Co-writing: What's The "Deal?" with Connor McCutcheon
A Blog Series By: Allison Barrett
When I set out on my co-writing adventure I knew I wanted to include someone that could discuss the differences of writing as an unsigned and newly signed writer since so many NSAI members have a goal of getting a publishing deal. Thankfully Ryan Cunningham over at OneRPM had the perfect connection for me!
[ALLISON] So tell me a little bit about your writing history.
[CONNOR] So, I started deep-diving into writing when I was probably a Junior or Senior in college at UT Chattanooga. I grew up on John Mayer and R&B. Really country wasn’t a huge influence when I started writing, but then when I discovered country music and started listening to it I was like ‘man, this is really cool!’ I think Senior year was when I really started writing and diving into that. Then I moved back here last May of 2022 and started co-writing, setting up my own writes, and just learned how to do it. I didn’t really know what publishing even meant two years ago so it’s really cool just to see where everything goes.
[ALLISON] So you said ‘moved back here.’ Are you from Nashville?
[CONNOR] Yah! I grew up in Hendersonville, so not far at all. I keep hearing that I’m a unicorn.
[ALLISON] You are!
[CONNOR] Yah, I grew up here, stayed here - I’ve actually never lived outside of the state. I went to UT Chattanooga four years and came right back and got into the thick of it.
[ALLISON] It’s interesting that you grew up here and songwriting was something you got into and wasn’t always into. Most people in Nashville say ‘oh I’ve written since I was five.’ What did you go to school for at UT?
[CONNOR] Marketing. I had no idea when I went there. I was kind of messing around with music a little bit and learned to play guitar from one of my buddies. I will say we tried to write songs, but they weren’t finished songs at that point. We just did it for a hobby and to show off when we could even though it was horrible.
[ALLISON] You always have to start somewhere! A song is a song.
[ALLISON] So, when you moved back you were setting up your own co-writes. How is that different now that publishers have been setting those up for you?
[CONNOR] Yah, when I first moved back, I was introduced to a small camp and started writing with some guys: Nate Kenyon, Blake Bollinger, and Shane Profitt. Really, last summer I was only writing three or four times a month, and to me at that time I’m like ‘I’m killin it! I’m writing so much!’ which wasn’t the case, but it was nice because I found a camp to start with. That was super important because coming back I had that feeling of ‘what am I going to do? How am I going to get into different camps? How am I going to meet people? Is it going out to Midtown at night?’ I was blessed to find a camp and write with them last summer and then it just branches out from there. You meet a friend of a friend, they introduce you to someone, you exchange numbers, and then ‘hey, I’d love to write sometime.’ It’s like a root. It expands and you find people that you love to write with and then great people that you don’t get along in the writing room, and you just decide what works best and where the best songs are coming from.
[ALLISON] So, you were setting up writes on your own, but when people are looking at you for a deal you usually get set up on writes with some of their people as a test. What was that like?
[CONNOR] Yah! So, I was lucky this spring to link up with Spirit Music Group and they came in and liked what I was doing and what I was writing which was super special. They were like ‘hey, let’s try you out with the team.’ For probably two or three months I was getting linked up with their writers and seeing how we mesh together. You don’t want to join a team you don’t get along with and same for them. They don’t want somebody who’s not going to be a good vibe or a great writer. It was really cool to see that as the writes continued the songs were great, but on top of that every write was super fun. It’s all about being a good hang and a good vibe in the room. I feel like that’s when the best songs come out of a room - when everyone comes out saying ‘that was super easy! That was so fun!’
[ALLISON] Yes! So now that you’re signed do you still get to set up some of your writes or do they kind of manage your calendar?
[CONNOR] We have a shared calendar. They manage it, but I have free access to schedule my own writes as well or if something goes really well with somebody I can throw it on my calendar as long as I have an open date. But it is really cool to look on there and be like ‘alright, here are my dates coming up.’ Normally after a write they ask how it went, how was the vibe, how was the song and if it went really well I look at my calendar and there are a couple more writes with them which is great. But I have free will to set up whatever I want to and then what they set up as well.
[ALLISON] That’s a good mix. Is there any advice that you’d have for someone looking to get a publishing deal right now?
[CONNOR] Yah! I guess what I did… just write as much as you can and never say no to a write or any opportunity because you never know how you’re going to get discovered or what song is going to do it for you. I got discovered by my buddy that writes for Spirit at a random writer’s round in Gallatin. It’s a fun round, I love doing it, but it wasn’t one that I was like ‘man this is my big shot.’ You never know what round or what opportunity, what night, or what hand you’re going to shake that could change the rest of your life.
[ALLISON] 100%! Networking is so important!
[CONNOR] For sure.
[ALLISON] Do you have a favorite song you’ve ever written? ‘Daddy Issues’ got my attention hahah!
[CONNOR] Yah, that’s a fun one. That was actually my first song that I wrote in Nashville over a year and a half ago.
[CONNOR] When I met Nate, Blake, and Shane we sat down and they’re like ‘ok I know we just met, but we have this crazy idea we want to write’ and I’m like ‘cool, yah, let’s do it.’ My favorite song that I’ve ever written is probably one that hasn’t come out yet. I’m going to hold on to it because I hope somebody huge cuts it one day. It’s called ‘Love Letter’ so hopefully one day you’ll get to hear it.
[ALLISON] I can’t wait! Is there anything else you want to add about writing or your music?
[CONNOR] I would just hammer the point ‘never say no.’ If there’s an opportunity go do it. It may lead to nothing, but it may change your entire life. For me, getting a publishing deal was a huge goal of mine. As soon as I graduated college I was like ‘I’m going to get one this summer.’ It didn’t happen last summer and I got super discouraged, but I had people around me that supported me and were able to push me, so find a group that you mesh really well with, one that inspires you, and one that will push you. Then I feel like anything’s possible.