Notes on Napkins

musings for songwriters

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How Do You Measure Songwriting Success?

Guest post by Mitch Townley

Picture: Karen and Mitch Townley with Sara Light in Nashville

We write songs for a variety of reasons. It could be to share a story or relate an emotion. Sometimes it’s to honor someone, describe a relationship, or bring an issue to light. We could be testifying to God’s work in our life through a worship song or a song designed to encourage someone else. But what does it mean to be “successful” with the songs we write?

Our motivation to express ourselves is primarily our purpose for writing a song. So, we are successful when what we desire to communicate in our song is what the listener feels or experiences when they hear it. In simple terms, the listener “gets it.”  This accomplishment is what I like to call “expressive success.”  Expressive success is rooted in understanding the fundamental concepts of songwriting. It takes practice and work at the craft to get there and should be enjoyed and celebrated when achieved. Any other success we experience with a song is icing on the cake and essentially out of our control.

Some of us may experience an additional “layer” of success that I refer to as “complimentary success.” Examples of this type of success are when a song is recorded by an artist, placed in a movie or TV show, or performed in a venue. It may win a contest, be used as a theme song for an organization, or perhaps even win an award. These examples are remarkable moments of encouragement for a songwriter but don’t have to be what defines us as “successful” in our writing. For me, complimentary success is undoubtedly a blessing to enjoy, but not the reason why I write. It is not an expectation I have for every song. While we can certainly aspire to write quality songs that contend for complimentary success, I don’t think it is reasonable to expect something that is so far out of our control. There is no shortcut to the destination of this type of success. It takes practice, patience, and perseverance even to consider it.

I would be remiss if I did not mention an even more elusive form of measuring songwriting success: commercial success. Typically, it means a famous or emerging artist has recorded your song, sold many CDs or downloads, done well on major music industry charts, and generated revenue. Most songwriters who enjoy a viable professional income from their songwriting are staff songwriters at music publishing companies. However, the percentage of songwriters who earn a living as a songwriter is extremely low. Does that fact make you want to stop songwriting immediately? I certainly hope not! It is just the nature of the music industry. It’s essential to understand your motivation for writing songs. A person whose aspiration is to be a professional, commercially successful songwriter has restrictions. They can’t always choose what, why, and when they write.

“The percentage of songwriters who earn a living as a songwriter is extremely low. Does that fact make you want to stop songwriting immediately? I certainly hope not!”

I write songs because I “cannot not” write them (pardon the grammar). It is something I love to do. I get so excited when I have written a song that emotionally affects someone in the way I intended. When a listener “gets it,” I am a successful songwriter. I suspect that many of you can become or already are successful too.

Mitch Townley is from Knoxville, TN, where he has served as a Children’s Pastor since 1996. He has over 40 independent artist cuts, including a song featured in a documentary about the Vietnam Memorial and a song placement in the TV show “Nashville.” His song, “This Side Of Sunday” (co-written with Scott Parker), was recorded by Brent Harrison and spent eight weeks in the Number 1 spot on the Christian Country Countdown in April/May of 2018. In April of 2019, it received the 2018 Inspirational Country Song Of the Year award from the Inspirational Country Music Association at a ceremony held at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. Mitch is the Knoxville Chapter coordinator for the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). He performs his songs regularly in songwriter rounds in the greater Knoxville area as a solo artist and with the acoustic duo “The Back Pew Poets.” Mitch has been a member of since 2006 and hosts the regular SongU Open-Mic Experiment, virtual writers’ nights. 

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Inside the (Surprising) Writer’s Room with Special Event Winner Jonny Born!

For our Fall 2021 SongU Special Event Pitch, “Staff Writer for a Day,” the Creative Director of Winsongs Music Publishing, Kirby Smith, listened to over 200 songs. She selected one writer, Jonny Born, to win the coveted “staff writer for a day” prize which featured a co-writing session with Winsongs’ artist/writer Eric Van Houten. This month Jonny flew from his home in Utah to Nashville, TN, for that session. He told me later that he was glad he made the trip to write in person because the visit was full of surprises, and the creative energy in the writer’s room was tangible. 

