Making the most of your NSAI Mentoring Session

We asked one of our NSAI Mentors and pro-songwriter, Mason Douglas to share his advice on preparing for your next mentoring session! In this blog post, he offers three exercises to make the most of your time with one of our mentors and how to handle feedback and constructive criticism.

So you’ve booked an NSAI mentoring session and want to get prepared for the best use of your time.  Wait, you didn’t realize that you get two mentoring sessions per year included with your membership?  Well, let’s fix that right now - I’ll give you a few minutes to call or email reception and get that scheduled. 

Ok, so now you’ve booked a mentoring session and want to get prepared.  And now the nerves are kicking in, right?  Well, let’s curb some of those with just a few thoughts on how best to prep for your session.  Here’s the long and short of what to expect and what to bring:

Choose three songs that you want feedback on and bring mp3s or a CD of those songs as well as lyric sheets.  We shoot for three songs but sometimes we only get to two and sometimes we have time for more.  These can be completed songs, they can be works-in-progress, they can be totally different genres and styles.  We totally get that these are only a small sample of your work and we’re not going to cover every base but we are going to look at that song in particular and see what’s going right and wrong regarding anything obvious.  Personally, I tend to note what is pulling me out of the song and distracting me from a smooth flow of the storytelling, which is where we’ll spend most of our song conversation. 

Bring questions.  My absolute favorite part of mentoring sessions is looking at where you are and where you want to be…but I also want to make sure we talk about what you want to talk about.  I remember being new to Nashville, sitting on my couch for what seemed like years, and wondering where in the world to start since everything was so overwhelming.  But a lot of trial and error took me to a record deal, to the radio, to stages all over the world, to a publishing deal, and to my ultimate goal, to being able to make a living doing music in Nashville.  Looking back through the forest, the path is clear once you’ve been through it.  However, there are infinite roads initially and I can attest to how impossibly daunting it can be trying to navigate them.  So if you want to and you find it beneficial, we’ll talk about what options you should be thinking about on your journey. So again, bring all the questions you can about what you’ve encountered so far. 

Have an open and receptive mind.  It is no secret that us mentors are just one person with an opinion and you know what they say about those.  But we’ve also been around the block a time or and three. We’ve had literally thousands of our own songs critiqued and dissected by publishers, A&R, producers, cowriters, and our own mentors, so we’ve been in the hot seat far more times than we’d like to count.  We’ve fine-tuned our songwriting decision-making process over many years in the pro-writer rooms and can offer some of that insight, as well as how to best integrate it into your own current process. 

Now let’s be honest: we’re not going to solve the music industry in a single session.  But we can find strategies for overcoming the challenges in your writing, as well as find a plan that gets you off your couch and focusing on the steps that will make the biggest differences in your career.  Bottom line: make sure you’re taking advantage of your NSAI mentioning sessions and have it as another tool in your toolbox as you build your career!

About Mason Douglas
Mason Douglas has covered a lot of bases of the music business over his 17-year journey in Nashville. Currently in his 8th year as staff writer for the boutique publishing company, Judy Harris Music, he has navigated the jungle of record deals, the grind of national touring, the chaos of promotion and social networking…and has still not run back home screaming to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona yet. Mason is a Top 40 Hit Songwriter, thanks to “American Beauty” with the Lost Trailers (cowritten with Josh Osborne and Matt Jenkins) and is excited for that next one to “hit” while writing with Nashville’s new generation of artists, such as Jacob Davis, the Swon Brothers, Dylan Scott, Tara Thompson, and Sweet Tea Trio, as well as superstars Kid Rock and Sam Hunt. As an artist, he’s opened for Vince Gill, Jewel, Trace Adkins, Charlie Worsham, Dustin Lynch, Brothers Osborne, Striking Matches and even rock acts such as 3 Doors Down and They Might Be Giants.