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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.”


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

At SongU.com, our members achieve success through a holistic approach that focuses on education. We work directly with the songwriters to make each song as competitive as possible before spending money on a demo. We do this by offering numerous opportunities to reach their goals, including online Song Feedback sessions, written Coaching evaluations, Private consultations/collaborations with our Music Publisher and Hit Songwriter Mentors, a member-website cowriter search feature, and more. Finally, we offer monthly Pitch opportunities with a guaranteed response from our Street pitch guests.

CONGRATULATIONS to the following members for having their songs signed or pitched for the following leads during the time period JANUARY 1st – FEBRUARY 10th 2021.

Pitch For Other. Country. Re-Opened. Several of our members have gotten airplay through this listing. This is an opportunity from our friends at Liva Music Switzerland to get airplay on international radio stations. Liva is connected to over 450 Country stations in Europe, 80 Country stations in Australia, and also about 200 stations in the USA. They have very specific song submission guidelines, so read ENTIRE description before submitting:

– Seeking REAL Country …

    • Hollie Brogunier “A LITTLE BIT O’HONEY GOES A LONG WAY” (Date picked up: 1/3/2021)
    • Kimberly Jakubicki “BETTER DAY” (Date picked up: 1/3/2021)
    • Carey Latham “WASTED SUMMER” (Date picked up: 1/3/2021)
    • Carey Latham “BLACK HAT” (Date picked up: 1/3/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. REBA. Extended! Still looking! Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Universal artist Reba McEntire. Looking for songs, any tempo, in the classic style and sound of Reba McEntire. Specifically, songs that are bold, fresh, sassy, fun, lively, uninhibited and full of spirit a la “Take It Back”, “Why Haven’t I Heard From You”, also story songs, a la “The Night …

    • Pat Aureli “GRASS STAINS” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. .Acoustic Country / Modern Bluegrass. WESTWEND. Re-Opened! Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for several indie acts from Nashville for a better chance of getting a cut while many of the majors are on hiatus. SUBMIT: male/female duets, acoustic country, modern bluegrass ala Alison Krauss & Wade Bowen. For more about this artist go to https://www.westwendmusic.com/home. …

    • Ricki Bellos “ANOTHER PERFECT DAY” (Date picked up: 1/11/2021)
    • Jim Purtell “ANOTHER PERFECT DAY” (Date picked up: 1/11/2021)

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 …

    • Donna Aylor “TOO CLOSE TO THE FIRE- WITH DRUMS” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)
    • Lee Brownson “ITS GOTTA BE THIS WAY” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)
    • Pamela Gibson “BADLY” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)
    • Laura Leigh “EMPTY SHEETS” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)
    • Lisa Morgan “ALL I WANT TO DO” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)
    • Lisa Morgan “WHAT DO YOU DO” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)
    • Lisa Morgan “EMPTY GLASSES” (Date picked up: 2/4/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. TRACE ADKINS. Still looking! Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for incredible songs for Verge Records artist Trace Adkins. Trace is currently recording a 25-song album to celebrate his 25th anniversary in country music. There are numerous collaborations with other multi-genre artists already underway. Looking for songs, any tempo. Think about songs you would expect to …

    • Patrick Scott “TWO INCH BALL” (Date picked up: 1/15/2021)

Pitch For Song Plugger. Contemporary Country. ADAM DOLEAC. Street Pitch guest, J.N., veteran independent songplugger who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for Sony Music Nashville/Arista Records recording artist Adam Doleac. Seeking contemporary country songs in the direction of Billy Currington’s “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” and “Don’t It”. Also consider recent hits by Brett Young and Old Dominion. PITCH FOLLOW-UP: If this guest expresses interest in your song they …

    • Jeff Roe “DOWN TO THE REAL” (Date picked up: 1/9/2021)

Pitch For Song Plugger. Contemporary Country, Traditional Country. JOE NICHOLS. Extended! Street Pitch guest, J.N., veteran independent songplugger who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for Quartz Hill Records recording artist Joe Nichols. Quartz Hill is a new label recently started by Benny and Paul Brown from Broken Bow and Jason Sellars. Looking now for a mixture of traditional and contemporary country songs, listen to the songs on his former “Cricket’s” album for reference to direction. …

    • Tim Morgan “SUMMERTIME ALL YEAR (DEMO)” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. .Soulful Country with Contemporary Production ROMAN ALEXANDER. Extended! Street Pitch guest, Bob D., who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for Reviver Records artist Roman Alexander. Submit Soulful/contemporary production. Think Billy Currington Vibe. No boy meets girl in bar lyrics. To hear this artist check https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7VnLC0-HWLrEY8HDdZzEaQ. PITCH FOLLOW-UP: If this guest expresses interest …

    • Ray Govero “TROUBLE WITH CURVES” (Date picked up: 1/11/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country, Pop. JUNA N JOEY. Street Pitch guest, J.N., veteran independent songplugger who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for indie artist Juna N Joey. Submit tempo Country Pop to this sister and brother act (think modern day Carpenters) with large social media following. Learn more at https://junanjoey.com/epk/ . PITCH FOLLOW-UP: If this guest expresses interest in your song they will pitch it with the understanding that you will be …

    • John Cirillo “A LITTLE MORE FREEDOM” (Date picked up: 1/11/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. NATE BARNES. Extended! Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for SONY/Quartz Hill Records artist Nate Barnes. Looking for songs – any tempo that are organic, and a blend of Luke Combs meets Blake Shelton. Barnes writes and sings about faith and family, work and heartache, love and the simple joys of life. Especially needing songs that the ladies will like, radio …