Jonny, how’d your staff writer session go?

It was amazing! In addition to Eric Van Houten from WinSongs, Kirby added a new artist/writer named Nick Boyd to the meeting as well, and I am so glad she did. Watch out for this kid. He is the real deal!

You had another happy surprise too, right?

We wrote in Liz Rose’s office and I was pumped. I can’t even imagine how many monsters have been written in those walls. I took a picture before the meeting. I know it looks like I’m not happy, but that’s my “Jon, get your head in the game and show up and contribute, it’s time to go to work” face!!! HAHA. Honestly, I just wanted to get a picture before anyone saw me taking a selfie and figured out I was a nervous rookie!

Songwriter, Jonny Born, in Liz Rose Music Writer’s Room

You don’t look like a rookie! What happened when Eric and Nick arrived?

After we chatted for a while and just got to know each other a bit, we talked about what we wanted to write.

How’d the writing process go?

I had about 15-20 hooks/ideas I’ve been saving for that day. I pulled out what I thought was the most intriguing one — a concept around the word “Unmade,” with the chorus starting out, “I can’t lie, the way you kissed me, left me drunker than the whiskey.” And ending with: “Now, I can’t lie, in this bed that we unmade.” They dug it, and we dove in. I was SUPER worried about keeping up and adding value in that room, but was happy that by the end of it, I’d contributed about 40+% of the lyric, most of the music/progressions, and the hook. I felt I belonged in the room.

That’s terrific! It’s great that you came prepared with so many ideas, even though they liked the first one you presented.

Those guys made it modern, and fresh, and really really cool. It’s certainly one of the better ones I’ve written, but those boys write every day. They also seemed happy with it.

Did you learn anything new about the writing process from this experience?

The experience did shine a light on some areas where I get to improve and up my writing game. New ways to approach a lyric, and a top line. How to get out of my comfort zone and do things lyrically, and musically, that aren’t expected and are new and fresh. Mixing up the lyric syncopation, etc. I’m going to dig in and really get to work on that. You’ll see an improvement in my writing because of this. It makes me wonder how good I could get if I was here, and had the chance to write with better writers every day.

What was your overall experience with the Staff Writer for a Day Special Event?

I just wanted to express my gratitude again for creating this opportunity for me. I feel really, really blessed to have had the chance to be part of SongU and get better at the craft, and have the chance to meet you, and be able show up and be “in the room.”

Jonny, THANK YOU for chatting about your “Staff Writer for a Day” experience so that we can all learn from it! Here’s the WORKTAPE of “Unmade” (with your vocal).

“Unmade” written by Jonny Born, Eric Van Houten, and Nick Boyd

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SongU Top Marketer: John Cirillo!

Congratulations to all of our Top Tier Marketers who pitched their songs the MOST times at in 2021, including our SongU “Mover & Shaker” John Cirillo who pitched 634 times and says that has been the best investment of his career.

About John Cirillo: Personally, John has impressed me not only with his determination but his modesty. He routinely highlights his cowriters’ participation and talents, heightening their abilities and profiles. But what truly sets John apart is that he makes time to help other songwriters, at every level, reach their own goals by setting up collaborations and connections, sharing leads, and frequently referring writers to (thanks, John). His spirit of mentorship and community is what SongU is all about and what truly earns him his SongU Mover & Shaker title. Below, John tells us about his SongU experience in his own words.

Songwriter, John Cirillo (TN) and his writing buddy, Mickey.

John says: About a year or so ago I was fortunate enough to win a one year membership with SongU (I have since renewed!). I was curious as to the value and the potential of the tools that SongU had to offer and was anxious to get my account up and running. I have worked with several different publishers and organizations in pitching my songs into this ever-changing market. With SongU I found an organization that posted what current successful independent songwriters were looking for; both with artists and with Synch opportunities; which basically covers my catalog.

