’s take a minute to focus on prose first. All this means is to write a very brief overview of what your lyric is going to be about. Why bother? It's a great tool to keep you on track. You may have worked on a lyric that looks great on paper, even sounds good when you talk it out loud, (another tool I recommend). But by the third verse, some of those clever rhymes might not be supporting your idea anymore. Going back and going back often to make sure everything still points to the hook is huge. This doesn’t need to be anything other than you describing what the song will be about. No rhymes, just a short synopsis.

Title Writing

I love title writing. I’m not talking about gimmicky ideas but more about a fresh take. Coming in with more than a few lines that might become titles. Something I can throw out to a co-writer to see how they take it. One of the beauties of co-writing is sometimes that line that's been sitting around takes on a whole new life when your co-writer tells you what the line means to them. This can be the beginning of your concept but not the end. A second concept might be the money idea, the one that's not the first thing off the top of your head.

30 Seconds...

I’ll give you a great example. I was coaching a client who had done her homework of intentionally finding some lines that might be worth considering. I asked her to read a few. A couple were ok, a few predictable. Then she said, “What about thirty seconds from religion?” I asked her what the concept for this title might be. She thought it could be about someone who’s on death's doorstep and would be meeting their maker soon. Yep, I got it. But it also seemed a little predictable. Maybe relatable, but not the most upbeat idea for her lyric.

I asked her to think about another concept or angle and let me know in our next session. Not only did she come up with one, but she had a whole lyric written! This time it was a story about a long-suffering wife whose husband is cheating on her (c'mon, it’s Nashville after all!) and she’s had it. He used to be a God-fearing man, sat beside her at church every Sunday, but now had lost his ever loving mind and was living like he was single. When I say she’d had it, I mean to the point of taking this guy out.

So her lyric tells the story of what he’s been up to and the chorus comes to the point. He is going to straighten up and be sitting in their usual spot next to her in church this Sunday, or he was going to the service in a pine box. Either way, he was going to be seeing his maker…30 seconds from religion. Great second concept, and way more interesting and unique than the dying man version. Don’t you think? 

The  Little Big Town hit “Girl Crush” is another great example of a second concept. Most people who heard the title (and the song) assumed it was going to be about a woman falling for another woman. In truth, the song is about jealousy. A woman whose guy has left her is now with another woman. The woman in the song just wants to be next to the other woman...to be close to her ex. Fantastic concept and one that made the song something way more than novelty. That kind of concept is sometimes the idea that takes a song from good to great.

There are times when your first instinct is the best one and the one you go with in the end. But I would always push the idea of taking your time and letting your sub-conscious work at that other, outside-the-box, second concept.

Have some fun with it!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Aug 8, 2016

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!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for the fall. 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. 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,  , 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. 

20 Songwriting Tips Part 2

iDoCoach

iDoCoach

This is the 2nd in a series of blogs based on a recent workshop I did for Sweetwater Sound. Had a great time with this short workshop for over 200 people. I had done a full day workshop the Thursday before but this one hour session on Sat June 18th was a chance to try something different. I decided to choose my 20 favorite toolbox tips. These are a little random, some pretty outside the box, some you may have run into but all are my go-to’s.

Here are numbers 1 though 5.

1) “Get Uncomfortable”. Do whatever it takes to get outside your comfort zone. Can be another instrument (don’t be afraid to suck!), setting up a co-write with someone new, trying a foreign technique …anything to shake it up. I love the David Bowie quote that to be an artist you need to wade into the water just far enough to to be scared sometimes.

 2)   “Write prose”. Before you really dig in to writing your lyric take some time to write a bit of prose. Just enough to remind yourself what you’re writing about. We can get caught up in writing a lyric and choose clever rhymes or create new characters and situations but if you keep referring to the prose you wrote you have a better chance of staying on track, writing about that one thing.

 3) “2nd Concept”. Stories and concepts are familiar in Nashville writing sessions but sometimes digging deeper, past the the first thing that comes to mind can be the money idea. If you give it time, your sub-conscious can be a pretty creative co-writer when it comes to this.

 4)  “Housekeeping”. Get in the habit of presenting your lyric, typewritten with the verse in plain text, chorus in bold and bridge in italic. Publishers and session players will love you!

 5)  “Walk away from the instrument for your melodies!” If you play an instrument and you come up with melodies while you’re playing try recording just the chord changes. Take that recording away from your instrument and writing area and the freedom may open up a waaaay better melody. We tend to almost be performing when we try and play and come up with a melody.

Hope these are helpful, more to come!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

July 5, 2016

 

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

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

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

 

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,  , 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. 

 

20 Songwriting Tips Part 1 Video

iDoCoach Sweetwater Workshop 6/18/16

iDoCoach Sweetwater Workshop 6/18/16

Sweetwater

Last week I did two workshops for Sweetwater in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. If you're not familiar with Sweetwater, they are the largest internet-based music retailer in the world with a campus that rivals Google's. Just a mind-blowing facility and great people. Mike Ross has invited me a few times over the years to hold workshops and seminars for songwriters from around the country.

On Thursday, June 16 I did an all-day workshop and on Saturday the 18th a much larger one-hour workshop for over 200 during their annual Gearfest event. Sweetwater hosted a ton of vendors, experts in tons of fields and had around 12,000 total in attendance.

Random Tips

So, with only one hour to talk to writers on Saturday I decided to get outside the box and go over a list of about twenty "toolbox tips". Not the stuff you would ordinarily get from a full workshop, but more random things I've picked up over the years. I had so much fun with this and had the best reception of any workshop I've done so far!

Since I got back to Nashville I've been getting more and more emails about how helpful these tips have been for the attendees. So, this is the first in a series of blogs that will share a few of these tips.

Two of 20!

The first of two cover the value of giving yourself an assignment, as if you've been asked to write for a specific artist. I do have a disclaimer here: I wrote a blog awhile back about the fact that some of the best cuts I've ever gotten are when I didn't try to write for an artist but rather just wrote what I felt like on a given day. The truth is, that was later in my career. Learning to give myself an assignment was a great way to develop my writing early on.

The second toolbox tip is simply using drum loops during your writing session. I still love this technique for the reasons I mention here.

The Video

 Here's a clip to give you a feel for the kind of info I shared.

Hope these are helpful. 18 more to come in future blogs!

 

P.S. As the clip runs out I started to mention a Pat Pattison tip. Here's a link to him, check out any of his books, good stuff!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

June 21. 2016

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!
http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

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

 

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,  , 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.