Notes on Napkins

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

On our SongU virtual campus, success is achieved through our focus on education and making each song the strongest it can be BEFORE spending money on a demo. We offer numerous opportunities for songwriters to reach their goals, from one-on-one coaching to live feedback sessions, to peer and mentor co-writes.

CONGRATULATIONS to the following members for having their songs signed or pitched for the following SongU leads during the time period August 26th – September 22nd, 2020.

Pitch For Publisher. Christian. VARIOUS CHRISTIAN & POSITIVE COUNTRY ARTISTS. Extended! (“I’m finding some great songs from these SongU writers! Keep them coming.” – D.G.) Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs to pitch to Christian labels Daywind Records /Mountain Fever Records / Red Hen Records – 65/40 Records. Submit the following: Southern Gospel / Bluegrass and Positive Country songs, male …

    • Adam Avery “IF I SANG HALLELUJAH” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Priscilla Connolly “I WILL BE STRONG “ (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Tonia Dyer “HOLY SPIRIT” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Gordon Ellis “MAMA HOLD ON” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Matt Glickstein “STONE BY STONE “ (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • David Johnson “I WAS TOO WEAK” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Carey Latham “I’M NOT DONE CRYING YET” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Alexsi Mallory “TEN FINGERS TEN TOES” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Karen Mitchell “WORK OF ART “ (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Tim Morgan “EMPTY VESSEL (DEMO)” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • David Pellegrini “ALL MY DAYS” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • David Pellegrini “LET IT GO” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Ken Wank “TOGETHER(WE’RE BETTER)” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Rita Weyls “LOVIN’ LEAD” (Date picked up: 9/2/2020)
    • Rita Weyls “ON MY OWN DEMO” (Date picked up: 9/16/2020)

Pitch For Other. Country. 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…

  • Roger Brantley “NO PLACE FOR COUNTRY” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • John Murphy “DON’T LET GO (TROY ERVIN CUT)” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Ava Paige “I’LL BE GONE “ (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Joanne Stacey “HE LOVES HER STILL” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Joanne Stacey “THE SCENT OF A GOOD MAN” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Jamie Trent “THROWBACKS AND KEEPERS” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)
    • Jamie Trent “TUBE SOCK AND CROC” (Date picked up: 9/10/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. REBA. 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 The Lights Went Out In Georgia” …

   • Loralei Ells “IF I LIED” (Date picked up: 9/21/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Americana, Country, Singer Songwriter. LEE ANN WOMACK. Extended! Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for ATO Records artist Lee Ann Womack . Looking for songs, any tempo that meet at the intersection of Americana and Singer/Songwriter. Think about songs that with lyrical introspection, veiled by elaborate metaphors and memories, and songs with a distinctive roots oriented sound. Pitch Follow-up: Publishing …

    • Wes Bullock “FELL RIGHT” (Date picked up: 9/21/2020)
    • John Cirillo “OH MY HEART” (Date picked up: 9/21/2020)
    • John Cirillo “LOST AMEN- FEMALE” (Date picked up: 9/21/2020)
    • Carol Hashe Rainone “HOUR OF LETTING GO” (Date picked up: 8/28/2020)
    • Mitch Townley “IF LOVE WAS A HOUSE” (Date picked up: 9/21/2020

Pitch For Song Plugger. Americana, Singer Songwriter, Alternative. ROSE FALCON/ RODNEY ATKINS. Extended! 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 vibe.
–Additionally open-minded …

    • John Cirillo “OH MY HEART” (Date picked up: 9/5/2020)
    • John Cirillo “HURRICANE AFTER YOU” (Date picked up: 9/5/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Americana, Traditional Country. JON WOLFE. 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 all tempos of Traditional Country/Americana songs. For more about this artist go to http://www.jonwolfecountry.com/#home. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your song, before pitching …

    • Ricki Bellos “BLUE SKY RAIN” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)
    • Brad Mckinney “I’M ON IT” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. MATT FARRIS. 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. MATT NEEDS: a “career breaking” Radio-friendly Country single. Mid or Uptempo. For more about this artist go to https://mattfarriscountry.com/. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your …

     • John Condrone “LYIN” ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)
    • Brad Mckinney “I’M ON IT” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)
    • John Prichard “CRUSHING ON YOU” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. 90’s Country. CHRIS WEBB. 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: upbeat 90’s Country with a modern feel ala “Life In a River Town”. Listen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxOxu0LMTgc. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest …

    • Loralei Ells “ON SATURDAY” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)
    • Chelsie Taylor “EVER HOPED FOR” (Date picked up: 9/4/2020)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. Americana, Singer Songwriter. Pitch guest, N.P., is looking for an emotional and commiserating song about never giving up, daring to speak out, fighting for a better tomorrow, wise leadership, equality, love vs. hate, etc. Songs that wear hearts on their sleeves, but nothing angry or bitter. The characters are warm, diverse and good humored and so our aim is to close with a powerful song that not only motivates, but also unites. Indie Pop, Singer-Songwriter, Americana. Male …