I was also looking to find a site that was simple to use for any kind of changes or opportunities. SongU’s web site and applications definitely made my efforts easier to get my songs into the right hands. Because of the industry pros that SongU has developed relationships with, I have been able to pitch to opportunities almost every week. Also, the cost of doing so is much more affordable than many other organizations. This has allowed me to submit songs to a solid list of artists and synch opportunities. I have known a few of the industry pros prior to my subscription to SongU. But because of the opportunities to work with each other through SongU, I feel I have strengthened my relationships with a few Pros and started building new relationships with others.

Because the info that SongU provides from the Industry Pros, along with the deadlines and any other important information, I feel that I am able to present my best material for each particular opportunity. Sometimes I don’t have anything, sometimes I have several. But with SongU I feel much more confident that the songs I do pitch fit the opportunity.

Over the past year I have been able to sign several non-exclusive single song contracts with different Industry Pros. Because I am an independent songwriter, it is almost impossible for me to reach the level of artists that I would like to reach without paying a pretty hefty price for a quality sungplugger. But SongU has basically put me in touch with Industry Pros that can help me reach these artists. That is a valuable asset that not all songwriting organizations can provide.

Overall, between the ease of use, their connections to the right Industry Pros and the cost of using SongU, I feel that it certainly has been my best investment in my career as a songwriter.

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SongU Top Tier Learner of 2021: Karen Mitchell!

Congratulations to all of our  SongU Top Tier Learners for participating in the most instructor-led and private mentoring sessions this year! This is a huge accomplishment at SongU where our philosophy is that education leads to success. Our members, like our Valedictorian Karen Mitchell, have proven there is a direct correlation between furthering their knowledge of the craft and business of songwriting and meeting their personal songwriting goals.

About Karen Mitchell: I have had the pleasure of getting to know Karen since she joined SongU in 2019 and has participated in over 115 live courses this year. She has always impressed me with her humor, humility, and hard work. That combination has made all the difference. Below, she tells us about her SongU experience and successes. She even mixes in several of her song titles to prove she has learned to write her truth! 

Songwriter, Karen Mitchell (CA, SU class of ’19)

Karen says: I am honored to be at the “head of the class” for “Top Learners” in 2021. My SongU journey started in July 2019 at the suggestion of another member, co-writer and special friend. She thought I’d benefit from a membership and she was so write (pun intended)! Since that time I’ve had the awesome privilege of having songs I’ve written or co-written signed to numerous exclusive and non exclusive agreements! The SongU format of having a professional mentor(s) and five members in the live feedback classes is so valuable! It’s great to work with exceptional people who willingly share their thoughts and encouragement! I’ve also benefited from DIY classes, private sessions and written critiques. All services offered are extremely valuable and add to the in-depth learning experience! SongU has been instrumental in helping me see personal growth and I plan to continue with that process! Some critiques can be tough and when I can’t “Escape the Sad” I’ve learned to pour those emotions into a new song. In fact, I’m “Stronger Than I Think” and “Stronger Than I’ve Ever Been.” This year I started co-writing with an amazing and talented musician! We met in a SongU class. Writing with him has made me a “Better” writer! SongU has changed my life and I’m confident there’ll be many more incredible songs in the near future! In fact (for one mentor in particular) I’m just “Waiting” to see what new doors open in 2022!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt and son catch a fishy!

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

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

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

-Matt Soileau

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Help Me God (Soileau/Chase)

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

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

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

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

Can you walk us through the writing process a bit?  

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

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

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

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

Happy Accident (Soileau/Chase/Tomberlin)

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

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

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


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

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brad McKinney, Winner of “Staff Writer for A Day” Tells Us About Co-writing with Hit Songwriter Danny Myrick.

Thanks to singer-songwriter Brad McKinney from Kentucky ( member since 2014) for taking the time to answer some questions about his songwriting process and his experience as the winner of our October/November 2020 SongU Special Event Pitch “Staff Writer for a Day with Deluge Music.”

