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.
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.”