    • John Cirillo “FALL INTO YOU” (Date picked up: 1/4/2021)
    • Ray Govero “TROUBLE WITH CURVES” (Date picked up: 2/1/2021)
    • Stephen adrian Lawrance “F150(GET THE F150 OUTTA HERE)” (Date picked up: 2/9/2021)
    • Brad Mckinney “I’M ON IT” (Date picked up: 2/1/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. JT HARKER. Extended! Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Stepside Records artist JT Harker. Listening for straight down the middle country radio hits, any tempo. From the JT Harker camp “Think Dierks Bentley meets Blake Shelton vibe”. JT grew up in northern California and his musical influences are varied, from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Marvin Gaye to …

    • Bill Ohanlon “I DIDN’T COME HERE FOR THIS” (Date picked up: 1/7/2021)
    • Kenneth Riggins “RIGHT WHERE U WANT ME” (Date picked up: 1/7/2021)
    • Matthew Soileau “SURRENDER” (Date picked up: 1/7/2021)
    • Andrew Trotter “YOU MAKE TEQUILA TASTE GOOD “ (Date picked up: 1/7/2021)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. . EMOTIONAL ACOUSTIC SONGS FOR TV & ADVERTISING. Pitch guest, N.P., is seeking simple, stripped down songs for several TV shows. Think Subaru commercials AND the soundtrack to the show “This Is Us”. In the style of Iron & Wine, Goldspot, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, etc. Male or female vocals OK.
Songwriters, important: SONGS SUBMITTED HAVE TO BE CLEARED FOR SYNC LICENSING as per the following guidelines (no exceptions):
– …

    • Robbi Atkins “LEAD YOU HOME (REWRITE, WITH MALE VOCAL)” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)
    • John Cirillo “HURRICANE AFTER YOU” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)
    • John Cirillo “OH MY HEART” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)
    • John Cirillo “YOU WERE LOVED- AC/POP” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)
    • Nina Sundstrom “TAKE THE NEXT EXIT” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)
    • D Toomey “CIRCLES” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Contemporary Country, Pop. RICHARD SCHRODER. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for Amplifier Records Nashville artist, Richard Schroder who is being produced by multi-#1 producer, Matt McClure. Looking for current sounding UPTEMPO Country Pop songs with big choruses ala Brett Eldridge’s “Beat of the Music”, Blake Shelton’s “Honey Bee”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble And Kind”; ‘Four on the floor’ beat; …

    • Ben Krahne “BRING YOUR OWN SUNSHINE “ (Date picked up: 1/24/2021)
    • Rick Lane “I LIKE THE WAY YOU KISS ME” (Date picked up: 1/24/2021)
    • Rick Lane “I’M ALL COUNTRY” (Date picked up: 1/24/2021)
    • Bill Ohanlon “I DIDN’T COME HERE FOR THIS” (Date picked up: 1/24/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. AMY SCRUGGS. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for artist, Amy Scruggs, being produced by hit maker, Fred Mollin. Need 3 more up-tempo songs ala Jo Dee Messina meets Brad Paisley, playful, California-Country, fun Girl-Power, ‘Just Do It’ songs. Include lyric sheets . Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your song, before pitching it, they will …

    • Brad Yunek “LIPSTICK” (Date picked up: 1/24/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Christian, Gospel. JASON CRABB. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for the insanely talented, Grammy award winning Christian artist on Red Street Records, Jason Crabb. Jason has earned 21 GMA Dove Awards including Male Vocalist and Artist Of The Year. Jason’s roots are in Southern Gospel but he can sing virtually any genre of Christian music. Song submissions can be diverse and …

    • John Cirillo “LOST AMEN” (Date picked up: 2/10/2021)
    • John Cirillo “FEELING HOLY” (Date picked up: 2/10/2021)
    • Kerry Jeter “POUR INTO ME” (Date picked up: 2/10/2021)
    • David Johnson “LIFE’S NOT A DEAD END ROAD” (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. MaRYNN TAYLOR. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Black River Entertainment artist MaRynn Taylor. Listening for 90’s style, young female country songs. No drinking, cheating, nothing vindictive. Early Trisha Yearwood meets Stevie Nix and the Dixie Chicks is the lane you’ll want to be in with your song pitches. You can listen to MaRynn here – https://youtu.be/3tyaTYyJTQ0

    • Ben Krahne “THE ANGELS ARE WAITING “ (Date picked up: 1/21/2021)

And a round of congrats to those marked ‘Maybe’ too. Keep up the great work, everyone!


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Meet the SongU Special Event Pitch Guests

Join us for the latest “Staff Writer For A Day!” Special Event Pitch which is running during the months of February and March 2021. This is an exclusive opportunity to be selected by Ciara Shortridge, Senior Creative Director, Publishing of Curb | Word Music Publishing for a chance to find out what it’s like to be a professional staff songwriter for a day. This includes a meeting with Ciara and a CO-WRITING SESSION with Grammy nominated songwriter, Bobby Tomberlin! Additionally, Ciara will be listening for potential signings for single song contracts. Ciara says she’s happy to be participating in this event and looking forward to hearing our songs. You can read more about our special guest below.

Creative Director, Ciara Shortridge

About Ciara Shortridge: Having Joined Curb/Word as Sr. Creative Director, Country Publishing in January of 2020, Ciara previously held the position of A&R Manager and served as the main creative point of Disney Music Group’s Nashville-based publishing office. In her role, she was responsible for signing and developing songwriters, placing multi genre catalog, and connecting Disney internal and international collaboration opportunities with the Nashville community. Ciara’s career at DMG began in September 2009 after graduating from Belmont University’s Mike Curb College Of Entertainment & Music Business and included previous roles as A&R Coordinator and A&R Representative.

