Notes on Napkins

musings for songwriters


Leave a comment

Matt Soileau, SongU Special Event Pitch Winner, Writes Like a Pro!

Winner of our February/March 2021 SongU Special Event Pitch “Staff Writer for a Day with Curb/Word Entertainment,” Matt Soileau (pronounced in Louisiana French as “swallow”) answered our questions about his writing process. He also filled us in on the co-write session set up by Senior Creative Director of Publishing Ciara Shortridge with hit songwriter Bobby Tomberlin (“One More Day”). 

Matt’s interest in songwriting started in 2016 in Texas from a random conversation about songwriting with one of his physical therapy patients. He was hooked when he learned that he could write the words to a song without the music. Until then, he didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “lyricist.” He admits that his first attempts were “horrible.” He and a co-worker would banter back and forth. He would create titles and lyrics to songs from the conversations, but they were always joke-type songs. They would watch a Country Music channel sometimes at work and would hear songs like T-Shirt and Trailer Hitch and say, “man, that’s pretty easy, simple, everyday stuff right there. We can make up lyrics and titles like that.” He learned later that it was a little more complicated than that.

Songwriter, Matt Soileau and Family in Big Bend National Park, TX

Like many new songwriters, Matt says the ideas for songs, titles, and twists on clichés were not the problem, but writing a complete song in a song-form to a melody was. Motivated to enter his lyrics into song contests, he teamed up to co-write with musicians and vocalists and started submitting his first “bad” songs. The contests led him to educational sites for songwriters, including SongU, and he began studying everything he could find about songwriting.

He wrote in secret for a year in fear that he “may not be good enough” and that those around him would laugh and think this was crazy. Eventually, he started to get some honorable mentions in songwriting contests, then semi-finalist, then finalist placements. He says that only then did he feel comfortable telling his wife and friends that he had entered into this new mid-life experiment. He says, “I didn’t understand why it was happening at that time but I just knew I felt so fulfilled when I was writing that this must be my purpose in life.”

Matt and son catch a fishy!

How often do you write? Do you have any set schedule or unique ways to enhance your creative process?

I “work” on songwriting every morning, but I do not write songs every morning. I have a family with three kids and a wife, and a day job. For that reason, my writing time is anywhere from 4 AM to 9 AM before my family wakes up. That sounds bad, but I am an early riser that needs little sleep to operate. I like a quiet setting and some strong coffee to aid the process. I get to go longer on weekends if the kids don’t have early activities. I have dry spells like every other writer. When I’m not feeling inspired, I do clerical work related to my songs, like organizing e-mails, reading educational things, and looking for new networking opportunities. If the lyrics aren’t there, I sometimes find new ideas for titles or songs in general. Some mornings I listen to other artists, and that spurs ideas.

“We watched a Country music channel sometimes at work and say, man, that’s pretty easy, simple, everyday stuff right there. We can make up lyrics and titles like that. I learned later that it was a little more difficult than that.”

-Matt Soileau

Tell us about the pitching for this Special Event with Ciara Shortridge, Curb/Word Publishing Creative Director. Four of your songs ended up on the contenders’ list! How did you decide which of your song to submit to the Special Event Pitch?  

This was difficult for me. I have demos of a lot of songs already completed because it seems like my creativity is a steamroller at times and won’t stop. I enjoy that completion process so much. It is hard for me to choose my best song because you think all of them are good when you create them. But then, if you get into an evaluation or pitching process with professionals, you start to realize their flaws. But I was simply submitting a few Country songs and few Contemporary Christian songs. I have had several bursts of inspiration in Contemporary Christian, which I think are some of my best songs. I’m glad that Ciara agreed when she judged the contest.

That seems like an excellent strategy to show your range as a writer. What were your first thoughts when you found out that you were the winner?  

It was such an honor and validation to have a professional from a major label saying good things about my songs and picking me as the winner. Ciara’s comments were so nice and just gave me a good feeling about what I had done with my songs and how they could affect people in a positive way. She said that my song, So Help Me God, “resonates with me,” and she “loved it,” and “the double meaning of the hook knocked me out.” I played this song for a family member, and they cried because of its emotional impact. Even if this song never gets on the radio, it has still changed the world in some way and touched people already. That’s a great feeling and one of the goals of my writing.

I was also immediately anticipating the gift of a pro co-write with Bobby as well, and it was a really neat experience. This win [in addition to the Nashville Songwriter’s Contest win] has led to a couple of in-person co-writes when I make a trip to Nashville in November.

Here’s the song that rose the to top of the Special Event Pitch contenders list for Emily:

So Help Me God (Soileau/Chase)

I noticed that you submitted very well-done guitar/vocals rather than full-band productions. Ciara seemed to be drawn to them, which says a lot about the quality of the writing. You invited one of your co-writers to the session as well (with permission from Ciara and Bobby). Why was that?

I write with Brandon Chase, who does the vocals for most of my songs. He is now singing with the Christian group I Am They and was a former Voice contestant. His vocals are amazing! He is also very strong with melody, and that’s how we usually divide up the labor in our writes even though he has lyric skills as well. I just knew having him present would enhance the writing. I also wanted to invite him to show my gratitude since he was a co-writer on most of my contest songs, and I couldn’t have won without him.

How did you prepare yourself ahead of time for the co-write session with hit writer Bobby Tomberlin? Did you come with ideas or just let the ideas flow after you got in the “writer’s room” (aka online meeting)?  