    • John Cirillo “COMEBACK KIDS” (Date picked up: 9/1/2020)
    • John Cirillo “I AM A FORCE” (Date picked up: 9/1/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Contemporary Country. TRACK 45. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for incredible songs for BBR Music Group/Universal Records artist Track 45. This is a sibling trio (Ben, Jenna and KK) from Mississippi. Three voices with an amazing blend, ‘blood harmony’ as we call it in the south. All are great vocalists, instrumentalists and songwriters so pitch your very best songs, the bar is high! Their …

    • Rita Weyls “HEARTBEAT” (Date picked up: 9/17/2020)
    • Brad Yunek “KEEP KEEPIN’ ON” (Date picked up: 9/17/2020)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Pop, Soul, Hip Hop. Pitch guest, N.P., is is looking for two types of songs for sync licensing for this show:
1. Emotional and uplifting, but not too sweet or schmaltzy – a story of a man trying to get back to his family and clear his name.
2. Determined, swagger, willing to do anything to beat the odds, won’t be held back, Nothing that sounds angry/aggressive, it’s more about resolve and strength of character.
Themes: …

    • Adam Avery “COMING HOME” (Date picked up: 9/22/2020)
    • John Cirillo “FEELING HOLY” (Date picked up: 9/22/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. DAILEY & VINCENT. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for BMG Rights Imprint Label artist Dailey & Vincent. These Bluegrass stars are doing a Country album. SUBMIT radio-friendly hits. Harmony with great lyrics and melody. 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 …

    • John Cirillo “PRETTY IN BLUE” (Date picked up: 9/22/2020)
    • Rita Weyls “TAILLIGHTS IN THE DARK. DEMO” (Date picked up: 9/22/2020)
    • Brad Yunek “KEEP KEEPIN’ ON” (Date picked up: 9/22/2020)

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


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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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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!


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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!


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Featured 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.”


Write Your Truth

Last week I watched an email exchange between Danny ArenaCo-Founder of SongU.com, and a fellow songwriter. The focus was not just about writing songs but about how we can listen to each other and have honest conversations about difficult subjects. I asked him if he could take a portion of that email and modify it into an article that might be of interest to our readers. Here it is:

One only needs to glance at any news organization’s social media page to see the current state of divisiveness in the world. We choose our sides. We engage in hostile micro-tweets. We post snarky memes and comebacks. As quickly as our fingers can type, we rattle off hurtful labels and insults like “libtard” and “trumptard,” “commie” and “nazi.” We cease listening to each other and stop talking to each other. We use our words as weapons to further drive a wedge between “us” and “them.”

While our choice of words can be used to divide us, they can also unite. As songwriters, this notion of unity should align with us. After all, at the very core of the craft of songwriting lies the principle of universality. Even the words unify, unity, universal all originate from the same Latin word, “uni,” meaning oneness. Who hasn’t been to a music industry seminar and heard some publisher or executive recite the mantra — a successful song must strike a universal chord? Part of our creative job is to find a way to express a single idea that resonates with an audience. This sounds much simpler to do in practice. Song after song by aspiring writers gets passed over because it fails to “ring true” to a broader audience.

At SongU.com, one of our courses teaches us that the most effective way to reach the universal is through the specific – a story that you can tell using your own truth. What does this mean? I know that I can never fully comprehend what it’s like to walk through this world as an African American male. No matter how “woke” I become, I will never know the enormous weight someone carries throughout life simply because of the color of their skin. This does not mean that I do not understand prejudice or hate. It means that for me to write about the subject in an honest way that resonates with others, I must find my own truth and then tell that story.

So what is my truth? I understand religious hate — my wife is Jewish, and I have lived with antisemitism and watched it through her eyes. This past weekend, the Holocaust Memorial at our local JCC was vandalized with nazi symbols and white supremacist threats. I also understand homophobia and hate — my sister is gay, and I have lived through times where “neighbors” put letters in her mailbox, telling her to move out of the neighborhood simply because of who she chooses to love. While I am not Black or Hispanic, I understand what it means to judge someone by the color of their skin. Sara and I adopted our daughter at birth from Guatemala. Every day, I see the world through her eyes. I know the pain it caused when her history teacher walked up to her desk while conducting a lesson on citizenship, asking her if she was born in the United States. Upon answering no, her teacher proceeded to tell her in front of the entire class that she better have a conversation with her parents that evening because she might be in this country illegally. I know the truth of what it feels like to have the police called on my daughter’s boyfriend for playing soccer at dusk with a few of his Latino friends because someone thought they “looked suspicious.”