In her newest role, Ciara helps curate writing and catalog placement opportunities for the Curb|Word publishing writer/artist roster and catalog, including hit writers such as Kyle Jacobs, Hannah Ellis, Chris Gelbuda, Billy Montana, Adam Wood, Phillip Lammonds, Bobby Tomberlin, and many more.

A Webster, New York native, Ciara felt the intangible magic of Nashville at the age of 13, ultimately making it her permanent home in 2007. Through various college internships and countless writer rounds, she found her true passions were rooted in the far-reaching impact a well-crafted song can have on someone, and in championing the incredible songwriters that bring them to life every day.

Hit Songwriter, Bobby Tomberlin

Bobby Tomberlin is a GRAMMY, CMA, and ACM nominated songwriter. He started his music career at age eleven as a disk jockey in his hometown of Luverne, Alabama. Bobby’s position at the radio station provided the opportunity to interview some of country music’s biggest names including Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Keith Whitley. With a childhood so closely intertwined with country music and its legends, Bobby developed a deep-rooted respect for the genre. His signed his first publishing deal with Mel Tillis and he is currently a staff writer for Curb Word Music Publishing. His first number one hit at country radio was “One More Day,” a career song for Diamond Rio. Bobby’s songs have been recorded by Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Blake Shelton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Faith Hill, Kenny Rogers, Josh Turner, Rodney Atkins, Thompson Square, Tyler Farr, Chris Young, Dylan Scott, Pam Tillis, Little Jimmy Dickens, Joe Nichols, Sundance Head, Terri Clark, Joe Diffie, and The Oak Ridge Boys, just to name a few.  

As the old adage says, “You can’t play the game when you’re sitting on the bench.” Whether or not you win the co-write session or a song contract, you will have done the work of a songwriter by putting your song out there into the world. Good luck to all!

Update: Our Fall 2020 Special event winner, Brad McKinney has a co-writing appointment scheduled for mid-February with hit songwriter, Danny Myrick. In the meantime, for inspiration read the interview with our Spring/Summer 2020 Staff Writer for a Day winner:


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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.


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Featured SongU Mentor: Alan Roy Scott – Oh, the Couches He Has Known

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. They often become creative sounding boards on rewritten drafts of a song until it has reached its full potential. Some, like today’s spotlight Coach #3762, aka Alan Roy Scott, also serve as instructors of our online song feedback group sessions and offer private consultations.

Alan Roy Scott has been one of our most beloved feedback instructors and coaches since 2009 when he became a SongU.com mentor. During that time he has worked with literally thousands of songwriters at SongU. He has a self-proclaimed “gift of gab” and is known for his sense of humor, personal engagement, and wisdom. This often means that his “1-hour” group feedback sessions last quite a bit longer than an hour! I took some time to ask him about his personal mentoring philosophy and his UNIQUELY 2020 EUROVISION experience. Make sure to listen below to his song ‘Cleopatra’ recorded by Azerbaijanian contestant Efendi.

Alan, one of the things the SongU members seem to appreciate the most is that, even though all our coaching and courses are (and always have been) online, you really take the time to get to know them as people — their likes, dislikes and goals. Can you tell us how you make that personal connection and why you feel that is important?

Being a songwriter myself for such a long time (professionally since 1978) and having gone through so much in my own life and career over that time, I just have a lot of empathy and respect for all the SongU members overall,  and especially when they come to me for feedback and guidance and put their trust in me. I like to give them a full and thorough response with TLC they deserve. I have always felt that if we songwriters can’t support each other as creative people and lift up our own community first and foremost, it will be hard to expect that same level of camaraderie and compassion coming from anywhere else. In my case, how that plays out and how I deal with the writers is I get excited to know about THEM — where they’re from, how they feel about things, their lives and experiences, what their own goals are, and just being friendly and supportive of them and with each other about a myriad of things — in connection with the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of evaluating their songs when we get to that. So, when we do get to that whether in a live online feedback session, a private one-to-one, or in written form, I pride myself on dishing out my own brand of ‘tough songwriter love” when needed. With emphasis on the love.

I have always felt that if we songwriters can’t support each other as creative people and lift up our own community first and foremost, it will be hard to expect that same level of camaraderie and compassion coming from anywhere else.

You bring a unique international perspective to your song feedback, having travelled all over the world, judging song contests, doing seminars, and writing with up-and-coming artists. Can you tell us some of the places you’ve been and what you have learned by working in the international music scene?

Well, believe it or not, since my international travels started in 1984 with Japan as the first country I visited outside the USA, I have been to 124 countries and counting. I know this because I once sat down and literally counted all the countries I’ve been to with the guidelines that just being in airport transit doesn’t count, and at least 24 hours has to be spent in a country for it to qualify. So, among those 124 countries visited would be every continent except Antarctica (a song seminar for the penguins coming soon?), every former Communist country except North Korea, exotic places from Greenland to India, Bali to Ghana. Almost ALL of them for music activities, writing trips, writing camps, seminars and/or workshop events, concerts, or some kind of musical application. Quite often without much money in my pocket. So, the name of my eventual book I hope to write will either be “Couches I Have Known” or “Passport To A Musical Planet.”

Hah! I’d love to read that book…please write it! Tell us more about co-writing with writers from all over.