Because I consider myself the “idea and lyric guy,” I prepped by going through a lot of my song ideas stored on my phone and in my e-mail. I’m constantly jotting down new titles, ideas, and lines. So I suggested a few different songs, and we then decided on “Happy Accidents” as the best choice for our write. I can’t contribute to melody much because of my skill set, so I wanted to try to really contribute on the front end of the song. We completed it in two writing sessions about a month apart. I prepared for our second writing session by doing a lot of lyric writing on my own for the second verse and bridge. I can write and contribute in the moment during a writing session, but, because of the way I usually write, I like to slowly ruminate on lyrics in the early morning hours.

Can you walk us through the writing process a bit?  

It was a Zoom session since I live in Texas. We did introduce ourselves and just said a few things about ourselves to get started. There was a little talking and joking, but we started getting into the write quickly. I shot out a few ideas, and Bobby picked the one he liked the best. Brandon agreed and very quickly started playing some melody options on his guitar. We did two sessions to complete the song. The first was about 40 minutes after dealing with some tech issues and the second one was about an hour to finish up.

Are you, Brandon, and Bobby happy with the song you wrote? Is anything happening with it in terms of pitching?

The writing team was happy with the song when we finished it. We thought it was a unique presentation of the common but never old theme of love. We felt like the chorus was pretty “catchy” and could get listeners singing along. We didn’t get a lot of feedback yet from the Creative Director. We have not decided to do a full demo on this song yet, only a phone recording so far. I’ve learned that to pitch a song effectively, you can’t just throw it out there to everyone. It took me a while to learn that. But pitches should be strategic and targeted to specific artists that are looking for specific types of songs. So far, we haven’t found a match for our song in that way, so it is not being pitched. But if I see the right opportunity, I will definitely put it out there.

Thanks for sharing the worktape that came out of the session…

Happy Accident (Soileau/Chase/Tomberlin)

Your overall experience with the Staff Writer for a Day Special Event?

It was a great experience and opportunity. It was great to meet Bobby and write with him when you look at his songwriting accomplishments and cuts. I am very grateful and will always give SongU credit for my first co-write with a major-label pro writer. It’s just a great way to get a more quality writing experience in my back pocket to move the songwriting journey forward. It’s another step along the way to network and also hopefully get closer to my goal of getting some cuts in Nashville and commuting there regularly to write at some point..

Matt, thanks so much! We appreciate your sharing your experience so we can all learn from it.


3 Comments

GOLD STARS Report: Songs Recently Picked Up (latest update)

Hi Everyone,

Our summer Gold Stars Report is here! For those of you who are not familiar with SongU.com, here’s how it works. Our members achieve success using a holistic approach focusing on education and numerous opportunities to reach their goals. These include online Song Feedback sessions, written Coaching evaluations, Private consultations/collaborations with our Music Publisher and Hit Songwriter Mentors, a Member-Website with a Cowriter search feature, and more. Our personalized approach gives every writer an opportunity to make each song as competitive as possible before spending money on a demo. Once their song is ready, we offer monthly Pitch opportunities with a GUARANTEED response from our Street pitch guests. And here are the results!

CONGRATULATIONS to the following members for having their songs signed or pitched for the following leads during the time period MAY 27th through AUGUST 12th 2021.

Pitch For Licensing Agent. .Top 40 Female Pop, Soul, Chillout-House, World Music AMURCO MUSIC LICENSING. Re-Opened for submissions! This is an UK-based licensing company with a catalogue of 70,000+ tracks, offering playlisting and syncing opportunities. They are currently interested in receiving submissions for the following types of music: Current Top 40 Pop (Female), Soul, Chillout/Chill House, and World. Here is a note to us from Joel at Amurco: “Our our deals …

    • Rachel Amidei “HOLDING OUT HOPE” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Rachel Amidei “DIGGING” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Robbi Atkins “GET IT DONE” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Robbi Atkins “FABULOUS**” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Robbi Atkins “DEAR BOY” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • David Chong “IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Priscilla Connolly “CHRISTMAS WITH YOU “ (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Sally Edwards “I NEVER LIED” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Sally Edwards “FASHIONISTA” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Sally Edwards “CHANGING MY ECOLOGY” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Shawn Fitzgerald “BLACK SATIN SHEETS” (Date picked up: 6/16/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “BITTER LOVE” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “SNOW ANGELS “ (Date picked up: 6/16/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “RIVERS FLOW” (Date picked up: 6/16/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “BIRDS” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “HIRAETH” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “LOVE RAT” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Beerand Flies “I’M AWESOME!” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Janet Herring “AND THEN I TURNED AROUND” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Janet Herring “SHE’S A JEWEL” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Janet Herring “I’VE BEEN TRYING TO REACH YOU” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Kevin Kenney “BABY STEPS” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • James Laev “TALKING TO AN OLIVE” (Date picked up: 6/23/2021)
    • Bob Love “DIAMOND SOUL” (Date picked up: 6/23/2021)
    • Pete Papageorge “FUNDAMENTALLY BLUE” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Stephen Peters “ANGRY AS HELL” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • Tina Rivera “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME” (Date picked up: 6/16/2021)
    • John Schutt “MORE LIKE THAT” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Shaun Thomson “SEKAI HEIWA (WORLD PEACE)” (Date picked up: 8/9/2021)
    • David Will “DON’T DISMISS ME” (Date picked up: 6/23/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Christian, Gospel. JASON CRABB. Extended! Still fully active. UPDATE: 7/1/21: “I spoke with Jason’s manager Philip the other day and he said what I’ve sent them is great, and they still continue to listen to songs, but nothing as definitive as a ‘hold’ has materialized. They’re asking me to send more songs, so I’m hoping something will ultimately stick.” Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members is looking …