Songwriter, Brad McKinney

Brad, let’s start at the beginning. When did you first realize you wanted to write songs?  

I’m definitely a late bloomer.  It’s funny…I grew up around music but didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body.  My extended family is FULL of musicians and creators, and my uncle Dave Maggard was actually a Grammy nominated songwriter for his song “Lefty’s Old Guitar.”  Our family get-togethers usually ended up turning into bluegrass jam sessions where I wouldn’t participate but would admire from a distance.   As for me, I was 37 when I wrote my first song, and…it wasn’t good.   But the next one was a little better, and then the next one was better than that.  As it turns out, the more you do something, the better you get at it!

How often do you write? Do you have any set schedule or special ways to enhance your creative process? Any regular collaborators?

I’m a network engineer by day, so all of my writing takes place in the evenings or on weekends.   I typically have 4-5 co-writes per week on average, and I’m lucky enough to have a pool of co-writers who are not only awesome songwriters but also awesome friends.  As far as enhancing my creative process?  Coffee…lots of coffee!

What do you feel is your “strength” as a writer? In other words, are you more lyric-driven or music-driven, or something else?  

I’ve always considered myself stronger lyrically, but I’m also melody-capable.  I’m a bit of a “glue guy” in that I tend to do my best writing when there’s both a lyric and melody person in the room with me and I’m able to contribute equally to both.

Tell us about the pitching for the Special Event. How did you decide which of your song(s) to submit to the Special Event Pitch?  

I submitted two songs to Emily, and she ended up marking both of them as contenders.  I chose “Never Good at Math” (co-written with Kelly McKay and Kyle Jackson-Rachky) because we’ve gotten such great feedback about the originality of that one…it’s a hook that seems to jump off the page. I chose “I’ll Get Over You” because it’s a solo write (and my current single on all streaming platforms), and I think it best represents who I am as a writer and artist.

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

I was ecstatic!!  My only regret is that I wasn’t able to attend the live reveal due to a scheduling conflict…I actually first found out through some congratulatory texts from friends and co-writers, and then later went and watched the reveal.

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

I try to go into each of my co-writes with a starter chorus as a building block.  Naturally, some ideas are better than others and we sometimes don’t use my idea at all.  I made sure to go into the write with Danny with a good starter chorus and some other ideas around it.  Luckily, Danny loved the idea and we ran with it!

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

The entire write lasted around two hours.  Like previously mentioned, I came in with a starter chorus that Danny dug, then we discussed possible angles/counter-angles and just started knocking it out.  He suggested some melodic and lyrical changes to my starter, and it came together pretty quickly after that.  It was a very smooth, efficient, and entertaining write!

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

I learned SO much from Danny just from watching him work through the ideas!  Watching and experiencing a pro writer’s processes from start to finish was eye opening for sure, and I’m trying to incorporate some of those processes into my own writes.

Can you elaborate on that?

It’s hard to really put that one into words.  I basically just tried to soak up as much as possible from him…watched the different ways he would approach an angle, how he used the chorus melody to determine the feel for the verses, etc.    

Are you and Danny happy with the song you wrote? Did you demo it/ pitching it?

Danny was able to produce a pretty awesome demo-quality worktape with his own vocals (that afternoon, mind you!), and I was blown away by the quality and sound.  I’ve been pitching it through multiple avenues to whomever I see fit.  I can’t speak for Danny, but I couldn’t be happier!

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

Much like with the write itself, I couldn’t be happier with this event!   I think you’re providing unsigned writers an amazing opportunity to write with professionals, and I loved both the write and the end result. Thank you so much for the opportunity! 

Brad, we appreciate your sharing your experience so we can all learn from it. Here is the demo of the awesome song that came out of the session…

She Hides It Well (Danny Myrick/Brad McKinney)

To hear more of Brad McKinney’s songs check out his SongU member website here

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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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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.


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 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 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 administrative staff (Sara, Danny, Martin, and the ever awesome Benn), and to the caring, giving, faculty alongside me, all combining to make 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.”