I have collaborated along the way with people in a variety of markets, styles of music, and languages. Although I could write a multitude on all the things I have learned along the way, one striking and overriding truth that I have found to be so by walking the walk is that truly music IS the universal language! Many differences and nuances abound in that, but in the end we are much more the same than not. I know this answer may sound a bit Disneyesque or “Koom-ba-yah”, but I don’t know how else to answer it.

Alan Roy Scott collaboration session

I know you had a big disappointment with one of your own songs, “Cleopatra” that was headed to Eurovision. What happened?

The answer to that is the pandemic happened. Eurovision was canceled for the first time in 64 years! Of course, there were some positives. For example, the video of my song ‘Cleopatra’ by the Azerbaijan artist Efendi got over 8 million views on YouTube among other good things. And most of the various reviewers and broadcasters from around the world had said that my song would surely have been in the Top 5 or 10 of all the entries, with a few even saying they thought it would win. So, all that at least is some consolation.

Congratulations! That’s no small accomplishment! Tell us how that came about.

As always, is the story behind the scenes is always the most interesting. Some of that unknown backdrop and saga is as follows: The writing of the song is a lesson in itself for all songwriters because the day we wrote it at Las Negras Camp in Spain in November 2019 ( a collaboration between myself, Dutch writer, Luuk Van Beers, and Norwegian/British writer, Sarah Lake) was just a magical three-nation writing collaboration experience where we were laughing hysterically the whole time, and just having pure fun around the joy of songwriting without any other thoughts in mind. Surely, we were not thinking about Eurovision. If we had TRIED to write for Eurovision, it might never have come out the way it did.  So, after the writing and production of it, we then moved into the whole politics and international business portions of Eurovision. In Eurovision, every song that makes it to being the song for a country literally ends up having like a whole team of people involved, and ours was no different in becoming “Team Cleopatra.” Some countries pick their artist and song the artist will sing to represent them through extensive and high profile national competitions and TV shows to pick the national winner before they head off to the finals to represent that country. But some other countries just pick their artist and song WITHOUT open competitions through a private process known as “internal selection.” This also involves team connections and private resources. That’s the way it was for us.

First, our song was submitted internally to the small country of San Marino for their artist Senhit. My collaborators flew to Bologna, Italy to work with her on the song and see how she sounded on it. In the end, although her team and committee wanted her to do “Cleopatra,” the artist didn’t think it was right for her, and she went with a different song. Then it was pitched to the last country choosing via “internal selection”, Azerbaijan.  They had selected an artist named Efendi to be their artist and so “Cleopatra” was chosen to be their song. My collaborators then flew to Baku, Azerbaijan to try Efendi out on the song and it worked out. Therefore, after all that when the many months of preparation time and money spent by 51 country “teams” to get to that point of being in Eurovision, besides the cancelation of the whole event, it is the final chapter that should come as no surprise in the annals of the way songwriters are so often treated. After the cancelation of Eurovision, the ruling was made that for 2021 the ARTISTS for each of the countries who were to be involved would be allowed to come back again if they chose to (and most of the artists from 2020 ARE returning in 2021), but NOT THE SONGS !!! All the songs have to be NEW songs and all the effort and competition it takes to make it, plays out all over again for the songwriters. Fair, right? The Artists get to return automatically, but the songs and songwriters involved this year get thrown under the bus. Every heard that before? My Azerbaijan artist Efendi WILL be returning in May to again represent Azerbaijan, but with a different song!!! And as they say, that’s that!!!

Thanks for sharing your story. Let’s get you some more views on YouTube. Maybe we should start an international SongU movement to save Alan’s song in 2021! 😉

When offering song feedback to emerging songwriters, do you find that there are certain pieces of advice or suggestions that seem to come up a lot? If so, what are some of the most common?

Surely when it comes to the actual nuts and bolts of song craft part, I find there are a lot of common and recurring themes I encounter quite often that I talk about, that many people who are reading this who have worked with me might have heard already. Such as how as beginning songwriters, we often come up with a really good idea that we don’t fully develop before moving off it too soon, or leaving it feeling unfinished or jagged. I call this “not milking your own good ideas” as fully as possible. And I also find that quite often songwriters who are not great singers (or even some who are) will write their melodies to fit within the limits of their vocal range, which often means melodies may get squashed because of those limits from the full range of what they could be. As for me, I call it not being afraid to sound like a “shrieking chicken” in reaching for notes I hear in my head if the right melody is out of my range for my ‘songwriter singing his own songs the best he can” voice. So don’t let any vocal limitations stop you from reaching for the best and most contrasting melodies possible. And surely I find a big part of my job is editing with my big scissors hence “song surgery.” That’s because you need to remember in the end as much as it is about expressing ourselves and writing the best song possible, it is also about communicating our songs to the listener we want to embrace our music,  and speaking to them in ways and methods they can follow and appreciate. Attention spans are short and getting shorter all the time. So great old adages like “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” still apply even today. But also as nothing is cast in stone and every rule is meant to be broken, my only “golden” rule of songwriting as I call it is….”if it works, it works.” So when it feels right to me, I will go with it even if it goes against my usual judgement of such things.

Besides writing songs and mentoring, what have you been doing to pass the time during the pandemic?