    • Rick Burge “HE SHOWED LOVE” (Date picked up: 7/27/2021)
    • Krystal Kuehn “THE LORDS PRAYER (THIS IS HOW WE PRAY) – KK” (Date picked up: 7/27/2021)
    • Abigail Marmion “PRAY YOU HOME” (Date picked up: 7/27/2021)
    • Abigail Marmion “TRUST YOUR OUTCOMES TO GOD “ (Date picked up: 6/22/2021)
    • James Oliver “LET GO LET GOD*” (Date picked up: 7/22/2021)
    • Ava Paige “WE CALL THE PRODIGALS HOME” (Date picked up: 7/22/2021)
    • Mitch Townley “NUMBERED (SDB)” (Date picked up: 7/22/2021)
    • Tery Wayne “SOMETIMES” (Date picked up: 7/27/2021)

Pitch For Song Plugger. Country. JULIA COLE. Extended! “Send me your A-list songs.” Street Pitch guest, J.N., veteran independent songplugger who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for independent artist Julia Cole. Julia has had over 20,000,000 streams and has been featured on CMT, Audience Network, The CW, Radio Disney and others. Seeking songs in the Florida-Georgia Line musical style (and perhaps lyrical direction of subjects they’ve covered), but that …

    • Noel Cohen “WHO IS THIS GIRL?” (Date picked up: 6/9/2021)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. Adult Contemporary, Singer Songwriter, Indie. ROMANTIC BACKGROUND MUSIC For CBS TV Sitcom. Extended! Pitch guest, N.P., is seeking two types of VOCAL songs for season 2 of this charming show:
1. Soft Pop style songs that have a romantic feel. Think warm and honest (not cheesy) current adult contemporary/soft pop that could be playing in a restaurant. Nothing too electronic, rocking or distracting as it is laying under dialogue.
2. Acoustic Indie Singer-Songwriter songs that have …

    • John Cirillo “STARS DON’T LIE” (Date picked up: 6/3/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. TENILLE ARTS. Deadline approaching. They’re in the studio reviewing what they have. Will still be listening briefly for the undeniable hit that might beat what they already have. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Reviver Records artist Tenille Arts. Looking for radio friendly songs, specifically up tempo, or the right mid-tempo that fits the project. Need …

    • Alexsi Mallory “GIRL HEART” (Date picked up: 6/8/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. JOE NICHOLS. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for the first album in three years from Quartz Hill Records and multi-platinum selling artist Joe Nichols. Looking for radio-friendly Country HITS. All tempos. His newest release this month is “Home Run” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adUpbiLy-Qs . For the latest news on Nichols visit: http://www.JoeNichols.com and follow …

    • Ricki Bellos “BLUE SKY RAIN” (Date picked up: 7/5/2021)
    • John Cirillo “DRIVE SLOW” (Date picked up: 7/5/2021)
    • Jamie Trent “AIRPORT MARGARITAS” (Date picked up: 7/5/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. Troy Cartwright. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for Warner Music Nashville artist Troy Cartwright. Looking for Country RADIO songs and VULNERABLE songs. Research artist before pitching https://www.troycartwright.com/about . This pitch will stay open on an ongoing basis until artist is no longer seeking outside songs. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses …

    • Avrim Topel “LOVE YOU LIKE THAT” (Date picked up: 7/14/2021)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. Film/TV/Media. LULLABIES FOR PSYCHO KILLER TV SERIES. Street pitch guest, N.P., needs original lullabies and public domain covers that will sound ironic/paradoxical to scary, tense, stalker scenes that lead to murder. Think sweet childlike lyrics with simple/sparse production that lull the listener into a false sense of security. Songs with slightly sinister/dark undertones or instrumentation can work as well. Ballads and midtempos. Male or female vocals. GENRES: …

    • Beerand Flies “LULLABY FOR A KILLER “ (Date picked up: 6/10/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. EDDIE MONTGOMERY. Back on the board. Still looking! Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for Average Joe Entertainment Group artist Eddie Montgomery. Looking for rowdy, rough, up-tempo Country radio hits Ala Montgomery/Gentry. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your song, before pitching it, they will ask for publishing if a major recording results …

    • Jonny Born “RAIN AND RUST” (Date picked up: 7/25/2021)
    • Ronald Brown “YOU’LL BELIEVE IN THE RIDE” (Date picked up: 7/25/2021)
    • D Toomey “DRINK IT IN” (Date picked up: 7/16/2021)
    • Thomas White “SHOOT MY TRUCK” (Date picked up: 7/25/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country, Pop. MACY MARTIN. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for label-shopping artist Macy Martin. Looking for YOUTHFUL POP CROSSOVER songs. Think Disney. Speaking to girls and her generation. For artist sound watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imhdgiAv_Bw . Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your song, before pitching it, they will ask for …

    • Adam Avery “DOING THAT” (Date picked up: 7/25/2021)
    • John Cirillo “GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT” (Date picked up: 7/25/2021)
    • John Cirillo “LOST AMEN- FEMALE” (Date picked up: 7/25/2021)

