Thanks to singer-songwriter Brad McKinney from Kentucky (SongU.com member since 2014) for taking the time to answer some questions about his songwriting process and his experience as the winner of our October/November 2020 SongU Special Event Pitch “Staff Writer for a Day with Deluge Music.”
Brad, let’s start at the beginning. When did you first realize you wanted to write songs?
I’m definitely a late bloomer. It’s funny…I grew up around music but didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body. My extended family is FULL of musicians and creators, and my uncle Dave Maggard was actually a Grammy nominated songwriter for his song “Lefty’s Old Guitar.” Our family get-togethers usually ended up turning into bluegrass jam sessions where I wouldn’t participate but would admire from a distance. As for me, I was 37 when I wrote my first song, and…it wasn’t good. But the next one was a little better, and then the next one was better than that. As it turns out, the more you do something, the better you get at it!
How often do you write? Do you have any set schedule or special ways to enhance your creative process? Any regular collaborators?
I’m a network engineer by day, so all of my writing takes place in the evenings or on weekends. I typically have 4-5 co-writes per week on average, and I’m lucky enough to have a pool of co-writers who are not only awesome songwriters but also awesome friends. As far as enhancing my creative process? Coffee…lots of coffee!
What do you feel is your “strength” as a writer? In other words, are you more lyric-driven or music-driven, or something else?
I’ve always considered myself stronger lyrically, but I’m also melody-capable. I’m a bit of a “glue guy” in that I tend to do my best writing when there’s both a lyric and melody person in the room with me and I’m able to contribute equally to both.
Tell us about the pitching for the Special Event. How did you decide which of your song(s) to submit to the Special Event Pitch?
I submitted two songs to Emily, and she ended up marking both of them as contenders. I chose “Never Good at Math” (co-written with Kelly McKay and Kyle Jackson-Rachky) because we’ve gotten such great feedback about the originality of that one…it’s a hook that seems to jump off the page. I chose “I’ll Get Over You” because it’s a solo write (and my current single on all streaming platforms), and I think it best represents who I am as a writer and artist.
That seems like a good strategy to show your range as a writer. What were your first thoughts when you found out that you were the winner?
I was ecstatic!! My only regret is that I wasn’t able to attend the live reveal due to a scheduling conflict…I actually first found out through some congratulatory texts from friends and co-writers, and then later went and watched the reveal.
How did you prepare yourself ahead of time for the co-write session with hit writer, Danny Myrick? Did you come with ideas or just let the ideas flow after you got in the “writer’s room” (aka online meeting)?
I try to go into each of my co-writes with a starter chorus as a building block. Naturally, some ideas are better than others and we sometimes don’t use my idea at all. I made sure to go into the write with Danny with a good starter chorus and some other ideas around it. Luckily, Danny loved the idea and we ran with it!
How long was your writing session? Can you walk us through the writing process a bit?
The entire write lasted around two hours. Like previously mentioned, I came in with a starter chorus that Danny dug, then we discussed possible angles/counter-angles and just started knocking it out. He suggested some melodic and lyrical changes to my starter, and it came together pretty quickly after that. It was a very smooth, efficient, and entertaining write!
Did you learn anything new about the craft of songwriting during the session?
I learned SO much from Danny just from watching him work through the ideas! Watching and experiencing a pro writer’s processes from start to finish was eye opening for sure, and I’m trying to incorporate some of those processes into my own writes.
Can you elaborate on that?
It’s hard to really put that one into words. I basically just tried to soak up as much as possible from him…watched the different ways he would approach an angle, how he used the chorus melody to determine the feel for the verses, etc.
Are you and Danny happy with the song you wrote? Did you demo it/ pitching it?
Danny was able to produce a pretty awesome demo-quality worktape with his own vocals (that afternoon, mind you!), and I was blown away by the quality and sound. I’ve been pitching it through multiple avenues to whomever I see fit. I can’t speak for Danny, but I couldn’t be happier!
Your overall experience with the Staff Writer for a Day Special Event?
Much like with the write itself, I couldn’t be happier with this event! I think you’re providing unsigned writers an amazing opportunity to write with professionals, and I loved both the write and the end result. Thank you so much for the opportunity!
Brad, we appreciate your sharing your experience so we can all learn from it. Here is the demo of the awesome song that came out of the session…
To hear more of Brad McKinney’s songs check out his SongU member website here