What? Has there been a pandemic ? What’s that? LOL !!!   Really, I just want to say that my job at SongU.com is made so much easier by the fact that, by any measure, we just have so many talented and wonderful members as songwriters and people. Because of that, it’s never stopped being as joyful to be a part of SongU from the very beginning until now. All that is equally made possible by the wonderful ongoing relationship I have with the SongU.com administrative staff (Sara, Danny, Martin, and the ever awesome Benn), and to the caring, giving, faculty alongside me, all combining to make Songu.com the magical place it has always been and continues to be. Here’s to 2021 and beyond !!!

Awww, thank you for saying that. Of course, thank YOU for your countless hours providing professional advice and songwriting education to the SongU writers and to so many writers around the world! You rock!

What Our Members Are Saying:

1/8/2021 – “Thank you SO much!! Your evaluation got me there to that finish line almost right away after sitting on those lyrics being all over the place with it for a few weeks. I so appreciate it!!!” — Robbi A. (TX)

12/1/2020 – “Thank you so much Coach for all your help and I’m so happy with the final result and the reworked chorus per your suggestion. It’s been a labour of love with the subject matter and all. So, thanks again!!” — Mike R. (UK)

12/20/2020 – “Alan’s classes are about as much fun as you can have legally, and you can always count on a good honest critique. I love it when he sings along often forgetting to turn his mic off. Ha. Fun stuff. Go Alan!” — Lon C. (NY)

12/20/2020 – “Alan is a perfectionist. He listens, remembers, and knows. I am grateful for such opportunities.” –– Ewa R. (Poland)

About Coach #3762: Alan Roy Scott has had over 200 songs recorded across multiple genres by various artists around the world including, Celine Dion, Notorious B.I.G, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LaBelle, Gloria Estefan, Oak Ridge Boys, Journey, Ricky Martin, Luther Vandross, The Neville Brothers, Cher and Ray Charles. This coach also has significant credits in Film/TV, including “Top Gun,” “Fame,” “Coming to America,” “First Wives Club” and “Beverly Hills 90210.” This coach is comfortable in evaluating songs in virtually all genres, including Film/TV, Pop/Hot AC, R&B, Urban, Christian, Country, World Music, Singer/Songwriters and Rock

Alan’s Coaching Philosophy: “I consider myself a real colleague and advocate for songwriters and will give whatever I feel is needed in each individual situation from “tough songwriter love” in a direct fashion, to being a cheerleader. I enjoy working with all levels of writers and have been known to throw in some stories from my own songwriting career when needed.”


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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!


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Marcia Ramirez: Inspiration On and Off the Road

Marcia Ramirez

Marcia Ramirez one of the most experienced and sought after demo-singers in Nashville. She’s one of the funniest, brightest, and thought-provoking people I know. Music is the backdrop of her life: Not only with her own singer-songwriter projects, her family’s (her husband, Mike Waldron is one of the most sought after musicians and session players in Nashville), her spiritual home’s, the artists’ she goes out on the road with, as well as all those songwriters’, whose demos she breathes life into with her lead and background vocals.

In May, my eyes were drawn to a quote by songwriter Liz Rose (Little Big Town’s Girl Crush, Taylor Swift’s White Horse) in a Forbes magazine article about songwriting. Liz Rose said, “The lifeblood of Nashville was built on songwriters and studio musicians and artists. How are we going to grow the next Derek Wells if there’s no studio and there’s no songwriters doing demos to play on?”

Of course, I emailed the quote to Marcia. Not because of what Liz was saying, although she makes a good point, but because of the mention of Derek Wells – Marcia’s son – who, in 2016, was the youngest person in history to win The Academy of Country Music’s Guitar Player of the Year award, as well as the youngest person to have been nominated for the CMA Musician of the Year award. Marcia, quite literally, “grew a Derek Wells.” (Her joke, not mine.) I’ll brag for my #proudmama friend and mention that Marcia’s youngest son, Sam, is a fine musician as well.

I’m happy to have a chance to ask her a few questions about her career for “Notes on Napkins.”

Marcia, I have to start by asking what’s helping you cope during this time of Corona?

Schitt’s Creek!  I’m obsessed.

Hah! Great answer. I love that show too. As a song feedback mentor and coach at SongU, you inspire so many writers. What inspires you? 

People brave enough to be their authentic selves – no matter what. And I mean on all levels – personally, spiritually, relationally, and especially creatively! Fight for your unique voice and perspective.

You’ve been touring as a musician and backup singer with major artists for over 20 years, most recently with pop legend Christopher Cross. What’s been the most surprising thing you learned being on the road? 

Well, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but it’s not nearly as glamorous most of the time as you might think! 4 AM lobby calls to fly to the next town can be brutal, or sleeping in a bunk on the bus every night that’s about the size of a coffin, or washing your hair in the dressing room sink because soundcheck ran long and you don’t have time to go back to the hotel before the show…road life can be difficult some days. And you can really get homesick too when you are gone for long periods of time. All that being said, I have LOVED my time on the road and made some truly strong friendships by traveling around the world with great groups of folks. I’ve been super blessed to have loved my road families!

Marcia Ramirez and Christopher Cross

Can you tell us the story behind the song you co-wrote called “God and My Girlfriends,” recorded by Reba McEntire on her Grammy Winning album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope?

My friends, Lisa Hentrich and Patricia Conroy, wrote that song with me one day during a writing session on Music Row several years ago. As soon as we wrote it, we just KNEW it would be perfect for Reba, so we pitched it to her as soon as we got the demo done, and she put it on “hold” right away for the album she was about to record. She ended up not recording it on that album, and we were super bummed. BUT…. almost 9 years later, she actually tracked the song down herself and recorded it for her first faith-based album. I guess she remembered the song and was at a point in her life where the words felt very real to her. She had just gone through a divorce, so she was truly relying on God and her girlfriends to get her through a difficult time. It just goes to show you that artists record songs that they really relate to.