Pitch For Manager. Holiday Themed. BRIANA DOMENICA. UPDATE, SongU mentor Dallas Gregory manages this artist. “Keep songs coming. I’m planning to meet with her in person mid-July.” Looking for a Christmas single to be recorded late summer/early fall for release in November. She will also be filming a video of this single for release, which will coincide with the single release. Briana is a CCM artist, so nothing risqué or off-color will be considered. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” …

    • Robbi Atkins “LITTLE SIMPLE CHRISTMAS THINGS (V4)” (Date picked up: 7/7/2021)
    • Steve Bryant “A MAGIC CHRISTMAS EVE” (Date picked up: 7/7/2021)
    • John Cirillo “THE SOUND OF CHRISTMAS” (Date picked up: 7/7/2021)
    • John Cirillo “TINSELTOWN” (Date picked up: 7/29/2021)
    • Bill Gue “HALLELUJAH (GLORY TO GOD)” (Date picked up: 7/29/2021)
    • Bill Gue “THE GREATEST GIFT” (Date picked up: 7/29/2021)
    • Sarah Motes ashley “I HEARD THE BELLS / BE STILL” (Date picked up: 7/7/2021)
    • Daniel Obrien “NOEL D’AMOUR” (Date picked up: 7/29/2021)
    • Bill Ohanlon “ONE CHILD” (Date picked up: 7/7/2021)
    • Jeff Roe “LIGHTS” (Date picked up: 7/29/2021)
    • Melanie Smith “MARY, JOSEPH AND JESUS” (Date picked up: 6/29/2021)
    • Perry Walp “HEAVEN’S LIGHT “ (Date picked up: 6/29/2021)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. Pop, Rock, Indie. PROMOS FOR DISNEY+ SHOWS. Street Pitch guest, N.P. is Looking for two types of songs for these (see below references). The theme is: You can come to Disney+ for your favorites, but also new original content. The vibe/tone is: awestruck/wonder. Songs are aimed at ADULTS – sophisticated, and modern. Excellent productions. Male or female vocals. Specifics:
1. Fun, Wondrous, Adventurous. Think Misterwives – “The End”, Florence + The Machine – …

    • Isobel Greenhalgh “BEAUTIFUL WORLD” (Date picked up: 6/30/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Traditional Country. DAN SMALLEY. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for Big Machine Label Group artist Dan Smalley who is being produced by veteran Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band). Looking for traditional Country HITS ala Chris Stapleton. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your song, before pitching it, they will ask for publishing if a major recording …

    • John Cirillo “LOST AMEN” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • Patrick Mcwilliams “LET IT BURN” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)
    • D Toomey “HOLDIN’ OUT FOR HEAVEN” (Date picked up: 7/9/2021)

Pitch For Music Supervisor. Pop, Rock. BACKGROUND & SOURCE MUSIC FOR CABLE NETWORK SERIES. Pitch guest, N.P., is seeking two types of We need 2 types of songs here:
1. Pop in the style of Ava Max, Camila Cabella, Zayn, Harry Styles, etc.
2. Pop/Rock songs – Think upbeat and fun everything from produced pop to songs with organic instrumentation. Lyrics are not important, as long as the tone is upbeat and modern. A la Olivia Rodrigo, American Authors, “Fitz & The Tantrums “Head …

    • Beerand Flies “LOVE RAT” (Date picked up: 7/13/2021)

A special shout-out to those you whose songs are on the report for the very first time! And a round of applause to those whose songs were marked ‘Maybe’ too. Keep up the great work, everyone!


Leave a comment

Strategies for Pitching Songs (and Meeting The Beatles) with David Stark!

SAVE THE DATE: April 22, 2021 at 1PM EST/5PM GMT. Meet Songlink founder David Stark in the SongU e-classroom and ask him your questions!

SongLink founder and Editor/Publisher David Stark has worked in the music business for over forty years, for such companies as DJM (Dick James Music), Decca Records (as international press officer), MAM Records (head of international promotions), Billboard / Music & Media, and various other music industry and pro-audio magazines, before launching SongLink International music tipsheet in 1993, and Cuesheet (for Film/TV and Ad music) a few years later. His recently released book, “IT’S ALL TOO MUCH: Adventures of a Teenage Beatles Fan in the 60’s and Beyond” is getting rave reviews.

Young David Stark with John Lennon outside Capitol Radio, London, 1974.

In October 1995 David received a prestigious Gold Badge Award at London’s Savoy Hotel for outstanding services to the UK songwriting industry from the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters. He has also served as a jury member at song contests, and/or has attended music industry events as far afield as Australia’s Gold Coast, Copenhagen, Cuba, Dublin, Helsinki, Bali and Jakarta (Indonesia), Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Poland, Prague (Czech Republic), Bucharest (Romania), plus Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami, New Orleans, New York and Vancouver. He has built SongLink up from small beginnings to a recognised worldwide brand name, and has made many friends and industry contacts over the years, hence his reputation as the man who knows (almost!) everyone in the music industry.

In 1999 David co-wrote the book “Inspirations – The Stories Behind The Songs” (Sanctuary Publishing) with DJ/broadcaster Mike Read and Michael Randolfi. The book features interviews with many famous songwriters who donated lyrics for auction by Sotheby’s in March 1999 under the banner ‘Hits Under The Hammer’, raising over £250,000 for childrens’ charities Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy and Norwood Ravenswood.

