First Steps For New Songwriters

The following is a re-posting of a piece I originally wrote for my friends over at Song Suffragettes. Check them out for more lifestyle and music fun from Nashville! 

So you’re new to Nashville. You’ve quit your job, left your friends and family, overpaid for a small apartment, and now you’re ready to get on with the business of getting your Grammy. 

First off - slow clap for your damn self. 

Seriously, if anyone hasn't told you, you're awesome and super brave. And my guess is that you're going to love it here. But you may also find yourself asking, 'What exactly am I supposed to be doing?'. (Adding that one to my list of possible memoir titles). 

Keep in mind there are a million ways to make an impact here, and everyone has to figure out what works best for them. I knew one person in the industry when I moved here, had no job prospects, and minimal savings. You may already have way more going for you. But for what it's worth I eventually made friends and landed a publishing deal and if I had to do it all over again, here's what I'd still say yes to. 

1. Invest in an NSAI membership. 

No matter what level you’re at in your career this place has lots to offer. They provide song evaluations, mentoring sessions, performance and song pitching opportunities. They do great work fighting for copyright reform and songwriter-friendly laws in DC! If you don't have a place to write they have rooms you can use. They even offer payment plans for your annual dues! Make this place your first stop. 


*My first time performing at the Bluebird, back in 2012. I played one song on a round with Roxie Dean, Rivers Rutherford, Leslie Satcher and Tim James. This was also the night I met the President of NSAI. 


2. Sign Up With A Performing Rights Organization 

These are the folks responsible for collecting your money when you write a big hit for yourself or someone else! The three main ones in town are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. There are some differences in what they offer, but they are all very capable. My suggestion? Meet with all three and go with the one that you have the most chemistry with. I found a rep at BMI who dug what I did which led to multiple showcases, a CMA Fest performance, and several publisher meetings. He did this simply because he believed in what I was doing. 
*Taken on my first trip to BMI. Pretty sure I didn't even know what a PRO was at the time, but they were so nice and let me take pictures in front of banners and stuff. 

3.  YEP 

Nashville is all about networking. Young Entertainment Professionals is an awesome organization founded by and designed to help newcomers get plugged in with other newcomers. I know you want to write with your heroes and that will happen too, but it's a lot more likely that your first big break will come through someone in your own league, as you grow in the industry together. The best part about YEP? It’s completely free! They put on shows and seminars as well as happy hours. They also do a great job of posting job and internship opportunities on their Facebook page. 

*Performing at one of YEP's Songwriter Nights at the Basement 

4.  Get 3 Good Songs 

This may sound obvious, but if you want people to latch on to your music it helps if they can hear it. Invest in a few good recordings of your best songs. Not sure what your best songs are? Ask your PRO rep or NSAI contact for their advice. Don’t waste your money with recording ten songs right off the bat because you're going to write better songs soon and the big wigs won’t have time to listen to that many anyway. Just pick a couple that showcase your potential and have quality recordings of them. 

*Recording my first EP at Sony ATV in 2010. This was my first time ever singing in a Nashville studio. I was completely thrilled and absolutely terrified. 

5. Be Patient 

This is probably the most important one. There are a lot of talented people here! A LOT. It’s easy to get frustrated and feel like you aren’t making headway. Don’t buy into that lie. You’re doing it! My friends who are hit writers have lived in their car, bartend-ed, cleaned houses, quit, moved home and come back. The process is part of it. Stay flexible and stay gracious with yourself. If you work hard and are kind to people, the right team and opportunities will find you! 

*This is me at 13, struggling with a D Chord and a middle part. Because everyone has to start somewhere. You can do this.

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