That’s one of my favorite “songwriter stories,” Marcia. It shows that you can have a great song that the artist loves, but if it’s not exactly the right song at the right time, it may not get cut…but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten. It’s a tribute to this song’s strength that Reba remembered it so many years later to give it the perfect home on her album.

Marcia Ramirez in Studio

You’re an in-demand demo singer in Nashville. What’s the best tip you can give songwriters about working with a professional demo singer to get the best vocal on their song?

I think being as specific as you can about how close you want them to sing the song like the worktape. Some writers tell me to just use the worktape as a reference, but “Just do your thing” — meaning, they trust me to use my own instincts with the phrasing and melody. Other writers want it EXACTLY like they have phrased it on the worktape, and they don’t want you to vary the melody one single note. That really helps me prepare for the session if I know that ahead of time so that I can make much more specific notes. ALSO, always let the vocalist pick the key ahead of time that works best for their voice. That is SUPER important.

Marcia, Thanks for taking the time out of your multi-tasking and busy day to answer my questions. I enjoy and appreciate you, as always!

Find links to hear Marcia’s music, book her for gigs, read her blog, and learn about her God and My Girlfriends ministry by visiting her website at marciaramirez.com.


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Meet the SongU Special Event Pitch Guests

Join us for the latest “Staff Writer For A Day!” Special Event Pitch which is running during the months of October and November 2020. This is an exclusive opportunity to be selected by Emily Dryburgh, Creative Director of Deluge Music, for a chance to find out what it’s like to be a professional staff songwriter for a day. This includes a meeting with Emily and a CO-WRITING SESSION with hit songwriter, Danny Myrick! Additionally, Emily will be listening for potential signings for single song contracts. She says she’s excited to hear new writers and new material.

Deluge Music is a Los Angeles and Nashville-based Publishing, Management and Record company.  Opening its doors in 2015, Deluge has become home to hit and developing songwriters with cuts by artists including Rod Stewart, Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Jason Aldean, Reba, Walker Hayes, Rascal Flatts, Ashley McBryde, Keith Urban and more! They Currently have Lady A’s single, “Champagne Night” and have recently landed a TBA major deal with one of their artists. 

Emily Dryburgh, Deluge Music Creative Director

Emily Dryburgh is the Creative Director and Nashville face of Deluge Music.  Her duties include managing and/or developing writers and artists between LA and Nashville, setting up collabs, tweaking and pitching songs, overseeing creative processes, and developing and maintaining relationships with other publishers, managers, labels, writers, producers, etc. in the Nashville music industry.  Prior to Deluge, Emily worked in artist management, handling “day to day” and development for Grammy, CMA and Tony award winning artists in the Country, Bluegrass and Gospel genres.

Danny Myrick, songwriter

Danny Myrick is a 3 time #1 Country songwriter and producer, and 6 time #1 Gospel and Contemporary Christian writer. With songs recorded by Tim Mcgraw, Jason Aldean, LoCash, Craig Morgan, Maddie and Tae, Trace Adkins, Big and Rich, Randy Houser and more.  Danny has Trace Adkins current single, “Just The Way We Do It.”

A little bit muddy water Mississippi preacher’s kid, a little bit California beach bum, Danny grew up playing, singing and writing for his family’s gospel band in south Mississippi and being consumed with 70’s FM radio. He achieved his first #1 gospel song as a songwriter at the age of 17 before moving to Nashville.  After landing several more #1 Gospel and Contemporary Christian hits, Danny re-focused his attention on founding and fronting country rock band, Western Flyer, with whom he made two albums and had several Top 40 singles, including What Will You Do With M-E and Cherokee Highway, which dealt strongly with racial division in the Deep South and led to Western Flyer being the first country artist invited to play the annual Martin Luther King Day in Atlanta. 

Following thousands of miles on the road with Western Flyer, Danny decided to stay home in Nashville, and ended up singing 100s of songwriter demos as well as adding background vocals to numerous albums by the likes of Blake Shelton, Montgomery Gentry and Keith Anderson before immersing himself in his love of songwriting.

Over his career, Danny has produced numerous artists, including The FARM and The Jane Dear Girls, and has written songs for a wide range of artists from Maddie & Tae to Joe Cocker, celebrating numerous hits, including Craig Morgan’s “International Harvester, Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah”, LoCash’s “I Love This Life”, as well as 2009’s most played country smash, “She’s Country” for Jason Aldean! 

Danny’s wide array of interests has led to appearances on MSNBC and CNN discussing political and religious topics affecting country music and southern culture.  He is currently working on several projects, including his own self-produced album, King Of Jones County;  and releasing remixes under his alter ego DJ DMaxx featuring social media sensation Leslie Jordan.  Danny currently writes for Deluge Music.  

As the old adage says, “You can’t play the game when you’re sitting on the bench.” Whether or not you win the co-write session or a song contract, you will have done the work of a songwriter by putting your song out there into the world. Good luck to all!

For more inspiration read the interview with our Fall 2020 Staff Writer for a Day:


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Featured SongU Coach: A Conversation with Michele Vice-Maslin.

Today, I have the pleasure of talking with one of SongU’s long-time mentors and coaches, two-time Emmy Award winning songwriter and producer, Michele Vice-Maslin.

Michele Vice-Maslin

Michele, I’ve got to start by asking what’s helping you cope during this time of Corona?