David was also a founding partner of the Unisong Song Contest which ran from 1997 to 2008, and as well as giving cash and prizes worth over $100,000, the contest also made donations to such worthy causes as Amnesty International, the Earth Love Fund and various songwriters’ associations worldwide.

A huge music fan since the 60’s, David has some amazing stories and items of personal memorabilia from meeting many top artists, including all of The Beatles on various occasions, and attending hundreds of concerts and other music events for the past 50 years. In December 202 he published “IT’S ALL TOO MUCH”, a memoir of his numerous encounters with the Beatles in the ’60s and beyond. He’s also a lifelong drummer who has played in many bands, including The Trembling Wilbur’s tribute band for the past ten years.

Registration for the online Meet & Greet on April 22nd starts on April 15th in the SongU Activity Area >> View/Edit Live Courses. If you register at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, you can submit a question to David ahead of time to be sure that it gets answered.

Author and veteran music business professional, David Stark.


Leave a comment

Featured SongU Mentor: Tom Paden – Follow Every Lead.

All SongU members have the opportunity to forge a creative connection with any of our award-winning coaches. These mentors offer written feedback on songs in progress, focusing on lyrics, music, originality, and commercial potential. Today’s spotlight, Coach #814, aka Tom Paden, is one of SongU’s best-kept secrets since 2005. The insights he offers with his coaching feedback elicit responses from our members, such as, “Gave me chills just now reading your evaluation! Thanks so much for all you said here and saying you are proud. Really makes me feel good! Onward to the charts. Thanks to you and all you do. Nothing would happen without your wisdom!” Our songwriters want to make him proud because he never hesitates to let them know he’s rooting for them.

SongU Coach, Tom Paden

Congratulations on your recent success with the song “Window in the Wall” recorded by Olivia Newton-John and her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. Your co-writers on this song are Eddie Kilgallon and Tajci Cameron. Tajci is from Croatia. Can you talk about how this 3-way Tennessee/Croatia writing collaboration came about and your experience working on a song with someone from another country and culture?

I met Tajci in 2016. I was president of my neighborhood’s Homeowner’s Association and her husband came to me with a problem with his house or something, I can’t quite remember. When he found out that I was a songwriter, he showed me all the pictures of when Tajci was a teen star in Croatia and introduced us. Tajci had been living in the states a long time so there was no language barrier or anything like that. She told me that she needed a song for the Eurovision song contest that is held every year in Europe. This is a huge competition. So, I called Eddie we went to her house and and wrote the song “Window in the Wall.” Initially, we wrote this song as a relationship between two people. Then in May of 2020, Eddie and I rewrote the first two lines, both channels, and most of the bridge to give it a broader “world” meaning.

Olivia Newton-John called you personally to tell you how much the song touched her heart. When and how did she hear the demo?

My cousin Cyndie who lives in Bremen, GA has always taken an interest in my songs. I had sent the song to her after I demoed it. This was in early June. (As an aside, Cyndie had breast cancer and met Olivia Newton-John in a clinic in Bremen and became friends over a few months. The director of the clinic is famous and Olivia would fly from Los Angeles to Bremen to go there.) In early October, I was working out at the gym when I got a text from Cyndie saying she had sent the song to her friend Olivia and hoped I wasn’t mad. She told me that Olivia wanted to record it as a duet with her daughter. I had no who this friend “Olivia” was because I had never seen a much earlier text mentioning her full name. By this point, I had pitched the song hard, over 150 times, and had not gotten any takers. So I texted back, sure, why not? I really didn’t care who recorded the song. I asked Cyndie what Olivia’s last name was so that I could get her a mechanical license. She texted back, I think she still goes by Newton-John. Well, I just about dropped the weights on my foot when I read that! Wow, Olivia Newton-John! That night, Olivia called me. She was so sweet and lovely over the phone. She told me that my song had touched her heart and that she was going to record it. She said the song was bringing her out of retirement. The whole thing was blowing my mind.

I’m fascinated by the unconventional route that led you first to Tajci and then to Olivia Newton-John. It really shows that you never know where those serendipitous relationships are going to come from.

I have always made it a point to follow every lead. When I was leaving home for Nashville in 1985, my grandmother, Nannie, told me to get in touch with a songwriter in Nashville. Her friend had sold him a house. I thought to myself, whatever, I certainly don’t need any help from Nannie. I loved my grandmother, but… Well, about two months in, I called that songwriter and for the next four years he was my mentor. He helped me write songs and I’ll always be indebted to him. His name is Layng Martine Jr. He wrote songs for Elvis, The Pointer Sisters, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, and many others. I told myself then that I would always follow any lead that I was given because you just never know. Thanks Nannie!

Gotta love the Nannie! When I first moved to town in the early 90’s I met Layng at the Nashville Songwriters Association. He was always so humble and friendly. His song “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” (co-written with Richard Leigh) is one of my all time favorite songs.

Tom, as a producer, what’s your process? Do you have certain gear and/or software you prefer? Have you been writing and/or tracking songs with new artists?

As a producer, I rent a studio. It’s usually County Q because they do such great work. I’ve been producing independent artists since 1989. I’ve done a lot of projects over the years. If I’m working with an artist, I will pitch them over 100 songs from some of the best songwriters in Nashville. I always send a detailed budget and keep a balance statement. If there’s money left over after everything has been paid, then I send them back a check. I want to always be transparent with my clients. Many times I write with the artist and we record those songs as well.