How can I channel my truth into my creative process? If I’m inspired to write a song about Black Lives Matter because I am outraged by the injustice I see, I cannot write the same song as LL Cool J or Trey Songz. There is no possible way I can approach the topic of injustice from the same honest perspective they did because that is not my truth. No matter how much I admire or attempt to emulate their approach, it will not ring true or have the universal appeal of their messages.

I need to write my own truth. I can write an honest song about having a daughter who’s judged every day because of her skin color or how we worry she and her boyfriend could get pulled over at night when he’s driving. Or I can change direction and write an honest song about what it’s like to love someone who is hated simply because of which religion they follow or gender of who they choose to love. The point is that if I do my job well as a songwriter using my truth as a vehicle, I will wind up with a song that makes an impact and resonates. That means more listeners are likely to hear my song and identify with its core message.

Recognizing your truth and being able to tap into it creatively, in an honest way, will make your songs more universal. And it seems to me, the world could use a little more “uni” right now. So use your voice and speak your truth. Your songs and this world will be a much better place for it.

Stay the course and keep the faith.

-Danny


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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


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The Two Biggest Songwriting Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The first lyric I wrote was critiqued by master songwriter educator, Sheila Davis, in 1990 at the Songwriters Guild in NYC. From that moment on, I have enjoyed digging into the nitty-gritty how to make a song “work” and connect to the listener. As a songwriting mentor myself for the last twenty-plus years, I’ve critiqued several hundred original songs-in-progress in multiple styles and genres by songwriters from all over the world. I have even had the privilege of training other music industry professionals on how to successfully offer song feedback. I’ve observed that there are certain craft points that, if not executed correctly, get flagged over and over again by song coaches and mentors.  Here are the two most common:

Big Mistake #1: Trying to put too many ideas into one song.

In order connect emotionally to your audience, it is important for your song to have a “universal idea” such as falling in love, falling out of love, unrequited love, or just about any love-adjacent subject including family life, loss, escape and so on. But here’s the trick – you get to the universal through the SPECIFIC. In other words, the more you can whittle down your big idea into a concise moment or feeling in time or a very specific story that illustrates that idea, the more you will keep your listener engaged, and the more your own personality and “voice” as a writer will come through.

Your Fix

Make sure you can sum up your entire song in ONE simple sentence that starts with “This is a song about…”. If you cannot complete this in a sentence, you probably have too many ideas. It helps to know your title before you write the song. Then, make sure every line in that song leads the listener to the title in some way specifically and emotionally.

Hit Song Examples:

  • I Will Always Love You written by Dolly Parton
    • This is a song about a woman who is telling a man that although she knows they aren’t meant to stay together, she will always love him anyway.
Example of a single idea about the universal theme of love.
  • Blank Space written by Taylor Swift.
    • This is a song about a woman who thinks of love as a game and is seducing a new lover to play with her.
  • Love written by Kendrick Lamar.
    • This is a song about a man who is finally ready to commit to the woman he loves and is asking her if she loves him too.

Big Mistake #2: Not enough musical, lyrical, and/or production contrast.

Contrast is another way of saying “change it up.” While it’s true that you need a certain amount of repetition in a song to give the listener something to sing along with or dance to, too much repetition becomes boring and the listener will tune out. If the entire three-and-a-half-minute track basically sounds the same – boring. If the melody sits in the same pocket the entire time – boring. If the lyric says the same thing over and over without any new information along the way – what do you think? I know this seems obvious, but it’s very common for the first draft of a song to be a real snooze fest.

Your Fix

Shoot for having three distinct parts to your song for the listener to latch on to. Musically, the tools at your disposal are the melody, the chords, and the rhythm. Make sure at least one of those things changes between each distinct section such as the verse, chorus, and bridge. Lyrically, you can contrast the rhyme sounds, the rhyme scheme, the pronoun emphasis (I/You), the rhythm (e.g. long lines vs. short lines), and general or detailed images. In the production, you can create subtle and not-so-subtle transformations in the track with the instruments, the rhythms, the vocals, and so on.

Hit Song Examples:

  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg is one of the most covered songs of all time. Notice in particular the rhythmic contrast of the long lines in the verses that contrasts with the staccato rhythm of the bridge section.
  • Chandelier by Sia. Chandelier has it all when it comes to contrast. Notice in particular, the clear rhythmic changes between the verse, pre-chorus, chorus. Also, note the huge soaring melodic contrast in the chorus, as well as the harmonic (chord) contrast in the bridge. And of course, the way the production builds and breaks down and builds again throughout.
Example of musical and production contrast.

When you listen to songs from now on, see if you can pick out the universal theme as well as the more specific way that the theme is addressed by the songwriter. Ask yourself if the title or hook is clearly explained. Also, listen for musical, lyrical and production contrast throughout the song. Will every song you hear be a perfect example of all of these techniques? Definitely not. But my guess is you will hear them a lot more when you know what you are listening for.