Well I am a complete hermit so besides my lack of a hot tub to slip into I’m doing just fine and feel blessed! Also I really aspire to be a “Happy Girl” as one of my songs is called. That always helps one c ope, finding and holding on to their “happy”. A little “hippy dippy” I know but it’s true!

…But first off what helps me cope are my amazing Students at SongU and in my FROM SONG TO SYNC course! I am so busy coaching, mentoring, teaching, guiding, hand holding and seeing “light bulb moments” go off!… It is beyond rewarding and fulfilling!

I’ve actually never been busier so I think I am too tired to have to cope. LOL. In addition I’ve been writing with my favorite artist smooth jazz R&B legend Jonathan Butler for his new album and writing /producing songs for my own little pet artist project (2 of the songs appear on the Mpath PHENOMENAL WOMEN album series), plus other productions so I’m busy with that. I’m busy guiding my new intern Jeremiah. I’m busy pitching. I’m busy participating in tons of webinars mostly about all things music biz like Neighboring Rights, The MLC, Music Licensing, and so forth. I’ve been speaking on a bunch of webinars too… and so on and so on. All a great distraction from the difficult “mess” at hand that we all share.

And to top it off, as you and I discussed a little while back Sara…all the cooking. OH MY! Right now it’s after midnight I’ve been up working since 7am and I still have dinner to cook. Hahaha No time to think of coping

How has the current state of the world affected your writing, production, and pitching?

It hasn’t much affected the producing and pitching and solo writing. I am still doing that. Yes there are much less specific projects in production but still I always have backlogs of new songs that need to be pitched and brought to the attention of the “powers that be”. It has however very much affected the co-writing for me. I don’t like to collaborate virtually at all!  In fact I usually have a strict policy of “in the same physical room at the same time from complete scratch”. The only person I write virtually with is my main collaborator Larry Treadwell whom I’ve worked with for 39 years and know so well. I’ve also made an exception with Jonathan whom I’ve worked with for 20 years.  

Actually I’m always impressed by the Songu members I coach and their ability to co-write virtually even before the pandemic.

What qualities do you look for in a co-writer?

Of course if they are what I consider a good writer, which is subjective any way but after that mostly I look for someone I like, who is a nice human, a good human, an honest human. 

As a coach and mentor, you inspire so many songwriters. What inspires you?

The songwriters I coach and mentor! They inspire me everyday!  Some of them are soooo talented they could be teaching the class!  In the last 2 weeks alone I have heard some really amazing songs from them!  Life itself as well has always inspired me! Paying attention to all that is going on. Listening, watching, participating.

Do you have a favorite story you can tell us about one of your song placements? 

I have so so many but probably it’s my first one. That is what is coming to mind. It was 1987 and I was the songwriter, producer, arranger, creator of a “performance art project”. I had films and slide shows and actors doing skits accompanying the songs. The songs themselves and the whole project made Bjork look “normal”. 🙂 The whole thing was beyond alternative and avant-garde. I had a friend who was directing his first feature film TAPEHEADS. It stars Tim Robbins, John Cusack and the R&B/Soul legends Sam Moore (Of Sam & Dave) and Junior Walker (Of Junior Walker And The All Stars) Sam & Junior were playing the fictitious duo “The Swanky Modes” in the film. The director(my friend) asked me if I had any friends that created R&B/Soul music and if so could they submit some tunes for the film. So I grabbed my writing partner Larry, whom I previously mentioned, and we wrote and produced up (after much careful research and listening) a song to submit. Now remember I am a weird “Performance Artist”  who writes very odd songs, so what to do what to do… how to submit…? The director (who actually directed the films and slide shows in my performance art project) would never have considered any R&B/Soul song I might come up with so…I submitted it under a pseudonym… and voila!! In the movie. With the legendary Sam Moore and Jr. Walker recording it. My first cut and placement at the same time. In a major big budget film…and then haha I became knows as an R&B writer. Crazy stuff! I think the moral of that story is just go for it!!! Give it a try! Ya never know…

What music have you been listening to lately?

I listen to so much music. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop as I am producing a really cool hip hop/rapper artist. Khalid, Kanye, Money Can’t Buy, A.J. Tracey, Troye Sivan, and others. Also a lot of pop music. Katy Perry, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Sean Mendez, Jonas Brothers, Charlie Puth, Kim Petrus, Tov Lo, Hayley Williams, Ellie Goulding… so so many and the songs of my friends, colleagues and students. Every day I listen to new music. I subscribe to some online newsletters that are always introducing me to new music.

Thank you, Michele, for offering professional advice and songwriting education to our SongU writers ! You rock!

Thank you for these really great questions Sara and thank you so much to you for having me. It’s really an honor. This is my 14th at Songu and it has enriched my life beyond measure. I’m so proud to be a part of the Songu family! I love my students!

I can’t believe it’s been 14 years already! Time flies when you’re having fun (and learning new things all the time). Thanks again for your time, Michele!

ABOUT COACHING AT SONGU.COM

In addition to our 20+ live audio/video small-group song feedback courses each month, our members have the opportunity to forge creative relationships with any of award-winning coaches in the form of individual written feedback with detailed song (or lyric-only) evaluations and constructive suggestions emphasizing lyrics, music/production, originality, commercial potential, and even a chance to be awarded “Best of SongU!”

HERE’S WHAT OUR MEMBERS ARE SAYING ABOUT COACH #2245 (aka Michele Vice-Maslin)!