If you could give emerging songwriters and producers one great piece of advice, what is it?

Join SongU! Haha. I would say a couple of things. Spend more time on your ideas. Artists are looking for fresh, new, different, and unique ideas and titles. Writing another “I love you” or “I’m broken hearted and blue” song will not get you anywhere. Once you have a pitchable song, pitch it to everyone and anyone. The music business is a numbers game. The more pitches, the more chances your song will be recorded. Also, pitch to the independent artists. I’ve probably had over 600 indie artists cuts. Some were great and others…well not so great. I still got paid and you never know who will be that next super star.  

How have you been holding up during the quarantine? Besides your musical pursuits, what keeps you occupied? Any TV shows, books, activities you’ve been enjoying?

I always stay busy. I have my two kids, Thomas, who is 21 and attending MTSU and Grace Lee who is 19 and attending Birmingham Southern College. I love to write songs, workout and play racquetball and pickleball, hunt and fish, and I’m an avid book reader. My friends and family occupy my time. I am never bored. I am grateful for everyday and keep a positive outlook on life. 

Thanks for taking the time to chat about songwriting with us today, Tom! As always, we appreciate your dedication and great mentorship to the SongU members!

What Our Members Are Saying:

1/8/2021 – “Yours is probably the most helpful and constructive evaluation I’ve ever had. I will get back to work on this! Thank you!! ” — Grahame M. (FL)

9/2/2020 – “Thank you SO MUCH for your encouraging words and the [Best of SongU] star! Stay well! ” — Robbi A. (TX)

8/14/2020 – “Thank you so much for the great thoughts! I always appreciate your insight! Take care and I have sent you a couple other things, so I’ll look forward to getting those back, as well.” — Kerry J. (KY)

6/30/2020 – “I’m beyond thrilled!! I was afraid you’d tell me it was too sad. This means so much to me and after I get the music and demo, I will send for you to listen. Thanks a million for this review. As always, you’re the best!” — Rita W. (OH)

About Coach #814: Tom Paden has had songs recorded by major artists, including Aaron Neville, Tammy Wynette, Restless Heart, Ricochet, Kenny Rogers, Lee Greenwood, and most recently Olivia Newton-John. This coach is also a producer and has a strong background in music and specializes in evaluating country and adult contemporary songs.

Coaching Philosophy: “I enjoy working with all songwriters. I will point out the positive things a writer does, but I am also honest and to the point, so the writer can learn and grow. I enjoy hearing new songs and I give my best on every evaluation.”


Leave a comment

Spotlight Mentor/Member Success Story: Dallas Gregory and Tommy Patterson

Congratulations to SongU Member Tommy Patterson (TX, member since 2018), who is having a banner week. He received good news from SongU publisher pitch guest and mentor, Dallas Gregory, of his first artist cut and his first royalty check! His song “This Little Church I Grew Up In” has been recorded by Daywind Recording artist Debbie Mills. The story behind the pitch is an affirmation that the system can work when the right song gets to the right person at the right time. In Dallas’s email, he reminded Tommy that it was precisely one year and four days prior that Dallas heard the song through the pitch area at SongU.

It’s not uncommon for a song to find its “home” long after being pitched and longer still after being written. That’s why it’s good practice to have patience while we continue to persevere and write the best songs we can in this “hurry up and wait” industry. The good news for this particular cut is that the artist wanted to go ahead and pay the licensing fee upfront even though the license is still “in process.” So, Dallas says he’s put the royalty check in the mail.

From Tommy: “Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I’ve been trying to get a song cut for years. I’m still pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I’m not a performer, I don’t play in a band, I don’t have any connections in the music business. SongU provides an indispensable service to someone, such as myself, who has been trying to get their songs heard.”

SongU Member, Tommy Patterson

“Dallas” must be Tommy’s lucky word; he also won First Place this week in the Folk/Americana category of The Dallas (TX) Songwriters Association’s Song Competition for a different song, “1309 North Austin.” Tommy tells us that SongU Coach and Feedback instructor, Randy Klein, suggested that “I make a couple of changes and I remember seeing his notes stating that it would be a good candidate for song contests. I made the changes and he was right! Thank you Randy!”

Keep up the great work, Tommy, mentors, and everyone on campus! As Dallas emailed to me today, “we all celebrate when a member of the SongU family gets a cut!”

To hear the demo of “This Little Church” go to Tommy’s SongU Member Website.


Leave a comment

GOLD STARS Report: CONTENDERS Edition

For the most recent “Staff Writer for a Day with Deluge Music Group,” we invited Creative Director Emily Dryburgh to our virtual campus to listen to our members’ songs, which were submitted anonymously, for over two months and choose her favorites among them. Below is the list of songs she chose. We call the writers of those songs the Contenders and award their songs with a Rising Star emblem! Only one of the writers was also selected as a Staff Writer for the Day to co-write with hit songwriter Danny Myrick.

As an important educational component to our event, Emily joined us in our e-classroom for “The Big Reveal,” which included a candid hour-long discussion about her listening process. She also discussed the current climate of the music industry and her list of Contenders and the Staff Writer for the Day winner. While discussing craft and genre, Emily pointed out that, “we live in a world now where even the ‘countriest’ of Country writers have access to technology and can consume whatever music they want to.”

We live in a world now where even the ‘countriest’ of Country writers have access to technology and can consume whatever music they want to.

She pointed out that there is a lot of cross-over between genres because of this ability to listen to all kinds of music at any time. She also stressed the need to work on the craft of lyric writing. Emily admitted that while this is an extremely competitive industry, every time she has coffee with a new writer, she thinks about how many people underestimated [her good friend] Meagan Trainor when she first arrived in Nashville. Now Meagan is one of the most successful artists of the decade. So, continue to follow every lead you can. Speaking of which…

CONGRATULATIONS to the following members for having their songs chosen by Deluge Music Creative Director Emily Dryburgh as a Rising Star Contender from almost 200 songs submitted:

Jonny Born – A WHISKEY KIND OF LOVE
Julie Broschard – A WOMAN’S TOUCH
Steve Bryant – SHE SANG EVERY SUNDAY
Jason Caraway – THE LAST GOOD PIECES OF ME
Elvira Cawthon – SAVE A LITTLE SIP and STIR IT ON UP
Priscilla Connolly – OPEN ROAD
Ray Govero – (WHISKEY) YOURE GONNA MISS ME and HILLBILLY YARD SALE
Bill Gue – WE THE PEOPLE
James Hoppe – LEARNING HOW TO LIVE and ONE SHOT and PICTURE PERFECT and SEEING EACH OTHER and TRUST
David Johnson – LIFE’S NOT A DEAD END ROAD
ben krahne – A WOMAN’S TOUCH
Carey Latham – LEVIS and WASTED SUMMER
Brad McKinney – I’LL GET OVER YOU and NEVER GOOD AT MATH
David Nicastro – A MILLION MILES AWAY and GIVE IT ALL YOU GOT and OUR FIRST EVERYTHING and THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT
Ava Paige – SOUNDTRACK
Trevor Peverley – MOVING TO CALIFORNIA GIRL
Rhondalynn Pisanello – THINGS I NEVER KNEW
Wiley Siler – SWEET SUMMER BREEZE
Frank Stopak – AUTUMN WIND
Avrim Topel – WE BAD LIKE THAT
Mitch Townley – THE FIRST
Rita Weyls – FIRST and I’LL BE HOME SOON
John Winters – DOWN THE LINE

Additional congratulations goes to the winner of the Staff Writer for a Day co-write session …BRAD MCKINNEY (KY) with his song “Never Good at Math!”

Members can listen to all the contenders’ great songs in the Highlights & Happenings area on the SongU Homepage.

And a special round of applause to EVERYONE who courageously put their songs out for this competitive song challenge. Keep up the great work, everyone!


Leave a comment

In One Day at SongU, You Can Meet With, Get Song Feedback From, and Pitch To Music Publishers.

Those of you who have been “on campus” for a while, know that at SongU our focus is on education, personal attention, and connections, even when it comes to PITCHING. That’s why the same pitch guests that are listening to your songs for their own meetings with artists and labels are also available to help you reach your songwriting goals. At SongU on any given day you can:

  • Run your demo by a publisher before pitching it…just to get a sense of whether or not you’re on target.
  • Play a simple work-tape of a song for a publisher before spending money and time on a demo.
  • Bring in a song or part of a song, even a lyric that you’ve been stuck on to get some professional direction.
  • Network directly with publishers, music licensing agents, and song pluggers.
  • Hear back about the song you pitched to them, even if they pass on it.

Featured pitches: Do you have a female Pop song that would be great for TV Shows? An incredible Contemporary Country song with harmonies that would be perfect for a newly signed trio? An interesting song with a Singer-Songwriter vibe for a major label artist? Right now we have publishers looking for those songs and more to pitch for their upcoming meetings. And we want you to put your songs out there in the music industry and pitch! But before you do…

We would also like to suggest that in a competitive industry, it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity; whether it’s making your songs the best they can be, connecting with music industry professionals to find out what they’re looking for, or meeting a group of musical cohorts and peers, as well as experienced writers and publishers who will be there for you when you’re feeling a little discouraged.

woman in gray sweater typing on laptop
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

If you are not already a member of SongU, come check it out. Book a private consultation with a publisher, hit songwriter, or producer, take one of our monthly small-group song feedback sessions led by industry pros, submit a song for written feedback from an award-winning coach and pitch a song or two.

If you have any questions, see our extensive FAQ or send a “contact us” support form and we will respond directly within 48 hours (usually less).

Stay safe and have a great and inspired day!


Leave a comment

Pitching: It’s All About the Right Fit

Recently, we received an insightful observation in an email from SongU member, Bob Otting from Illinois, who wrote:

“I have a very, very limited number of songs that are pitch worthy – 6 max. Thus, I am sending the same songs out over and over to the same [pitch guests] on SongU and thinking, ‘These folks must hear that first note and scream ‘NOT AGAIN! WHY DO THEY KEEP SENDING ME THIS?!??” But then every once in a while I get a response: ‘Yes, Selected for this Meeting’, or a ‘Maybe’. It tells me I should keep pitching – its all about the right fit. Thanks for all you fine folks do at SongU!”

Bob’s insight is right on target. Industry pros like publishers, A&R reps, licensing agents, and recording artists listen to a lot of songs, and when listening, they often have a very narrow scope. So, they can frequently tell right away whether a given song may or may not work for a particular pitch. When you cast your song and pitch it again for a completely different project, the same set of ears listens differently. I’ve had songs turned down by an A&R person who two or three months later put the song on hold for another artist.