“I am really thrilled with your Best of SongU recognition – you had awarded that for [my other song] ‘Marisol’ as well – and it means a lot. Both were probably more work than I would care to admit so it feels great to be recognized. I’m so happy that you liked it and found it relatable – THANKS!” -J.M., CT

“Thank you for the feedback. Once again you’ve opened my eyes through your insight. I definitely want to get away from cliche writing and hope to look get better at recognizing it when I write. Thx again!”D. Brown, GA

About Michele

About Michele: This coach is a two-time Emmy Award winning songwriter and producer who has written hit songs in multiple genres for artists all over the world, as well as having several thousand film/TV placements. This coach is also a music producer and music publisher who is well versed in song pitching and placing, and business issues pertaining to the music industry. Specializes in evaluating Pop, R&B, Hot AC, Top 40, Dance, Alternative, Urban, Country, Singer-Songwriter, Film/TV/Songs for Sync Licensing.

Michele’s Coaching Philosophy: “My coaching philosophy is one of empowerment and inspiration along with some real and straightforward honesty about what I believe is important in the way of crafting a great song – for personal satisfaction of course – but also for commercial success.”


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Kelly McKay, Winner of “Staff Writer for A Day,” Tells Us About Her Experience.

I was thrilled to speak with Kelly McKay, SongU member since 2013, and the winner of our Spring 2020 Special Event Pitch, “Staff Writer for a Day” with WinSongs Music Publishing! Kelly is clearly a talented songwriter, but she is also a role model for what it takes to succeed in this business:

  • the desire to keep growing and learning
  • the ability to network bravely yet humbly
  • the persistence to carry on in the face of daunting odds 
Songwriter, Kelly McKay

Kelly, I’m so excited to hear about your co-write session and listen to the song that you wrote. But first, tell me about the pitch. How did you decide which of your song(s) to submit to the “Staff Writer for a Day” Special Event Pitch with WinSongs’ Creative Director, Kirby Smith?

I submitted four songs. Kirby said she likes fun, uptempo songs and unique hooks that surprise her, so I kept that in mind. I submitted “Kissed the Hell Outta Me” mainly because it was brand new and I was excited about it and that was the one she picked. 

What were your first thoughts when you found out that you were the winner?

I was just excited. Little victories are a big deal to me (see what I did there?), so any time someone digs a song, it’s a great feeling. 

What was it like when you first contacted WinSongs’ Creative Director, Kirby Smith, after the event?

Kirby was really nice and got a date locked in really fast.  

Your co-write session was supposed to be with hit songwriter, Sandy Ramos, but Kirby added Winsongs’ staff songwriter, Chase Fouraker. Why?

She added Chase so that we could write to a track. 

How did you prepare yourself ahead of time for the co-write session, which was online, I assume?

Yes, it was over Zoom. I had a bunch of ideas ready to go, some deeper ones and some fun ones. I basically wanted to have all my bases covered so if they wanted to write a certain vibe, I had a hook that could fit. I also listened to Chase’s material that he’s released as an artist to get a feel for what he does. 

How long was your writing session? Can you walk us through the process a bit?

We finished in about 2 hours, 45 minutes. We talked a little when we first jumped on. Sandy and Chase hadn’t written before, so we all introduced ourselves and got to know each other a bit. Sandy said she wanted to write a fun uptempo and they both liked the first idea I threw out, so we were off and running pretty quickly.

What do you feel is your “strength” as a writer? In other words, are you more lyric-driven or music-driven, or something else? What did you feel your co-writer’s strengths seemed to be?

I can be more lyric-driven or more melody-driven depending on the team I’m writing with. I think that’s probably true for Sandy and Chase too. Just based on that session, Sandy focused mainly on lyrics while Chase focused more on melody and track. But I got the feeling they both probably play different roles in the writing room on any given day. 

Did you learn anything new about the craft of songwriting during the session?

I loved seeing how Sandy approaches a lyric and how she would go back and make little changes that made a big difference to the song. It reinforced not to settle for the first thing that sounds cool, but to make sure you nail it. And Chase was sharing his screen so we were able to watch him build the track along the way. That was actually really cool. I’ve written with a lot of different track guys and girls, but I’ve never really had the chance to watch that process that closely while the song is being written. 

When you say you watched Chase build the track along the way, how did that fit into the writing?

We started with a chord progression and a loose melodic direction and he started building the track from there. At times, he was focusing on the track while Sandy and I were working on lyrics. For the most part, it was all happening simultaneously.

Any other thoughts or feelings you’d like to share about these two pros and/or the writing session itself?

Sandy was the first person to critique one of my songs at NSAI years ago. I’ve learned a lot from her, so I was really excited to write with her. She’s an amazing writer and just made the whole session so easy. And Chase is a multi-tasking wizard. I had a starting melody for the chorus and he took it to another level while he was building the track and helping with lyrics. He’s got a killer voice too. I could listen to him sing all day. 

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

It was an awesome experience that I’m truly grateful for. The Big Reveal session itself was really helpful. Sara, you asked a lot of great questions and Kirby offered a lot of insight. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from two pro writers, the chance to connect with Kirby and to add another song to my catalog all at the same time. I can’t say enough good things about it. Thank you Sara, Danny, Sandy, Kirby and Chase! 

Kelly, you’re so welcome! Thank YOU for sharing your experience so we can all learn from it.

And now, without further adieu, here is the work tape of the awesome song that came out of the session…

“Heart’s A Drunk” by Ramos/McKay/Fouraker

Great work, Kelly! I’m imagining myself on the dance floor right now with the one I love. I hope we will hear this on the radio soon!