What does “pitch-worthy” mean? Bob adds an additional insight when he mentions his songs are “pitch-worthy,” meaning that he can objectively deem them competitive for the market place. How does he know this? He has taken the time to get feedback on his songs from mentors (that include hit songwriters, publishers, producers, and licensing agents) who have given him the thumbs-up. He probably has had to do some re-writing and tweaking to get them there, but once he got an okay, he knew his songs would be on a level playing field with the other songs being pitched in a professional arena.

Photo by Paulo Victor on Pexels.com

This Month’s Featured Pitches

Christmas/Holiday Songs. Pitch For Licensing Agent. Americana/Folk, Indie Pop, Jazz, Pop, Singer-Songwriter. Extended through August! Keep them coming! Holiday-themed songs needed now for film and advertising. Street Pitch guest, N.P., says productions are starting up for the holidays. Here’s what we need:
a. Cover songs of popular holiday songs and Christmas carols.
b. Original songs with great hooks, fun, upbeat, warm and positive…

Rose Falcon / Rodney Atkins. Pitch For Song PluggerAlternative, Americana, Singer Songwriter.  Street Pitch guest, J.N., veteran independent songplugger who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for Curb artists Rose Falcon and Rodney Atkins. Seeking solo songs for each as well as duets as per the following:
–Solo songs for Rose Falcon ala American singer-songwriter, Caitlyn Smith.
–Solo songs for Rodney Atkins with a Jason Isbell…

SongU.com: Online songwriting courses, co-writing, pitching, connections

Learn More About Pitching at SongU.com

Pitching at SongU is all online. Your songs go directly to our pitch guests. We’ve designed our Street pitch opportunities to connect members with several dedicated music publishers, song pluggers, and licensing agents looking for specific projects in order to mimic how almost every publishing company works. The truth is, unless you’re writing with the artist or producer, this is still a primary mode for “outside” songwriters to get a cut. It’s certainly better to have a plugger who can play the song for the A&R team, the producer, the manager and/or the artist rather than strictly have an A&R rep on who might not hear the song or have the final say in the decision making process. We also make direct connections to independent artists who are listening for their own projects. We’re really proud of our members when they have success with their writing, much like any teacher would be who sees their students successes.


Leave a comment

The Big Reveal! Staff Writer for a Day with WinSongs Music.

Recently, we invited Kirby Smith, Creative Director of WinSongs Music to the SongU virtual campus to get to know our writers. She listened to over 200 songs submitted throughout May and June and chose what she felt were the strongest of the bunch. That group of 22 songs became the list RISING STAR CONTENDERS. One final song rose to the top as the winner of “Staff Writer for the Day”. Congratulations to Kelly McKay with her brilliant song “Kiss the Hell Out of Me.” Kelly will be set up through WinSongs for a co-write session with hit songwriter, Sandy Ramos.

Because the primary goal of SongU is always to inform and educate, this week we had Kirby visit our e-classroom to find out about her work as a Creative Director (particularly in the time of Corona), as well as her listening process and what pros and cons factored into her choices for choosing the contenders, and finally to reveal her choice for Staff Writer for a Day! Thanks to Kirby for being so generous with her time, information and insights into the song selection and pitching process! Without further ado…

CONGRATULATIONS to the Top Contenders who all received the SongU “Rising Star Award”!

*Wes Bullock (4 songs)
*Elvira Cawthon (3 songs)
*Bill Gue (2 songs)
*Brenda Kornblum (2 songs)
*Brad McKinney
*David Nicastro (2 songs)
*Kenneth Riggins
*Becky Smith (2 songs)
*Dempsey Watson
*Rita Weyls

And to Kelly McKay (2 songs) from TN, SongU member since 2013, for winning the top spot of “Staff Writer for a Day” with WinSongs Music.

A round of applause to every one who submitted their songs to this challenge. As the maxim says, you can’t win the game if you’re sitting on the bench. Keep up the great work, everyone!


Leave a comment

Why Should I Get Feedback Before Pitching My Songs to Film and TV?

At SongU.com, we offer a variety of of small group feedback sessions that focus on different aspects of songwriting and the music business. Writing songs for synchronization with film, TV, and other media takes unique skills beyond crafting a great song. For example, do your vocals and instrumentation work to the benefit of your production? Is your hook relatable for certain situations? Do you know the specifics of the sync licensing market in order to submit your songs appropriately to music supervisors?

Today we’re shining the spotlight on “FDBK 330 – Song Feedback for Film-TV-Media.” Join us to learn from the pros and your peers.

About: This 1-hour advanced feedback session is geared toward analysis of how your demo recording will compete in Film, TV, and other media-related pitches. Focus is given to your songs’ production as it pertains to pitching successfully for sync licensing opportunities in TV, Film, and Media. Limit 5 participants.

Our Facilitators: Nancy Peacock, CEO and Owner of Washington Street Publishing which focuses on securing placements in Film, TV, and Media; and Creative Director for Washington Street Publishing, Queenie Mullinex.

“Queenie and Nancy are soooo good. They are encouraging and yet candid when they hear things that need improvement. I learn a lot from their feedback on my song and the feedback that they give others. Always very, very helpful.” -Becca B. , SC

Always a joy to learn from them.” –Ricki B. , WI

“Great insight for tailoring your songs for music supervisor pitches.” Shawn F. , NJ